The planning issues confronting residents of Ku-ring-gai, and residents of the
Sydney basin generally, are many. However, they all flow from the New
South Wales Government’s unjustified policy of "urban consolidation".
Closely linked with that policy is the Government’s unhealthy
relationship with the property development industry – particularly the
extent to which it encourages and indeed relies upon political donations from
this sector – leading to a range of decisions, policies and practices
that lack justification, and offend both common sense and residents generally.
In a very real sense all these represent a failure of democracy.
Government’s decisions in these areas are based on assertion rather than
evidence that the benefits claimed are flowing from the decisions, or have
actually flowed from similar decisions made anywhere else in the world.
Evidence to the contrary is merely dismissed with scorn as being "wrong",
without any attempt at proper debate, let alone any attempt to demonstrate why
it is wrong.
Many of the decisions have been made by changes to regulation, allowing no
public or proper parliamentary debate. In a number of important areas
reliance has been placed on decisions made at the Minister’s discretion,
without any means by which such decisions can be challenged, whether or not the
decisions were made reasonably, after due enquiry, or after following due
process, let alone whether relevant political donations appear to have been
made at or around the same time.
Another questionable area is the Minister’s ability to "call in" particular
developments, styling them "State significant" despite them having no realistic
State-wide relevance, and in many cases often having what is clearly only local
significance, and having a total value as small as $30 million.
Theses, and all of the areas listed below, need fixing. We call upon the
major political parties to make clear where they stand on each item in the
list, and to commit themselves to reform, well ahead of the next State
election, so that concerned residents can know where they stand when casting
Should be limited to $1000.
Should be from natural persons only i.e. not corporations, trusts, unions and
If not limited to $1000, any donations of greater amount should be publicly
posted within a week of receipt on the recipient’s web site, reported to the
Election Funding Authority within 30 days of receipt, which should in turn post
that report on its web site for public inspection within one week.
If not posted or declared by the recipient as required, the amounts involved
should be treated as bribes and be punished accordingly, noting that this would
have the effect of causing any offending politician to risk losing office.
Then perhaps we could expect disclosure responsibilities to be taken
seriously, rather than treated as something to be apologised for as a "mistake"
or "oversight" after the event, if and when found out.
Place power back in the hands of local councils
Amend Part 3A of the Environmental Planning & Assessment Act 1979,
constraining its effect to proposals that are of genuine State-wide
significance, involving major infrastructure projects and the like.
Revoke the appointment of Planning Panels (such as the Ku-ring-gai Planning
Panel) and the power to appoint Regional Planning Panels.
Allow local councils to exhibit and gazette urban conservation areas (UCAs)
– in particular, the 27 areas recommended by the National Trust in
Ku-ring-gai, some of State and National significance,
of which the State Government has allowed to be exhibited, making Ku-ring-gai
Sydney municipality having no gazetted UCAs, despite having arguably more
heritage of significance than any other municipality in NSW.
Allow local councils to come to their
conclusions about how to meet the extra dwellings required of each
municipality by the Metro Strategy, taking into account the local context
(suburban character, heritage, terrain, bush fire risks, soil types, tree
canopy, streetscape, etc) and the best interests of residents. Thereby
retaining suburbs that have individual character and fit their context, rather
than a bland, grey city that will result from a ‘one size fits all’ approach
imposed from Macquarie Street via ‘expert’ Planning Panels that don’t have to
live with their mistakes and their voters.
Require councils to genuinely consult their residents in developing their
strategies and plans.
Require town etc plans to observe the definitions in the Metro Strategy
of towns, villages and small villages. In particular, building heights
to be constrained to the number of stories mentioned – three or five, as
appropriate – rather than up to 15 stories as proposed by the Ku-ring-gai
Planning Panel! No respect to context there!!
Revoke the expanded ‘exempt and complying development’
rammed through the Parliament in 2008 with the assistance of a grubby deal
with the Shooters Party.
Neighbours are currently being given no notice of adjoining developments, let
alone opportunity to comment or object to proposals that affect solar access,
privacy, nor any chance to assess whether proposals actually comply with the
Billed by the Government as a win for ‘Mums and Dads’, the regime actually
tramples the former rights of all the ‘Mums and Dads’ in the adjoining
dwellings, who may now learn of a proposal only when the demolishers or
builders arrive on site and start work! This must change!!
Revise the regime applying to ‘private certifiers’
The current regime is an invitation to rorting. In particular, the
opportunity for private certifiers to make a request to a council for ‘advice’
as to whether a particular development complies, and having that development
– no matter how complex or large – gain ‘deemed approval’ through
the council not responding within a mere 21 days! How gross is that?!
The lack of rigour in granting and keeping private certifier status is also
These Sydney Morning Herald articles by
Harvey Grennan and Elizabeth Farrelly
provide further background to our concerns.