WA turns around planning process

By Lilia Guan

In a March report by the Property Council of Australia – Development Assessment Principles Report Card – Western Australia had its performance rating raised from one of the lowest in 2010 to second highest in 2012.

The development industry says Western Australia now has one of the better planning approvals systems in the nation, however local governments still remain frustrated by factors outside of their control.

WA Local Government Association President Mayor Troy Pickard said the stunning turnaround was in a big part attributable to councils assisting in and implementing state government reform processes.

“Local governments have been actively working with the State to deliver on key strategies such as the Directions 2031 framework, the preparation of new R-Codes for multiple dwellings and through engagement on the new waterfront development,” he said.

“There are, however a number of areas in which they continue to be impacted by delays and inefficiencies from external agencies.”

Mayor Pickard said many councils were already achieving greater efficiencies in planning and development processes, with these gains to be shared with the entire sector through the preparation of a Local Government Planning Improvement Program.

He stated that further improvements were being delayed due to lack of agency coordination from external parties including delays in the State Government approvals processes.

“Claims that local governments are restricted in achieving further reform by using old style local planning schemes and inconsistent procedures may currently hold true,” Mayor Pickard said.

“In proposing projects in support of the Directions 2031 strategy, many councils are finding a lack of coordination between state government agencies is serving to slow things down.”

Mayor Pickard said local government was fully supportive of modernisation of the system but noted the sector could be making a greater contribution if delays from external agencies were resolved.

The Property Council of Australia – Development Assessment Principles Report Card – recommends:

1. Deliver on the COAG agreement to establish nationally harmonised codes to assess houses, apartments and commercial developments.
2. Agree to a timetable for the majority of applications to be considered under the exempt, self-assessable or code-assessable tracks.
3. Deliver on the COAG agreement to provide annual reporting on the number, type and length of development assessments across all jurisdictions and local councils.
4. Commit to electronic lodgement (e-DA) for all development assessment applications by 2014.
5. Commit to e-planning and a timetable for the delivery of a single entry point for all planning applications.
6. Re-commit Commonwealth funding and ongoing staffing to support the work of DAF.
7. Establish a Council under COAG that will develop a planning reform agenda and support its delivery across all jurisdictions.

The report card is based on the 10 DAF Leading Practice Principles:
1. Effective policy development
2. Objective rules and tests
3. Built-in improvement mechanisms
4. Track-based assessment
5. A single point of assessment
6. Notification
7. Private sector involvement
8. Professional determination for most applications
9. Applicant appeals
10. Third-party appeals

The individual performance of the states/territories in terms of their adoption of the DAF principles is provided in the table below:

Previous (2010) system                      Current (2012) system
Northern Territory  7.3                         7.5
West Australia     5.3                          7.1
South Australia    6.8                          6.5
Australian Capital Territory  6.2            6.5
Victoria               6.2                          6.2
New South Wales  5.2                        5.9
Queensland  5.8                                 5.8
Tasmania 5.2                                     5.4

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