Developer group wants councils as members

By Julian Bajkowski

Property development industry group Urban Taskforce has taken the highly controversial step of throwing open its doors to allow local governments to formally become “associate members” of the lobbying outfit as it seeks to redefine its engagement with policymakers.

The move comes as the New South Wales government scopes-out a root-and-branch overhaul of the state’s planning processes including a review of the Local Government Act that and the potential for forced mergers between municipalities.

Urban Task Force chief executive Chris Johnson said that his group had been approached by a number of councils “about how to better understand the position of the development industry in contributing to growth across Sydney and the state.”

“We have therefore established an associate category that enables councils to be involved in our activities at an appropriate level,” Mr Johnson said.

The issue of councils becoming members of a property development industry group is contentious one because many Sydney communities remain opposed to proposed developments they fear will destroy the character of older suburbs and put more pressure on already congested roads.

However Mr Johnson said that move was about running workshops with councils to thrash out “the feasibility of development options and begin a dialogue that is about how to get quality solutions that communities will be proud of.”

“With the planning reforms focussed on involving communities it is the local government level that needs to understand the inevitability of growth and therefore more development across Sydney. The Urban Taskforce is keen to engage with councils that are managing growth by demonstrating good examples of development in appropriate locations,” Mr Johnson said.

The NSW Greens are not buying the move and immediately rejected the idea of councils joining Urban Taskforce on the basis it would erode the standing of local government in the eyeys of constituents.

“It’s a very dangerous precedent for consent authorities such as councils to become members of a developer lobby group such as the Urban Taskforce,” Greens NSW Local Government spokesperson, David Shoebridge, said.

Mr Shoebridge said councils needed to be “fiercely independent statutory bodies” that stood for the public interest “not paid up members of a profit-driven developer lobby group.”

“Any council which becomes an associate or other member of the Urban Taskforce risks being seen as a biased pro-development authority, which can only damage the public standing of local government.” Mr Shoebridge said.

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0 thoughts on “Developer group wants councils as members

  1. The Greens seem to want to divide those managing growth and development from communities. Growth is inevitable in Sydney with high immigration numbers via the federal government, increasing birth rates along with people living longer. All the development industry is doing is translating this growth into homes for the new residents to live in and places for them to work.
    The Urban Taskforce is genuinely wanting to work with communities through councils so that there is less confrontation and fewer battlegrounds. We have suggested a non core, associated level of being involved that seperates our core advocacy role from a communication and sharing role.

    It seems to be in the Greens electoral interest to fuel division and encourage the image of developers as being against communities so that the Greens are perceived as being for the people.

    In contrast the Urban Taskforce wants to work with the community and with councils in the public interest. We are a not for profit organisation that represents the industry and stakeholders that are involved in developing homes and places to work for future generations. We understand that councils have a statutory role and have therefore established an associate level of membership outside our core membership. To get our housing production up to the level of other states we need to work together so that everyone understands the concerns and needs of all in the community.

  2. The Urban Taskforce has a role in a pluralist society like Australia – and that role is to be a lobby group for the profit-driven development industry. Good luck to it and good luck to their paid spokespeople. However to suggest that it is a community-minded not-for-profit organisation takes things a fair bit too far.

    The Urban Taskforce is calling for less community involvement in DA decision making, fewer powers for local democratically elected councils to control development and diminishing the importance of the environment while prioritising economic growth when making development decisions. This is not a platform any self-respecting Council should be a part of.

    Since 2011 I have found it quite disappointing to see the change in emphasis and tone from Chris Johnson as he has moved from the non-partisan public interest position of NSW Government Architect to become the lead voice for the development industry’s lobby group the Urban Taskforce. This latest contribution from him continues in that unfortunate direction.

  3. there is an existing and legitimate planning process operated on behalf of the NSW Dept of Planning by local councils. The Urban Taskforce is not a consent authority, neither are its objectives diverse. Its role is primarily to fill in the spaces on the ground where democratically elected councils have agreed on behalf of their communities and the Department to allow development through their planning schemes – schemes which have been carefully prepared on the basis of population trends, environmental constraints, history, cultural values, flooding, erosion, underground and above ground infrastructure, transport, schools, hospitals, depots, servicing and many other considerations.

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