28 November 2013 — Planning reform in NSW has been put in limbo as the NSW government today [Thursday] refused to vote on Upper House amendments to its new planning bill, giving itself until next year to decide whether to accept the amendments, go back to the drawing board or keep the existing planning system.
Planning Minister Brad Hazzard said in a media release that an “unholy alliance” of Labor, the Greens, and the Shooters and Fishers Party had put at risk his government’s plan to return local planning powers to communities, provide a framework that is corruption resistant and provide housing and jobs.
“Two and a half years of community consultation across NSW has been destroyed by two and a half days of legislative vandalism,” Mr Hazzard said.
“Through its amendments Labor has destroyed much of the new planning framework and the Government will now consider its position before Parliament resumes in 2014 in its determination to make NSW number one again.”
Yesterday major amendments passed the Upper House, causing a flurry of indignant responses to hit The Fifth Estate inbox from all sides of the debate.
Amendments included the removal of the controversial Code Assessment track, which would have removed community object rights; an affordable housing levy being included; and the repeal of the mining state environmental planning policy provisions, which would have seen the economic considerations for mining projects trump environmental and social concerns.
The Better Planning Network, which has been vocally opposed to the government’s planning bill, said that despite significant amendments it was pleased with, the legislation was still flawed and it was “a black day for communities”.
“Despite the significant amendments achieved over the past two days, this legislation is still unfit for the 21st century,” said BPN’s Corinne Fisher.
“We had hoped that the Labor and Shooters and Fishers Parties could see that amendments alone will not fix this bad law, but both parties eventually gave it their approval. They have missed the opportunity for visionary planning reform.”
BPN has repeatedly called for the Government to go back to the drawing board on planning reform.
The NSW Urban Taskforce called for the planning bill to be scrapped, too, but because it had been severely watered down.
“The final form of the Planning Bill bears little relation to the well thought out White Paper that the Government proposed only six months ago,” said Urban Taskforce chief executive Chris Johnson. “We now have a document authored by many hands but not owned by any one of them.”
He said code assessment had gone, but upfront participation of the community still remained. He was also upset at the affordable housing levy, which he said would increase the cost of housing.
A “NIMBY” attitude taken by community groups had set the state back many years, Mr Johnson said.
Speaking to The Fifth Estate, Mr Johnson said he was staggered the Greens were able to take the line of the planning bill being pro-development and anti-community.
Greens spokesperson David Shoebridge said that even amended the bills left communities and the environment on the sideline.
“Though this bill has been substantially amended, its essential pro-developer characteristics remain and it takes planning backwards in NSW,” Mr Shoebridge said.
“The continued failure to make ecologically sustainable development the principle object of this bill sets it up to fail the environment from day one.”
However, Mr Johnson said the original planning bill would have made infill development and increasing density more viable, something green groups should be behind if they’re serious about tackling urban sprawl thanks to a growing population.
“Sydney needs over 32,000 new homes every year and we are only producing 21,000 now,” he said in a statement. “The Planning Act needs to encourage more housing but groups like the Greens call this being ‘pro-developer’ and imply this is bad.”
He said that planning reform should have been preceded and framed by a conversation about how we were going to manage the large projected population increases of Sydney.
Australian Bureau of Statistics data released this week stated that the Australian population was going to double more quickly than expected, with Sydney’s population expected to increase to 8.5 million within 50 years.