Policies

Issues of concern at this election, include: planning law; council amalgamations; STEM education; saving the TAFE system; asset sales; the selloff of RNSH land and a host of other local issues.

The policies that I have addressed to date appear below, however I will continue to release policies throughout the campaign. If there are issues that concern you or that I have yet to address please contact me.

We Must Return Planning Powers to Local Communities

Background

In 2011, the NSW Coalition Government was elected claiming they were ‘committed to returning planning powers to local communities’.1

The Coalition Government set off in the right direction with the repeal of Part 3A of the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act 1979 (NSW), an appalling piece of Labor legislation that empowered the Minister to make planning decisions in relation to ‘major infrastructure and other projects’ with limited public consultation.2

The Coalition Government also initiated a comprehensive review of the NSW planning system, which offered some hope that the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act and its numerous amendments would eventually be replaced by ‘A New Planning System’ that would truly ‘return planning powers to local communities’.

Regrettably, this opportunity was squandered. Despite thousands of submissions including my own supporting greater openness, accountability and community input, the Government sought to create a system where 80% of development would be approved with no community notification or input.

The Planning Bill 2013 (NSW), which was to have brought about these changes, was amended by the upper house and has since lapsed. At the time of writing, we do not know whether a re-elected Coalition Government will reintroduce this legislation.

Although we need a new Planning System, I will oppose any attempt to reintroduce the Planning Bill 2013 (NSW). Our planning system is bad enough already!

Deficiencies in Our Current Planning System

Our current Planning Law is deficient at every level. It is too complex to deal efficiently with small scale development with low impact. It fails to ensure infrastructure is in place to properly service large scale development. There are too many paths that development applications can take through the system, which makes it difficult for affected parties to know how to respond. Planning decisions can be made without relevant facts before the decision makers. State Environmental Planning Policies (‘SEPPs’) can be created at the whim of the Planning Minister, which can override other planning instruments like Council Local Environmental Plans (‘LEPs’).3

A System Designed to Fail

In many ways our current planning system is designed to fail.

It is wrong that so much reliance is placed on reports, such as environmental impact statements (‘EIS’), which are paid for by the developer and usually show the proposed development in the best possible light. Unless affected parties have the resources to hastily produce reports that counter claims made in material lodged with the application and some weight is given to such reports, decisions can be made with a great deal of relevant information missing. This is further complicated because there is evidence that misleading and deceptive material is lodged with some development applications.4

As an engineer, I am frequently appalled by the poor quality of material submitted with development applications, even in the absence of biased reports and misrepresentations.

As a graduate at law, I ask: what kind of a process is this – a court that favours evidence from one side, where penalties for perjury are not applied?

Growth Based on Residential Construction is Unsustainable

Recent growth in NSW has relied largely on 'population growth lifting home building' 5 – this is unsustainable both economically and environmentally.

Our planning system is not coping because the adequacy of infrastructure to support development is often overlooked at the assessment stage meaning appropriate infrastructure lags development or may never be provided. We need to have ‘integration of land use planning with the provision of infrastructure and the conservation of our natural, built and cultural environment’.6

I endorse the Community Charter for Good Planning in NSW

Affected parties are often all but excluded from participation in strategic planning and development decisions. Individuals and communities must be given ‘a genuine and meaningful voice in shaping their local area and region, its character and the location, height and density of housing.’ 7

I whole heartedly endorse the Community Charter for Good Planning in NSW, which promotes ‘the well-being of the whole community, the environment and future generations across regional, rural and urban NSW.’ 8


Communities

The value of community associations, small local sporting clubs and other social organisations cannot be underestimated. The planning system must ensure these groups have access to parks, bushland, clean rivers, community halls and facilities which allow them to engage in their sports or other activities without unreasonable impact on others.

Future Planning Law

Our haphazard growth has put huge pressure on our urban and suburban environments. The Community Charter for Good Planning in NSW at least provides a vision as to how we manage future development. Planning Law of the future should reflect this vision. Some elements I see as being important in future planning law include:

• The provision of natural corridors between new development and waterways – the Savana development should not have buildings within a few metres of Stringybark Creek.

