19 June 2013 — Industry bodies have welcomed news of increased funding for the NSW government’s new planning system, though community groups have voiced concern about the limited amount available for community engagement.
The budget allocated $20.9 million to implement the state’s new planning system in 2013-14, with up to $3 million of it to “build a new culture of community participation”.
“For too long, local communities have been sidelined in the really important decisions about the future of their neighbourhoods, suburbs and regions,” planning minister Brad Hazzard said.
“Communities will work with councils and state agencies to create a shared vision for the housing, jobs and infrastructure in their regions with upfront strategic planning.”
The Planning Institute of Australia said the funding was “a strong sign that the Government is taking planning reform seriously”.
PIA NSW president Sarah Hill said the group was particularly pleased to see specific reference to consultation and culture.
“These are the cornerstones for successful implementation of the new system,” she said. “We need to bring the community with us on this journey with real and open engagement.”
“PIA has advocated for an acknowledgement of the critical role that changing the culture of planning will play in a new planning system, and the 2013-14 budget allocations will go some way to this.”
“It is an exciting time to be a planner in NSW and we look forward to the hard work which is to come in making the new system a positive for NSW.”
Urban Taskforce chief executive officer Chris Johnson also thought the news was positive, but said that community groups had been “negative”.
“While we support the involvement of communities in the strategic phase of planning this needs to be done with a full understanding of the need to manage growth and change,” he said.
“Our perception has been that many community groups are against development. The allocation of $3 million for community engagement and cultural change needs to help raise community awareness about the need to manage growth and to therefore avoid individual project fights.
“The community engagement process should look at improving the communities understanding of developers and explain their role as providers of jobs and housing. The overly negative attitude of some community groups, including the Greens, to the development industry needs to be modified by more interaction between the groups.”
Better Planning Network convenor Corinne Fisher said that Mr Johnson’s comments about community group negativity reflected a misunderstanding of community concern about the proposed changes.
“It also shows that he is underestimating the importance of community acceptance to the long-term success of the government’s reforms,” she said.
“If Chris wants to do a good job of representing UT interests in the long-term, he may well have to start listening to and attempting to address community concerns, rather than continuing to portray these concerns as ‘negative’”.
Ms Fisher said that the funding for community participation was inadequate.
“The allocation of $3 million for community engagement and cultural change is a drop in the ocean,” she said. “Even if that money went straight to the local councils for preparation of the new local plans and engagement of the community in that process, it would be no more than $19,736 per council – hardly adequate.”