13 May 2011
Todays NSW Governments decision to transfer a reported $9 billion of residential, retail and commercial projects back to local councils for approval makes it essential that the states supply of new housing, workplaces and shops be kept under close watch, according to the Urban Taskforce.
The Taskforces chief executive, Aaron Gadiel, said that local councils tended to favour the demands of vocal not-in-my-backyard action groups over the needs of the wider community.
The NSW planning system would have ground to a halt long ago without Part 3A, Mr Gadiel said.
Part 3A has been an important part of the planning system since 2005.
Mr Gadiel said that Part 3A had been introduced because councils were stopping NSW from getting the housing, retail precincts and new workplaces that it requires.
Part 3A has helped paper over deep seated problems in the planning system by overcoming illogical rules and unjustifiable prohibitions with a flexible approval process, he said.
We respect the mandate of the OFarrell Government to repeal Part 3A, but, without immediate reform, ending Part 3A will just mean more red tape for vital urban projects.
Mr Gadiel said that the regular planning system gave councils a complete veto of all rezoning decisions, with no appeal rights for applicants.
Part 3A was a safeguard against arbitrary council decisions blocking efforts to renew and expand our urban communities, he said.
With Part 3A now gone for new residential, commercial and retail development, there is no check on unreasonable zoning decisions by councils.
Mr Gadiel said that even when zoning wasnt an issue, councils werent respecting the property rights of businesses that were investing large sums of money in vital projects.
Many councils feel no obligation to approve developments that are clearly permitted under their own zoning plans.
Mr Gadiel said that NSW was number one for building activity until 2007, but that title was lost to Victoria and the state has never regained it.
The value of Victorian building activity is 12 per cent higher than in NSW, he said.
Per head of population, investment in Victorian building is running at one-and-a-half times that of NSW.
Mr Gadiel said that, under the current rules, he doubted councils would be willing or able to approve new development at a level necessary to close the gap between NSW and Victoria.
The need for interim reforms will become increasingly obvious as the councils begin to exercise their new powers over large projects.
The Urban Taskforce is a property development industry group, representing Australias most prominent property developers and equity financiers.