W h a t   a r e   t h e   c h a n g e s?

On 19 September 2013, Minister Hazzard announced the following changes to the NSW Government’s planning reforms:

  1. Councils will be allowed to modify the state-wide codes to better reflect their local area
  2. Code assessable development will only apply in nominated growth areas
  3. The target for code assessable developments has been removed entirely
  4. Councils will be required to prepare Neighbourhood Impact Statements before using code Assessment
  5. The full range of current land zonings will remain as they are
  6. Appeal rights will remain as they are
  7. Local and state heritage protections will continue

Residents in ‘nominated growth areas’ residents will have no right to comment on most developments  built next door.  It is unknown how particular areas will be declared ‘nominated growth areas’ and by whom.  The Minister has indicated that such areas will include the northwest and southwest rail links and Local Government NSW has publicly stated that, according to discussions with the Minister, code assessable development will also apply to Urban Activation Areas.  It is reasonable to assume that the Government would have the same intention for other areas, for example the Parramatta Rd Corridor, already singled as growth areas in the Sydney Metropolitan Regional Plan and other documents.

All new housing in growth areas needs to be of high design quality and reflect input from people who live next to them. Code assessable development – ie. ‘tick-the-box’, no-consultation development – is unlikely to achieve that.

The changes will not address the range of concerns raised by numerous and diverse organisations.  These include (but are not limited to):

Lack of balance between economic, social and environmental considerations:

  • The Government has not committed to retaining the principles of Ecologically Sustainable Development (particularly the Precautionary Principle) as a key component of the planning legislation.  The significant risks of corruption raised by the Independent Commission Against Corruption, associated, amongst other things, with the broad discretion conferred on decision makers.The range of mechanisms for overriding strategic planning processes, including Strategic Compatibility Certificates, developer-initiated rezoning proposals (which include review rights for developers but not for community), the declaration of state-significant development and the broad Ministerial power to amend any strategic plan, without any community consultation.

The new legislation  is still “developer-driven” and places the imperatives for the economy ahead of long-term healthy ecosystems and a fully functioning society.  

The Bills are fundamentally flawed – bad legislation – and need to be withdrawn and re-written.