NEW South Wales Parliament has passed a Bill that repeals Part 3A of the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act 1979 and replaces it with an alternative system for assessing projects of state significance.
The Bill, introduced to Parliament last week, was passed by the Upper House on Tuesday night, with Planning Minister Brad Hazzard calling the result "a great day for transparency, integrity and openness in the NSW Planning system."
Introduced by the former Labor Government, the Part 3A assessment system commenced in 2005 and allowed the State Government to determine development applications deemed 'regional or state significant', overriding local government controls.
"Today is the start of a NSW planning system that empowers local government and affords local residents the respect they deserve," Mr Hazzard said.
"The new system will ensure the Minister for Planning is at arm's length from State Significant Development (which relates to private development only) and there will be no more Ministerial meddling as there was under Labor."
Under the new legislation, all state significant development will be determined by the Planning Assessment Commission (PAC) or at the recommendation of the PAC (under Part 4 of the Act).
The Minister's consent role will be retained for State Significant Infrastructure, such as roads and rail projects (under Part 5 of the Act).
As well as repealing Part 3A, the new legislation also makes changes to Joint Regional Planning Panels (JRPPs).
The changes include increasing the threshold that triggers JRPP involvement from $10 to $20 million and ensuring chairpersons of the JRPPs are appointed in consultation with the Local Government and Shires Association.
"Communities across NSW can now have confidence in the new planning framework," said Brad Hazzard.
However, the NSW Greens accused the government of failing in their commitment to return planning powers to local communities
"The government's legislation retains Joint Regional Planning Panels (JRPP), the Planning Assessment Commission (PAC) and replaces Part 3A with Part 4, all of which give the Minster and Department of Planning inappropriate and disproportionate control over development," said Greens NSW MP and Planning spokesperson, David Shoebridge.
"Part 3A might be gone but it has been replaced by a new Part 4, which has all the hallmarks of the unpopular Part 3A."
"The Minister will still have the power to consider developments he alone regards as 'state significant', and developers will still be able to bypass key environmental, heritage and local planning controls by applying under Part 4 of the Planning Act," Mr Shoebridge said.