It's time to remove Councillors from development panels

The peak body for Australia’s largest industry has renewed calls to remove elected officials from Development Assessment Panels as part of the Planning Bill currently before Parliament.

The Property Council of Australia believes removing Councillors from the planning process is key to professional decision-making, streamlining approvals and promoting economic growth and job creation and has written to all Members of Parliament urging support.

“Councillors must be removed from Development Assessment Panels – this is urgent, job creating reform that benefits small business, tourism and development for South Australia,” said SA Executive Director Daniel Gannon.

“The property industry is burdened by countless examples of projects that would result in jobs, economic development and tourism attractions being knocked back as a direct result of Councillors ‘just saying no.’”

Mr Gannon said six real-life de-identified industry case studies reinforce the case for reform:

  1. Commercial expansion in a metropolitan area, which has still not been approved by Council. The development is only two storeys and not a change of use issue – just an expansion of a small business. Recommended by council staff as a sound development, and yet knocked back at Council meeting as a result of lobbying from residents who influenced local members. The project is worth more than $5 million, but is held up as a direct result of the politicised system in place.
  2. Commercial expansion in a metropolitan area, for an existing use – knocked back due to residents complaining to Councillors. Now the business is hoping it can gain approval through the Coordinator General. (Never mind the wasted time and money the business has spent dealing with the Council’s nonsense.)
  3. A winery cellar door expansion (worth several million dollars for the business) taking multiple years for approval (and looks like it might not be approved by Council), despite the tourism, hospitality jobs, construction jobs it represents for the area.
  4. An inner suburban facility to house older people worth more than $50 million was unreasonably delayed by vested interests from Councillors.
  5. Metropolitan expansion of a private medical facility. This took two years for the proposal to gain approval and required rezoning, litigation and much expense due to Councillors derailing the project.
  6. Inner metropolitan mixed use opportunity on a mainstreet (only three storeys, including retail and a small amount of residential). Council was nitpicking over minor details and clearly didn’t understand retail opportunities or what retail tenants need from their building and what shoppers want from their mainstreet precincts. Another opportunity of job opportunities ruined by Council delays, politicisation and knockbacks.

“These case studies represent Councils politicising important decisions that affect the livelihood of small businesses and impede jobs. It’s anti-job creation at a time when we need jobs,” he said.

“It’s a well-known fact that the property sector underpins South Australia’s economy, providing direct and indirect employment to 168,000 people and accounting for 26 per cent of wages and salaries. Any decision to allow Councillors to remain on DAPs will alienate a sector that is struggling under poor economic growth and high unemployment.

“The Property Council urges all Parliamentarians to stand up for jobs, development and small business – our state can’t afford to let this reform opportunity slip.”