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NSW Reforms Cut Red Tape, Planning Times

The New South Wales government will spend $83 million on a long-awaited reform of state’s planning process, cutting the time and paperwork required for developments.

The NSW Planning Reform Action Plan aims to drop the time it takes to make decisions on rezoning from an average of 630 days to 439 days; for larger and regionally significant projects from 364 to 273 days and for state significant projects from 118 to 98 days.

The government has also recently invested almost $10 million to enhance its ePlanning platform and ensure all councils can get online to process development applications in half the time, with greater transparency.

The announcement has already received positive feedback from advocacy groups and project managers who said the changes should have been made decades ago.

Planning and public spaces minister Rob Stokes said the change would cut unnecessary duplication of processes and boost resources in the government’s assessment team.

“New South Wales government agencies are also on notice as part of this plan both to reduce the number of unnecessary concurrences and referrals cases, and reduce those that are outside statutory timeframes, with support from the newly-established Planning Delivery Unit that is unblocking projects that are stuck in the system,” Stokes said.

Shane Geha, managing director of property advisory business EG Advisory, said although the state government had made many previous laws with good intentions, they did not translate to planning productivity.

“It defies logic how slow it goes,” Geha said.

“We’ve got two systems designed for the early twentieth century, superimposed on each other in our system, trying to run in the twenty-first century.

“All they’ve done is add new rules, without taking any out.

“If we can somehow get this [new planning system] right it will be the biggest help,” Geha said.

The UNSW adjunct professor said he had heard of people taking three years to get a carport approved and having to supply traffic reports, and the timeframe and paperwork scaled upwards for bigger projects.

“There is a state-significant matter I’m doing at the moment [...] I’ve now done nearly 14,000 pages of reports, surely it has been considered to death,” Geha said.

Urban Taskforce chief executive Tom Forrest welcomed this fundamental change in direction for NSW planning.

“The announcement of a merit-based appeal mechanism to the Land and Environment Court, when local councils reject planning proposals for the rezoning of land, is particularly welcome,” Forrest said.

“The planning system has largely ignored the legitimate role of rezoning proposals to enable flexibility and accommodate changes in economic circumstances for too long.

“The silver lining of Covid-19 is we are now getting a planning system which is driving the economy forwards, not holding it back.”

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