In the months since the Government released its White Paper and draft legislation there has been a very determined community campaign led by the Better Planning Network and other community groups such as the Nature Conservation Council of NSW (NCC) to alert the general community to the dangers of the Government plans. While this has led to the Government making some changes to its legislation, it has still not addressed major areas of concern. In essence the new system continues to favour developers and industry at the expense of the general community and the environment.
The Nature Conservation Council of NSW, the peak conservation body in the state, points to some of the major problems:
- The legislation continues to provide for fast-track approval of ‘code assessable’ development, without community consultation or merit based environmental assessment.
- Government has announced that code assessment will be limited to ‘growth areas’, but there are no provisions in the legislation to give effect to this commitment.
- The ‘one stop shop’ provisions of the legislation concentrate unprecedented and excessive power in the Department of Planning, by giving the Director-General the power to override the advice of expert agencies, including the EPA and Office of Environment and Heritage.
- The legislation provides multiple mechanisms for developers to override local plans, including rezoning applications, rezoning appeals, strategic compatibility certificates and a broad power for the Minister to amend local plans.
- The legislation does not make reference to the established principles of ecologically sustainable development, including the precautionary principle.
To see the legislation go to the NSW Parliament website - Planning Legislation .
The revised legislation was passed by the Legislative Assembly (the lower house), which is controlled by the Liberal-National Party Government, on 30 October. Before it can become law it also has to be passed by the upper house, the Legislative Council. As the Government does not have a majority in the Legislative Council, it is possible that the Bill may be rejected there if a majority of Councillors are persuaded to reject them. The legislaton will be introduced and debated in the Legislative Council any time from 12 November onwards.
Groups concerned about the Bill are encouraging people to contact non-government members of the Legislative Council to urge them to vote against the legislation. The Better Planning Network website has information on how to contact Legislative Council members to urge them to vote against this legislation.