While Minister Hazzard’s recently announced changes to the planning legislation are welcome, the majority of the State’s communities have not been adequately briefed on these changes. The Hunters Hill Trust is still gravely concerned that the intent of the new legislation will remain “developer-driven” and place the Government’s stated imperatives for the economy ahead of those of long-term healthy ecosystems and a fully functioning society.
Ecologically Sustainable Development
In particular, the changes will not address the 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.
Ecologically Sustainable Development accepts that the economy is a sub-set of the environment on which we inevitably depend and the Environmental Planning & Assessment Act 1979 placed the principles of ESD at the core of the legislation. While it is apparent that this did not always ensure that the best outcome was achieved, it did enshrine and recognise that the full range of ESD principles are essential for a balanced approach to how our cities and suburbs develop while accounting for the need to protect our natural and built heritage.
As one of many organisations that wrote submissions on the White Paper urgently requesting the inclusion of ESD as the over-arching principle in the new legislation, I truly hope the Minister remains open to amending the legislation to provide this vital foundation for its implementation and to ensure that the legislation works effectively for all the citizens of NSW.
Code assessable development in ‘nominated growth areas’
In relation to the proposal to restrict code-assessable development to ‘nominated growth areas’, there are serious issues of fairness associated with creating two classes of residents. The first, in low density areas, will have the right to comment on most developments in their neighbourhoods. The other, in ‘nominated growth areas’ will have no right to comment on most developments built next door.
Further, it is unclear 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, therefore, to presume 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.
The Trust believes that it is essential that all new housing in growth areas to be of the same high design quality and reflect input from the people who live next to these areas. Code assessable development – ‘tick-the-box’, no-consultation development – is unlikely to achieve this.
Risks of corruption
The Trust is concerned that nothing has altered concerning the significant risks of corruption raised by the Independent Commission Against Corruption, and associated, amongst other things, with the broad discretion conferred on decision makers.
Furthermore 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 all remain of grave concern to the Trust.
The Trust believes that the Bills are fundamentally flawed and need to be withdrawn and re-written. We request that you pass on the concerns of the local residents of Hunters Hill that the new legislation should be the best it can be to serve the interests of us all.
Robyn Christie, President, Hunters Hill Trust