The NSW government’s draft controversial planning reforms were overwhelmingly rejected at the Local Government NSW (LGNSW) 2013 annual conference, held in Sydney last week.
It’s the latest thumbs-down for the NSW coalition’s plans, which critics say will strip the rights of communities to reject inappropriate developments.
LGNSW is the peak body representing the state’s 152 councils, and Byron Shire councillors Di Woods and Alan Hunter both attended the conference.
The conference’s outcome saw LGNSW delegates agree that community participation should be enshrined ‘at all stages of planning’.
They also voted to, ‘Express strong concern about the removal of community consultation from any stage of the planning process and call on the NSW government to ensure all planning considerations are made with infrastructure commitments, for example childcare and transport etc.’
It was also decided to advocate that, ‘Councils are given equal status to the minister for planning and infrastructure in planning decisions,’ and that developments have ‘triple-bottom-line outcomes for planning decisions.’
Meanwhile Nature Conservation Council CEO Pepe Clarke was in Byron Bay last Friday, launching a new report – available at nccnsw.org.au – that he says, ‘exposes serious flaws in the draft Planning Bill 2013.’ He says, ‘Under the new laws, developers would have new rights to override local plans and challenge council zoning decisions, placing existing environmental protections at risk. In addition, State Environmental Planning Policies (SEPP), which contain protections for sensitive environmental areas including koala habitat and rainforest, will cease to exist under the new planning system.
‘The Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) has raised concerns about the broad, unfettered discretion given to key decision makers, including the minister for planning and the director-general of the Department of Planning and Infrastructure.’
Recently Byron Bay-based NSW coalition MP for local government and the north coast, Don Page, told The Echo he relayed community concerns about the planning overhaul to planning MP Brad Hazzard.
NSW Business Chamber’s input
As for input from the NSW Business Chamber: they gave feedback to the Green Paper in December last year. The Chamber said then that ‘at the local level, councillors should still have a role in leading the community in the development of broad planning policies and principles for a local area’, but added that ‘the development of Local Land Use Plans will need to be oversighted by the department of planning… to ensure that they are consistent with subregional, metropolitan and NSW plans and policies.’
The controversial legislation, which so far has gained little to no public support, is due to be debated in parliament next month.