PURSUING cultural change and improving efficiencies of South Australia's cumbersome planning system should be among the state's top priorities when it comes to planning reform, according to the Urban Development Institute of Australia (SA).
Responding to the 'Our Ideas for Reform' report released in August by SA's Expert Panel on Planning Reform, the UDIA's formal submission is supportive of many reforms, including rationalising planning zones and associated rules across councils, and improving the professionalism of planning assessment panels.
However, the UDIA notes the 'anecdote based' nature of many assertions in the report and the lack of cost-benefit analysis of the 27 ideas and 176 sub-ideas that it contains.
Of the ideas contained within the report, the UDIA has identified six priorities, including:
- Pursue cultural change and improved practice across the system (Reform 27);
- Enact a consistent state-wide menu of planning rules (Reform 8);
- Make changing plans easy, quick and transparent (Reform 11);
- Adopt clearer development pathways (Reform 12);
- Take the next steps towards independent professional assessment (Reform 15); and
- Establish a single framework for state directions (Reform 6).
"We rely on the planning system to underpin the state's economic competitiveness, so any reforms that are ultimately made should be evidence-based and be economically sound," said Terry Walsh, UDIA (SA) Executive Director.
"Over the past year, SA lost 6,400 full-time jobs and 3,600 part-time jobs, while 3,900 South Australians moved interstate. We built 25% fewer dwellings than we did two years ago, and our population grew by less than 1% which is half the national average.
"Town planning does not drive these worrying trends, but it certainly dictates how effectively we can reverse them. An efficient planning system is a necessary requirement for creating new jobs and investment in SA.
"We need to remind ourselves that the overriding imperative of any regulatory reform must be to enable jobs growth and investment. Every million dollars invested in construction in SA generates $2.9 million and 37 jobs in the economy as a whole. Every delayed application, every uncertain zoning rule, every botched planning decision costs our state jobs."
Mr Walsh said the UDIA has also identified a series of 'least desirable proposals' within the Expert Panel's Our Ideas for Reform report, including the suggestion to 'enact a charter of citizen participation and improve consultation on assessment matters' (Reforms 3 and 14), which he said would unnecessarily result in everyone expecting to be involved in every decision.
The UDIA also said the suggested reform to introduce a statutory urban growth boundary is a policy decision and not a planning system decision, with experience showing that urban growth boundaries create an artificial scarcity of land that inevitably results in policy-induced price escalation.
Mr Walsh added that the idea of a state Planning Commission requires further investigation before it can be considered as a possible reform, while the state's Development Act should be re-worded as a positive document that encourages innovation in development, rather than as a negative, overly regulatory document that discourages investment.
The Expert Panel is due to present its final report to the State Government in December 2014.
The UDIA's formal response is available from the Urban Development Institute of Australia (SA) website at <http://www.udiasa.com.au/>.
More information about the Expert Panel's 'Our Ideas for Reform' report is available from South Australia's Expert Panel on Planning Reform website at <http://www.thinkdesigndeliver.sa.gov.au/>.