End the rorts: Give planning powers back to council

Socialist Alliance's platform for Inner West Council.

“The NSW government’s decision to strip council of planning powers is another reason to put the Liberals last on polling day on Saturday September 9”, said Susan Price, who is running in the Ashfield ward for the new forcibly amalgamated Inner West Council.

“While the planning minister Anthony Roberts has spun the decision made in August as a ‘win’ against corruption, it is really is an exercise in pushing through planning decisions and riding roughshod over community concerns. Predictably, the Property Council of Australia is happy.”

The Independent Hearing and Assessment Panels (IHAPs) will be mandatory for all councils across Sydney and Wollongong. They will determine all development applications with a value of between $5 and $30 million in value.

Many councils already have independent bodies to help deliberate on planning applications and make recommendations to council.

The difference is that the new, compulsory IHAPs will be stacked with the minister’s suggested “experts” including former politicians and property industry representatives.

Ms Price, a resident of Dulwich Hill, said that residents groups there have been campaigning there against mass rezoning for 4 and 8 storey developments imposed by the NSW government under its “Urban Renewal” strategy.

She said that they had had some impact, but that the new rules will make it harder for residents while giving the applicant/developer an unfair advantage.

Another concern is that these new panels are expected to cost $100,000 per annum — a huge expense for councils.

“The NSW government claims that this is the best way to deal with corruption in council. But this is an excuse. Corrupt councillors can already be brought to justice and, if necessary, sacked.

Meanwhile, a NSW parliamentary inquiry has heard this week that some $9 billion of state-owned property has been sold since the Coalition took power six years ago. The government wants to sell another $1 billion over the coming three years.

“This is not 'asset' recycling. This is the wholesale sale of public assets to the government’s developer mates who stand to make a windfall from Sydney’s skyrocketing land values”, concluded Ms Price.

Socialist Alliance is campaigning for:

A reversal of the forced council amalgamation.

Planning powers to be reinstated to councils (and council-sanctioned planning bodies that are transparent and accountable to residents).

Greater transparency and accountability of councils to residents, including ward and precinct meetings with residents and no secret council briefings.