• Provisions to protect our built and cultural heritage.

• Mechanisms to ensure, that for larger developments, developer contributions actually deliver appropriate: street setbacks and open spaces; transport infrastructure; vehicle, pedestrian and disabled access around the development; access to community facilities; and upgrading of sewerage, water, gas and electricity supplies necessitated by the development.

• Provisions for developers to pay for arm’s length independent environmental impact statements by suitably qualified and insured assessors.

• Provisions that: if building certifiers are to have any role, they should be appointed to jobs by the Building Professionals Board with resources to deal quickly with complaints about certifiers. While developers should pay for building certification services there should be no direct financial relationship between the developer and certifier.

• If State Environmental Planning Policies (SEPPs) are to remain part of the planning landscape, they should be subject to the same tabling requirement as other subordinate legislation and be subject to disallowance motions.

• Access to complying development applications by affected parties to allow them to check that the development actually does comply and to make suggestions that may further lessen impact.

• Penalties in planning legislation for intentionally misleading or deceptive material in development applications or made to authorities. 9

• Provision that the time before deemed refusal should stop running, at any time during assessment, if errors are found in the application and should not restart until all errors are rectified. Fast-tracking of assessment of large developments is unjustifiable – given that a lot of resent large scale development is low quality strata title apartments, greater consideration of their long term impact is essential as it will be very difficult to remove such development as it nears the end of its life.

1. The Hon Brad Hazzard MP, ‘Minister Returns Planning Powers to the Wagga Wagga Community’ (Media Release, 24 May 2011) 1
http://www.google.com.au/url?sa=t&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=web&cd=1&ved=0CB0QFjAA&url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.planning.nsw.gov.au%2FDesktopModules
%2FMediaCentre%2Fgetdocument.aspx%3Fmid%3D702&ei=BAHXVPa7L9Tm8AXEg4DQAg&usg=AFQjCNE2YXc7qnldsvMidu8j2KoUfhFFzg&sig2=33StiZVSfnulv_44p4X0NQ


2. Environmental Planning and Assessment Amendment (Infrastructure and Other Planning Reform) Act 2005 (NSW).

3. Environmental Planning and Assessment Act 1979 (NSW) s 36(1)(a).

4. Jim Sanderson, Should the Current Planning System Review Recommend the Creation of Additional Offences for Misleading or Deceptive Conduct, in the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act 1979 (NSW)? (LLM Research Essay, UNSW Australia, 2011) Click here

5. Craig James and Savanth Sebastian, State of the States (October 2014) Commsec
"https://www.commsec.com.au/content/dam/EN/campaigns/stateofstates.pdf?icid=123848:commsec:m:public:Public_Home:::State_of_the_States:Download_Top".

6. Better Planning Network et al, Planning for People: A Community Charter for Good Planning in NSW (August 2014) Planning for People
"http://thecommunitycharter.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/09/Planning-for-People_CHARTER-Tickbox.pdf".

7. Ibid.

8. Ibid.

9. Sanderson, above n 4.

Local Government – I Oppose Forced Council Amalgamations

Small Councils Can Better Reflect Community Values

While I support many of the recommendations of the NSW Independent Local Government Review Panel (‘ILGRP’) in their report: Revitalising Local Government,1 I believe smaller councils can allow residents and communities to be more engaged in the planning and development process – this is fundamental to the wellbeing of communities.

Forced Amalgamation by a Different Name for Metropolitan Councils

For many metropolitan councils, the NSW Government’s ‘Fit for the Future’ reforms are effectively forced amalgamation by a different name. Rural councils will be able to form ‘Joint Organisations’, which will perform some functions and deliver some services currently carried out by the member councils. Metropolitan councils have not been offered this option, which will make assessment as being ‘Fit for the Future’ unattainable for some councils, even if only because of their size, although ILGRP itself has rejected the ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach.

