Key criteria for the transparent fast-tracking of development and construction to create jobs and boost employment were on the right track, Local Government NSW (LGNSW) said.
But the peak body warned that failure to include environmentally sustainable waste and recycling measures in the criteria was a missed opportunity, particularly in light of the rapidly approaching national bans on the export of plastic, glass and other recyclable materials.
LGNSW President Linda Scott said it was encouraging to see waste management or recycling facilities accounted for four of the 24 projects identified for fast tracking by the NSW Government this month.
However, she said the logical next step would have been to embed recycling principles in the actual fast-track criteria released today.
“Minister Stokes’ announcement is a missed opportunity to begin to create a state in which home-grown recycling and sustainable, smart waste management is built into everything we do,” Cr Scott said.
“It would have sent a very clear planning message: we’re going to do things better from now on, and we need to be working together to ensure some lasting and sustainable good comes out of these difficult times.”
Cr Scott was speaking after Planning and Public Spaces Minister Rob Stokes released the NSW Government’s Priority Projects Criteria – a set of guidelines which will effectively determine which development projects are fast-tracked through the approval process.
“Local government supports a principled focus on the creation of jobs to address the economic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic in the short- to medium-term,” she said.
“We welcome the commitment to open and transparent governance around any fast-tracked development decisions.
“We welcome the recognition of the importance of social housing provision, of new and improved green and public domain spaces, and local community infrastructure such as libraries, galleries and pools.
“Councils certainly welcome a commitment of State Government resources to help free up blockages in the planning approval pipeline.
“LGNSW has long argued that the NSW Government has a key role to play in addressing the ‘hidden’ approval delays which occur when other state agencies are required to sign off on a project.
“Similarly, the provision of additional State-funded support for council planning teams would go a long way to achieving the objectives of these criteria.”
Cr Scott said it was critical to ensure that short-term responses and system reforms did not undermine transparency and good planning principles, or encourage poor quality development that would cost the communities dearly in future years.
“Prioritised projects must still fit within overall agreed strategic planning directions,” she said.
“Strategic merit is referred to in the document as projects that are consistent with government policy outlined in relevant state, regional and all district plans.
“We are calling on the Government to guarantee a stronger role for council-led Local Strategic Planning Statements, and guarantee they will play a key role in assessing overall strategic merit.
“There will need to be further consultation with councils to ensure this fast-track program really does deliver for the people of NSW and the public good, rather than simply pouring money into the pockets of developers.
“Councils look forward to working closely with Minister Stokes and the State Government to ensure the transparency of this program is upheld, and any development delivered contributes to the public good.”