THE Victorian Government's announcement that new planning and subdivision fees will apply from 13 October 2016 has been welcomed by the Municipal Association of Victoria (MAV) as a way to create a fairer system for communities following a decade of inequity.
MAV Chief Executive Officer, Rob Spence, described the new planning fees as a win for ratepayers as they will ensure costs are more appropriately borne by those making planning applications, rather than ratepayers.
"Currently planning fees only cover about 20-30 per cent of planning costs facing councils. Under the new model, applicant fees will cover an estimated 60-70 per cent of planning costs," Mr Spence said.
"The Government recently projected this could generate an additional $40 million extra in fees collected by councils each year, which will reduce pressure on municipal budgets.
"Councils did not seek full cost recovery for all fees given councils' role as a planning and responsible authority also provides a broader public benefit for the whole community. We think the outcome adopted by the State strikes a fair balance," he said.
Prior to the Victorian Government's review this year, planning fees had not been updated or indexed consistently since 2000. A planned 2010 review never took place and interim fees had been renewed each year without any indexation to assist with councils' rising costs.
During the planning fees review, the Government considered three fully-costed fee structure options. Following feedback from member councils, the MAV supported the option that the Government has subsequently adopted.
Mr Spence said it was pleasing that the Government had listened and acted upon many of the concerns raised by councils and the MAV throughout the review process.
"Unlike other government fees, planning fees had not been consistently indexed each year. This created an additional $12 million funding gap for councils last year and placed a further cost burden on ratepayers," he said.
Under the new system, fees have been converted to fee units and will be subject to annual indexation according to the value of fee units set by the Treasurer under the Monetary Units Act 2004.
"The planning system has been chronically under-resourced for many years. Councils will be able to reinvest additional revenue collected from the new fees back into their planning processes to make better and faster decisions for applicants," Mr Spence said.
"A range of improvement opportunities have already been identified by councils, including fast-tracking of online application lodgments and other streamlined processes that will benefit applicants."
More information about the new fees is available from the Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning website at <http://www.dtpli.vic.gov.au/planning/about-planning/legislation-and-regulations/review-of-planning-and-subdivision-fees>.