Govt wants AI solutions to help councils with DAs

The NSW government is calling on industry to submit AI technology solutions to help reduce manual development application workloads for councils and streamline the pre-lodgement phase.

Paul O’Brien: backs use of AI in development application process.

The Department of Planning, Housing and Infrastructure (DPHI) hopes the use of AI in DAs will reduce timeframes and deliver more housing.

Applications will be evaluated on how they address priority focus areas, low impact implementation, and alignment with the NSW AI Assurance Framework and AI Ethics Policy.

Successful suppliers will be asked to showcase products and share ideas with councils after applications are submitted.

DPHI will then compile a list of suitable AI products along with guidance for councils on how to engage with suppliers and select the best AI tools for the task.

Responses need to focus on four priority areas relating to pre-lodgement.

These include:

  • A pathways and requirements finder: To help prospective applicants identify site-specific development requirements to speed up their development process.
  • Document self-assessment health check: To help applicants self-assess before lodging their DA. This aims to address any potential barriers or gaps in their documentation before they lodge.
  • Risk-based triage: To help council staff quickly identify non-compliant elements within a submission so that the triage process is efficient and improves council’s productivity.
  • Document assurance: To help council staff verify an applicant’s documentation to provide increased confidence in the quality of the material submitted

Planning minister Paul Scully says AI won’t replace planners. Rather, it will free them up to focus on more complex DAs.

“Introducing more AI features into our planning system is about working smarter so that councils can assess DAs faster, which helps to build more homes where they are needed most,” he said in a statement.

“Using AI tools will help us cut down DA assessment times, saving proponents, councils, developers and taxpayers valuable time and money.”

The government says it’s been working with more than 39 metropolitan and regional local governments on the use of AI in the DA approval process.

It says feedback from councils shows they want simple, streamlined application processes and the ability to access the information and documentation needed for site-specific DAs.

Wagga Wagga Council Manager for Development Assessment & Building Certification Paul O’Brien says the introduction of AI will help get applications in the correct format to avoid having to go back and forth trying to clarify project information.

“For most of the regular clients they understand what needs to happen, however for occasional developers who might do it once or twice in their lifetime it’s very confusing and having an AI presence can help step them through it,” Mr O’Brien said.

Proposals can be submitted until March 6.

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