By Aaron Gadiel, chief executive at The Urban Taskforce
Recently there have been media reports that Catherine Hill Bay residents, with the assistance of the Environmental Defenders Office, have launched a further legal action to stop a subdivision for 600 houses.
There had been a succession of legal challenges, on technical grounds, mounted against major NSW government approvals.
Successful legal challenges have set aside approvals for two major Hunter developments, a shooting range in Sydney’s south west, as well as the Ku-ring-gai Council town centres zoning plan.
A key approval for the Barangaroo development would have been struck down, but for last minute changes to the law by the state government.
None of the successful challenges related to the merits of the urban development concerned.
Yet each of them have stopped major development proposals in their tracks, and greatly weakened our confidence in the NSW Government’s ability to issue meaningful approvals.
It seems there is no end to the legal defeats that may be suffered by the NSW Department of Planning and Infrastructure.
Businesses needed to be able to bank on state government approvals and zoning schemes.
Planning approvals, once issued, are a property right that affect land valuation.
The fact that any state government planning approval or rezoning can be so easily set aside further weakens the already tenuous position of property rights in this state.
We’re getting to the point where businesses are beginning to feel they simply can’t rely on planning approvals issued by the NSW Government.
It's time for the NSW Government to consider special legislation to remove any doubt about the validity of planning approvals and zoning schemes previously issued by the Department of Planning and Infrastructure and the Planning Assessment Commission.
This has happened many times before, in other industries, with the support of the NSW Liberal and National parties.
For example, in the year 2000, the Liberal and National parties supported special legislation that regularised a large number of underground mining leases when their validity was called into question by a court decision.
Similar action was again taken last year, when a court decision struck down land access arrangements in the mining sector.
In 2006, the Liberal and National parties supported special legislation to protect electricity infrastructure from legal challenges, after it became apparent that many works did not have the necessary easements over private land.
Without new legislation, the endless train of opportunistic legal challenges would further weaken investor confidence and strengthen perceptions that spending money on urban development in NSW was too risky.
The Urban Taskforce is a property development industry group, representing Australia’s most property developers and equity financiers.
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