Wednesday 27 November 2013


The NSW Government's controversial Planning Bill ( last discussed on the CVCC blog on 6 November in New Planning Laws before NSW Parliament ) was amended substantially by the Legislative Council (the Upper House of the NSW Parliament) on 26 November.

The changes included:
  • Deletion of Code Assessment from the Bill. This means that those NSW citizens who were being disempowered by this provision will retain their right to have a say on development in their neighbourhoods.
  • Amendments relating to affordable housing for new developments.
  • Removal of the controversial provisions of the Mining SEPP (State Environmental Planning Policy) which the Government recently added to the SEPP. There were serious concerns that these recent amendments (which made economic factors the principle consideration in the approvals process) made new coal mines almost impossible to refuse. (The change to the Mining SEPP was the subject of the CVCC post Proposed Changes to NSW Mining  on 25 August)
Of course, the amended Bill will have to return to the Legislative Assembly (the Lower House) and be passed there before it becomes law.

However, even if this happens,  there are still very serious deficiencies in the legislation as Corinne Fisher from the Better Planning Network points out.

"There has been very little change to the Minister's wide discretion that the Independent Commission Against Corruption stated was a corruption risk.  The amendment to restore the rights of objectors to appeal also failed.  That amendment would have been a major corruption safeguard," Ms Fisher said.

"The system will still be top down planning where high order strategic plans will govern what happens at local level.

"We are still stuck with Strategic Compatibility Certificates (SCC) that essentially allow Local Plans to be ignored so that prohibited development can occur whenever a developer can convince the Government  that it is consistent with a higher order strategic plan.  There is  no merit assessment when an SCC is issued," she said.

Another major concern is the exclusion of ecologically sustainable development as a major principle in planning decisions.  This has been replaced in the new  legislation by "sustainable development" which according to the Minister for Planning, Brad Hazzard, "balances" the needs of the environment with social and economic outcomes. This weakening of consideration for the environment has been a feature of Premier Barry O'Farrell's Coalition Government just as his Government's reframing of the state's planning laws has focused on the promotion of the interests of the development industry to the detriment of the interests of local communities.

Months ago the critics of the proposed new planning system called for it to be withdrawn and re-written.  The extensive community criticism led to some minor changes before the Government brought the Bill to Parliament.  Critics still believe that the Bill needs to be withdrawn and re-written  to ensure that NSW has an effective, fair and transparent planning system in the future.