MACROC welcomes the opportunity to comment on this stage of the review of the planning system in New South Wales. This submission provides a regional response to the Planning Review White Paper: A New Planning System for NSW.

MACROC supports the reform of the planning system in NSW and believes that the underpinning objective and philosophy of the new legislative structure for planning should promote sustainable economic growth and development balanced with social considerations, environmental protection and natural resource management; should support the timely delivery of public facilities and critical infrastructure as a core planning issue; should be written in plain English, be simple, clear and inexpensive for users (assisted by information technology and electronic planning), and should acknowledge that planning issues for Growth Area councils are different to those experienced in some regional and inner metropolitan councils.

MACROC would like to comment on the following key areas of reform detailed in the White Paper.

Delivery Culture

MACROC supports a planning system that promotes cooperation and community participation. However to create a culture of delivery which is outcomes focused rather that process driven there will need to be an early rollout of training and professional development for all existing planning staff as well as an increase in resourcing to implement e-planning. MACROC also supports professional exchange between the Department of Planning and Infrastructure and Local Government across a broad range of departmental functions. Such exchange of staff would facilitate a better understanding of the roles, opportunities and constraints of both sectors.

Community Participation

The White Paper discusses the importance of community participation in plan making and development assessment. It talks of the establishment of a Community Participation Charter to assist in the creation of new community participation strategies, of strategic community participation where the whole community is engaged in the development of Regional Growth Plans and Subregional Delivery Plans, of transparency in decision making, ensuring that communities can access information about developments and the use of information technology and electronic planning to assist this process.

Over the last few years councils have developed better strategies to engage with their communities. The Integrated Planning and Reporting legislative requirement in particular has required councils across NSW to engage in greater community engagement with differing levels of success. Effective community consultation presents challenges and it is often difficult to engage with community stakeholders at a broad conceptual level (as the White Paper proposes). It is often only when there is a concrete proposal that affects the community directly that the community actively seeks to engage. For truly meaningful consultation to occur in the planning process there would need to be specific strategies developed and this would require additional resources and skills being made available to councils, in order for them to effectively participate in planning based community consultation.

MACROC agrees that e-planning will provide a better way to engage with community and allow easier access to information about developments. However the White Paper also talks about sophisticated e-tools such as ‘3D interactive modes and development guides for the community to have their say’; these systems will be time consuming and costly for Local Government to establish and maintain.

The planning system should also acknowledge that all members of the community do not have access to the level of technology required to fully participate in e-planning. There will need to continue to be some degree of paper based planning particularly in the preparation of strategic plans such as the Subregional Delivery Plans and Local Plans.

The emphasis on community participation is one of the key changes in the new planning system. To maximise the potential of the consultation there will need to be a continuing program of community education to insure that communities understand the planning process. Community expectations will need to be managed so that potential conflict between community vision and government policy is avoided. The Community Participation Charter should clearly establish the boundaries for community consultation so that consultation only occurs when the community can influence planning decisions.

Strategic Planning Framework

The White Paper outlines the government’s proposal for strategic planning. It proposes four levels of strategic planning: NSW Planning Policies, Regional Plans, Subregional Delivery Plans and Local Plans.

MACROC has a major concern regarding the Regional Growth Plan for Sydney. The Draft Metropolitan Strategy for Sydney to 2031 is identified in the White Paper as the new Regional Growth Plan for Sydney. In our submission to the Draft Metropolitan Strategy MACROC raised serious concerns about the lack of focus in that document on the South West Subregion. These concerns need to be restated here.

MACROC believes there is a major imbalance in the Draft Metropolitan Strategy for Sydney to 2031 between the areas targeted for population growth and the areas targeted for job creation and infrastructure provision.

In April 2013 MACROC engaged consultants Hill PDA to review the employment targets established in the Draft Metropolitan Strategy for Sydney to 2031 for the South West Subregion, as defined in the Draft Strategy. ‘Employment Prospects for South West Sydney. 2013’ , found that the South West Subregion is forecast to experience 21% of all job growth in Sydney which is the third largest growth of any Subregion. Notwithstanding this, it is forecast to achieve 37% of population growth (+449,610 people) which represents the largest single component of population growth of any Sydney Subregion.

Given the South West Subregion is forecast to provide 37% of Metropolitan Sydney’s population growth between 2011 and 2031, the South West Subregion should aim to capture 37% of Metropolitan Sydney’s employment growth. That would increase the current South West Subregion employment target from 134,000 to 229,125 jobs.

The Draft Metropolitan Strategy for Sydney to 2031 identifies targets and strategies to support growth across Sydney and acknowledges the importance of creating jobs close to where people live. However the focus of the Draft Strategy is on concentrating business investment, job creation and infrastructure provision within more established and central areas of Sydney, while merely setting housing and employment targets for the South West Subregion. This planning imbalance is not acceptable and the Strategy needs to be redrafted to provide real strategies to support job creation for the Region.

Notwithstanding the concerns detailed above, it is acknowledged that the Subregional Delivery Plans will provide Local Government with a formal opportunity to provide input into the statutory plan making process that can nominate places for special attention, including the infrastructure needed to support nominated housing and employment growth precincts.

