Auditor-General releases report examining Tasmania's land-use planning application system

TASMANIA'S Auditor-General, Mike Blake, last week released a report following an assessment of the performance of Tasmania's land-use planning application system at the whole-of-state and local levels, which Deputy Premier Bryan Green said confirmed government reforms were targeting key areas where Tasmania's planning system could be improved.

Mr Blake concluded that the performance of the state entities audited was "reasonable", but the audit identified a number of improvements that should be taken into consideration as planning reforms currently under way in the state progress and are finalised.

The Auditor-General's report also cited data from the First National Report on Development Assessment Performance 2008/09, published the by Local Government and Planning Ministers' Council, that showed the Tasmanian planning system was performing well compared to other jurisdictions in terms of approval times.

According to the 2008/09 report, Tasmania led the nation with an average development application approval time of 28 days. This compares to 36 days in the ACT, 71 days in NSW, 77 days in NT, 100.6 days in WA, 123 days in Victoria and 185 days in Queensland (there was no average data available for SA).

In median terms, Tasmania (29 days) was second only to South Australia (15 days). The ACT recorded 33 days, NSW 41 days, Victoria 78 days, WA 79 days, NT 81 days and Queensland 104 days. The audit noted that there was no up-to-date example providing information regarding performance over time.

The Auditor-General's report found "considerable variation between the number of zones and the number of use classifications," between planning schemes and said the current system where 29 councils operate 39 planning schemes could cause issues for investors due to inconsistencies and inefficiencies.

The report made a total of 27 recommendations, including the need for the development of planning principles, greater automation of information systems, resource sharing between local government councils and better information in annual reports and on websites to the general public and investors.

Mr Green said he acknowledged Tasmania can still be better and stated that planning reform is a major priority of the government.

"The reform we are undertaking of Tasmania's planning system is delivering greater State-wide and regional consistency in planning schemes which means greater certainty and clarity for investors and developers across Tasmania," Mr Green said.

He said the reforms included a new state-wide residential planning code, regional land use strategies and a single state-wide planning scheme template, adding that new planning schemes for all Tasmanian councils are expected to be in place by the end of the year.

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