Metropolitan Councils should also be offered the Joint Organisation Option to Avoid Amalgamation and Work to Greater Effect

As the Revitalising Local Government report suggests, local government could work to far greater effect. The scope for sharing of resources among metropolitan councils is even greater than in regional NSW so the NSW Government should support the formation of metropolitan ‘Joint Organisations’, which in our area could see the Local Government Areas (‘LGAs’) of Hunter’s Hill, Ku-ring-gai, Lane Cove, Mosman, North Sydney, Ryde and Willoughby form a Joint Organisation.2 By sharing resources on a larger scale, smaller councils can remain viable and small enough to represent the diverse interests of their communities.

In smaller LGAs, where candidates run grouped by policy rather than in political party groups, it is possible to elect capable independent Councillors to implement policy that is consistent with the values of the communities that they represent – voters also better understand what it is they are voting for. In larger LGAs, councils tend to be dominated by political parties and are inevitably less responsive to community views.

Voluntary Amalgamations

As well as opposing forced council amalgamations, I am concerned that strategies to encourage voluntary council amalgamations or boundary changes must ensure communities are fully informed about the consequences of such change and have ample time to make submissions before a poll of all residents and ratepayers in the affected areas is conducted. The process that occurred in 2000 when Concord and Drummoyne Councils were merged to form the City of Canada Bay must not be repeated – there the ‘voluntary’ amalgamation proceeded despite a postal survey where, about 40% of voters in the two Municipalities responded, with about three quarters opposing the merger.

Attracting Good Candidates

The Revitalising Local Government report also recognises the importance of attracting capable candidates to run in council elections. Council amalgamations and amendments to the Local Government Act and other legislation must not impede the nomination and election of strong Independent candidates at council elections. I would however support compulsory and meaningful training of candidates about the responsibilities of office. As a graduate at law and past candidate, I have been surprised by the naivety of some at all levels of Government about concepts like conflict of interest.

1. NSW Independent Local Government Review Panel, Revitalising Local Government: Final Report (October 2013),
"http://www.localgovernmentreview.nsw.gov.au/documents/LGR/Revitalising%20Local%20Government%20-%20ILGRP%20Final%20Report%20-%20October%202013.pdf".

2. Richard Quinn, ‘Joint Regional Service Delivery Model’, The Weekly Times, 11 February 2015, 4
"http://www.weeklytimes.com.au/joint-regional-service-delivery-model/".

Proposed Royal North Shore Hospital Land Sale: A Short Sighted Financial Solution that will Jeopardise Future Hospital Development

The hospital that became the Royal North Shore Hospital (‘RNSH’) had its roots in the community – it was largely financed by surplus funds from an exhibition of local wares, donations and material supplied by local building manufacturers and was built on land much of which was donated by local landholder David Berry. 1 Even after its move to its present location in 1903, its long history of community involvement continued with many benefactors contributing generously to allow the hospital’s ongoing expansion.

In addition to the increasing demand for hospital treatments due to a growing and aging population, the rate of expanding medical technologies demands that hospitals upgrade equipment and facilities regularly. Such upgrades will often involve moving some facilities to temporary locations while new facilities are built – this becomes extremely difficult when no vacant land is available.

Hospitals must also offer decent facilities to attract good staff – having a good affordable child care centre on campus might be the reason many very valuable members of staff choose to work at RNSH. If this facility is closed or pushed off campus because of the land sale, RNSH is likely to see the loss of valuable staff.

To sell or to place under long term lease the last pieces of viable vacant land at a hospital that has developed with so much community contribution, so that developers can profit from the development of that land with few restrictions other than having to accommodate some hospital related facilities and a few floors of NSW Health bureaucrats, is both morally and economically wrong and will jeopardise future hospital development.

I will oppose the sale of RNSH land just as I will demand to see more details about the funding arrangements of other hospital developments.


1. Geoffrey Sherington with Roger Vanderfield, The Royal North Shore Hospital 1888—1988: A Century of Caring (Horwitz Grahame, 1988) 3-4
"http://sydney.edu.au/medicine/museum/mwmuseum/extensions/MediaBank/MediaBankShow.php?mid=http://smp.sydney.edu.au/mediabank/|medmediabank|FMMUS3587".

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