New pilot on councils’ development performance

We’re working on a new data collection to shine a light on the rhythm and strength of the development heartbeat of councils.

Residential and commercial developments are often the subject of some of the most vexed questions asked of council staff. It can be an area of hyper-sensitivity or a general community emotional hot spot – and so, it is one that must be handled with utmost care.

Developments are an area that most community members will engage with councils over. As we all know, it can be sensitive and political because developments often symbolises people’s dreams and hopes. From a more rational council perspective, it is also the area offering additional and welcome extra income.

We felt it was worthwhile to take a deeper look at all development work occurring in councils, both for residential housing and commercial developments, through a new pilot within this year’s Australasian LG Performance Excellence Program, which now has 164 Australian and NZ councils.

Shaun Beckley, manager infrastructure planning at Liverpool City Council, says his large and diverse metropolitan council is strongly supportive of unpacking this critical area.

He says he gladly lent his planning expertise to the pilot:

“I was keen to assist. It would be incredibly insightful to see the relationship between the cost of supporting of all our development work, including the internal costs and resources, within a more intelligent context of the ‘mix’ of development work that we handle, namely the value and types of development, especially compared to other metropolitan and high growth councils.”

Mr Beckley says that from his perspective, “without data, we are operating in an evidence-free zone. Supporting greater visibility and comparison of our development application data internally will allow us to make informed business decisions to support management day-to-day as well as plan ahead.”

Contextual issues

In the pilot, we are aiming to explore contextual issues -for example, the nature of a council’s area as well as the nature, type, scale and scope of the developments being done within it.

Because councils are working together under the program, they can also view the combined development work of regions – multiplying it out to the broader groupings of entire Joint Organisations and other clusters, such as all metropolitan councils.

With the help of the participating metropolitan and regional councils across Australia and New Zealand, we hope to yield this data collection to shine a light on the rhythm and strength of the development heartbeat of councils.

Once there is greater knowledge of the relationships between the variables impacting councils, each local government will be able to work towards its own bespoke best practice models that suit their particular organisation, development profile and constituents.

Despite the best legislative intentions, it’s a little meaningless to look only at blanket averages about development performance without understanding the context within which it falls.

All of us would like councils to have a deeper perspective on their performance in light of the controllable and uncontrollable impacts they experience in this highly sensitive area.

As the level of government closest to the community, it’s a credit to all the councils supporting this pilot, which we hope will illustrate the benefit of sharing data for the betterment of local and regional communities.

Annalisa Haskell is CEO of LG Professionals, NSW.

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