The White Paper does not provide clear detail on the resourcing of the Subregional Delivery Plans. Substantial resources will required to conduct effective and appropriately timed community consultation, Subregional council collaboration, evidence based analysis and structure planning. What level of government will do this work and how will it be funded?

Governance procedures around strategic plan making will be more resource intensive under the proposed new planning system. Local Government will need to review Local Plans assessing infrastructure capacity, hazard analysis, traffic and transport analysis. The changes identified in the White Paper around strategic planning will require Local Government to review resources and organisational arrangements.

Development Assessment

The White Paper proposes a greater emphasis on code development, with a proposed 80% of all development to be assessed as code. This emphasis on code assessment with no consultation has the potential to create a public backlash. It is suggested that a simplified form of consultation be incorporated into the code assessment process that would inform the community of a proposed development and provide an opportunity to raise specific concerns.

There are significant implications for Local Government in the establishment of the 25 day approval time for code assessable development. To achieve this will require a review of resourcing to achieve the performance standards required by the Government.
There also needs to be regular ongoing reviews of adopted codes by appropriately qualified people to ensure that design standards are maintain to retain quality streetscapes, suitable landscaping, infill developments that complement the character of the existing neighbourhood, protect solar access and contribute to a healthy environment.

MACROC would also like to note that a streamlined development assessment system based on code compliance gives no guarantee of a development that is of high design quality and contributes to creating attractive, functional and liveable communities.

There is also an issue around community consultation for Local Plans in future Greenfield areas as it will not be possible to capture the views of future residents.

Provision of Infrastructure

MACROC supports the principle of integrating long term strategic planning with the provision of infrastructure funding and delivery of Growth Infrastructure Plans and it is important that these plans are based on evidence that is impartial and independently sourced. The plans need to ensure that there is not a focus on housing supply at the expense of employment and agricultural lands. Regional Growth Plans should include provision for funding of regional and sub-regional community recreational and cultural facilities.

MACROC is concerned about the Ministers’ retaining administrative control of biodiversity offset contributions. As the body responsible for preparing the Local Plan Local Government must retain care and control of the implementation of this initiative.

The White Paper pays scant attention to environmentally sustainable development. Rather the focus is on facilitating development. The reconciliation of competing uses for land is not explored in sufficient detail. This potentially leaves Local Government in the position of reconciling ecological issues at the DA stage of the planning process.

Also of concern is the three year limit to holding contributions which will impede councils’ ability to provide local infrastructure particularly for Greenfield areas; and the timing of payments of contributions deferred to point of sale which will expose councils to the financial risk of non-payment and possible delay in provision of infrastructure.

Voluntary Planning Agreements have been successfully negotiated and administered in our Region and MACROC would object to any changes that affect the viability of existing VPAs.

MACROC does not support the provision under the administration of local infrastructure contributions for the Minister for Planning and Infrastructure to reapply local infrastructure contributions for other purposes.

Building Regulation and Certification

Proposed changes to building regulation and certification are designed to rebuild confidence in the quality and safety of buildings and provide clarity around certification reducing delays in the construction process.

MACROC suggested in our submission to the Green Paper that there needed to be improved transparency in the private certification system and that the current system has not enough safeguards. The proposed strengthening of controls on certifiers is therefore welcomed. However the proposed accreditation of additional occupations such as designers, specialised engineers etc needs to be strictly monitored to protect public interest.


MACROC believes that additional work will need to be done by the Department on transitional arrangements and resourcing. This transition period between the old planning system and the new will be difficult, and savings and transitional provisions introduced to each new plan will need to be robust in order to provide certainty for all stakeholders.

There is also concern that the transition between the current system and the new system could cause delays in major projects. There needs to be clear direction from the Department of Planning and Infrastructure to ensure there is a smooth transition to minimise potential delays.

Final Comments

MACROC supports the aims of the reform to simplify and streamline the NSW planning system however there are concerns about some of the proposed changes in the White Paper and these are detailed above.

MACROC has a major concern regarding the Regional Growth Plan for Sydney. The Draft Metropolitan Strategy for Sydney to 2031 is identified in the White Paper as the new Regional Growth Plan for Sydney. In our submission to the Draft Metropolitan Strategy MACROC raised serious concerns about the lack of focus in that document on the South West Subregion. These concerns are restated here.

MACROC believes there is a major imbalance in the Draft Metropolitan Strategy for Sydney to 2031 between the areas targeted for population growth and the areas targeted for job creation and infrastructure provision.

The South West Subregion is acknowledged as having a key role in accommodating a substantial proportion of the future growth of Sydney. Despite this there is little in the Draft Strategy that demonstrates a commitment by the Government to deliver key infrastructure and other projects which will support job creation. Without this commitment by the Government the relative inequities and disadvantage that exist for the Macarthur Region will be further exacerbated.

MACROC thanks you for the opportunity to provide further input into the review of the NSW planning system. MACROC supports the philosophy of the planning reform and looks forward to working with the Department of Planning and Infrastructure to implement positive changes to the planning system. It is hoped that the comments made in this submission will be considered by the Planning Review Panel together with the more detailed individual submissions made by MACROC Member Councils: Camden, Campbelltown and Wollondilly.

Prepared by Christine Winning
Executive Officer
June 2013

Submission to A New Planning System for NSW. White Paper

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