NSW council powers put under review

By Julian Bajkowski

Council enforcement and compliance powers covering parking, planning, health and safety in New South Wales could soon be rewritten after the Independent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal (IPART) pressed ahead with a wide-ranging regulatory review.

In an issues paper released on Monday, IPART has called for state and local governments to put forward their case on what is working well under the present myriad of regulatory arrangements and what is broken.

The publication of the IPART issues paper comes just a week after local government elections were held in NSW.

The state pricing regulator has launched the probe in an ambitious bid to cut a targeted $750 million in so-called ‘red tape’ costs for businesses and the community by standardising, simplifying or scrapping common enforcement functions.

Specific compliance and enforcement functions named by IPART include planning, building and construction, environmental protection, public health and safety, parking and transport, animal management, liquor and restaurants and public areas.

Less prominent local government functions including the regulation of mortuaries, backpackers and camping grounds are also included.

The IPART review is just one of seven probes into the functions and powers of local government launched by NSW Premier Barry O’Farrell as the state tries to wrangle council activity into some form of cohesive structure.

Any reviews of council planning, building and traffic powers are sure to be hotly contested by business and community groups and state agencies because they will ultimately influence how billions of dollars in property development deals are approved or rejected.

Inner Sydney traffic planning has become a staple subject of talkback radio attacks, particularly the creation of dedicated bike paths by the City of Sydney.

At the same time, property developers are also carefully monitoring any change in the structure of planning powers for how it will impact their campaign to permit increased population density – usually through large apartment blocks on rail corridors.

“In NSW, a significant amount of regulation is implemented and enforced by councils. Therefore, there is merit in finding ways to reduce unnecessary costs on business and the community that arise from how councils go about this task,” IPART said in its paper.

Submissions to IPART for the review are due by 29 October 2012.

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