The appointment of Gladys Berejiklian as NSW Premier has been accompanied by an avalanche of advice from the built environment sector regarding just what her priorities should be.
Ms Berejiklian was on Tuesday appointed Premier unopposed following the shock resignation of Mike Baird last week. The timing, though, has come under question as one of the people considered a main competitor to Berejiklian, planning minister Rob Stokes, had just travelled to London and factional chiefs were firming up support for Berejiklian before he was made aware of Mr Baird’s announcement. Mr Stokes soon bowed out of the race, followed by transport minister Andrew Constance.
With Ms Berejiklian now sworn in as the state’s 45th Premier, interest groups haven’t wasted a second putting forward their views.
The Better Planning Network, which was integral in the downfall of the government’s planning reforms in 2013, said citizens needed a “genuine say” in local planning matters.
“This is a real chance to seize planning control back from the big developers and return it to the people,” BPN’s Corinne Fisher said.
The body said there was a range of planning decisions and proposals that went against good social and environmental outcomes, including having medium density housing as code-complying development, amalgamation of local councils, the Crown Land Management Act (2016) enabling the privatisation of Crown Land, and the Biodiversity Conservation Act (2016) facilitating land clearing across the State.
“None of these measures are in the broad public interest,” Ms Fisher said. “People no longer believe that housing affordability will be achieved by reducing planning controls, speeding up development approvals, ignoring community objections and increasing the supply of apartments. We see that developers are targeting overseas buyers rather than meeting local needs.
“Premier Berejiklian has a real opportunity to give communities a fair go and to protect our health and environment. We hope she will have the courage to take it.”
The Urban Taskforce, meanwhile, said Ms Berejiklian and deputy Dominic Perrottet would provide confidence to the property industry.
“The incoming premier has said she will review government policies and will continue the drive towards providing key transport infrastructure,” Urban Taskforce chief executive Chris Johnson said.
“It is important that NSW maintains its position as the strongest economy in Australia. There are concerns that the production of new housing is declining. It is absolutely essential that the new premier continues to keep her eye on the ball and to support continued housing supply to address growing housing affordability concerns.”
NSW Federation of Housing Associations chief executive Wendy Hayhurst congratulated the new premier and especially welcomed her indications that she would seek external advice on the issue and was open minded as she looks for solutions.
NSWFHA last year outlined four key initiatives for the state government that would help:
- Inclusionary zoning and affordable housing targets for privately owned development sites
- Use of government land destined for housing development, rather than seeking to maximise returns to the Treasury
- Government incentives to trigger private and not for profit investment into affordable housing through instruments such as the Social and Affordable Housing Fund using, for instance, “a fraction” of stamp duty receipts
- Actively supporting the creation of an Affordable Housing Financial Intermediary.
“There has been some signs of progress but much more to do. I look forward to engaging with the new Premier on all these factors,” Ms Hayhurst said.
PowerHousing Australia, a network of community housing provider members, welcomed Ms Berejiklian’s statement that housing affordability would be one of her top issues.
- See a range of articles and transcripts from The Fifth Estate’s Surround Sound for housing affordability
“The NSW Premier’s prioritising housing affordability reflects the reality that despite record supply, there are growing waiting lists for public housing and there are renters, first home buyers, owner occupiers as well as key workers that are struggling to cover housing costs,” PowerHousing chief executive Nicholas Proud said.
Ms Berejiklian, however, said in her first press conference as Premier that increasing housing supply was the best way to address housing affordability, though also said the government needed to do more.
The Property Council said Ms Berejiklian needed to focus on three priorities, which were, strangely enough, the three priorities later outlined in her first press conference: housing affordability, economic growth and infrastructure delivery.
“The baton has been passed and we are already well and truly ahead in the race – NSW is in a strong position to meet future challenges and the new Premier must seize the day,” PCA NSW executive director Jane Fitzgerald said.
She said “turbo charging” supply, extending code assessment and removing bottlenecks were key actions Ms Berejiklian could take to address affordability.
“We need at least 725,000 houses by 2036 and we won’t reach this figure unless we unlock more land and reform the planning system.”
Ms Berejiklian is expected to announce her new cabinet in the coming days.