THE West Australian Government this week announced that it had made "significant progress towards planning system reform", with the passing of new legislation by Parliament.
Planning Minister John Day said the Approvals and Related Reforms (No.4) (Planning) Bill 2009 would modify the Planning and Development Act 2005 to make Western Australia's planning system more transparent, consistent and efficient.
Mr Day said the government is determined to ensure that growth is not hindered by "an unwieldy or unresponsive approvals process." He added that the new legislation will address frustrations caused by red-tape and inefficiencies of the current planning system, benefiting local and State governments, communities and investors.
"I think it has been clear to everyone that the approvals system in Western Australia is in need of repair, leading to ad hoc decision-making, uncertainty and delays for proponents wanting to invest in WA," he said.
Mr Day said the Bill enables the establishment of Development Assessment Panels (DAPs), which will consist of elected local government representatives and professionals to consider certain development applications.
"DAPs will ensure more transparent, consistent and efficient decision-making for development applications, while giving local governments the opportunity to focus on strategic planning," he said.
"It's important to note that the establishment of DAPs is one of the fundamental principles of the national Development Assessment Forum's leading practice model for development assessment and is consistent with the State's undertaking at the Council of Australian Governments for reform of the planning system," Mr Day said.
Other changes to the Planning and Development Act include:
- Significant extension of the use of existing strategic instruments such as improvement plans and planning control areas to strengthen State and regional planning throughout the State;
- A mechanism for local planning schemes to be updated to implement State Planning Policies;
- Improving consistency in local planning scheme requirements by enabling the creation of overriding regulations;
- Enabling the State to collect data on local development decisions in order to monitor the effectiveness of reforms to the approvals process; and
- Amending the existing power under Section 76 of the Act to clarify that the Minister may require a local government to prepare or submit a scheme amendment for approval.
Most of the changes are proposed to commence by the end of this year. It is anticipated that Development Assessment Panels will begin operating in mid-2011.