COVID-19 converts complex projects into economic boom

Hospitals, housing, and hotel developments are among the projects to seek approval from the Western Australian Planning Commission through a specialised assessment pathway designed to keep WA's non-mining economy ticking through the COVID-19 pandemic.

Property Council analysis shows that fifty projects, valued at $5.04 billion in total, had lodged development applications through the State Development Assessment Unit (SDAU) during its eighteen-month application window, which closed in early January.

Prior to the application window closing, sixteen of the fifty projects had already received approval, representing an injection of $1.6 billion worth of work into WA's economic pipeline.

Property Council WA Executive Director, Sandra Brewer, said uptake of the SDAU pathway proved more popular than expected and demonstrated a clear need to reinvigorate the program permanently.

"The high number of SDAU applications from hospitals to housing, recreation to retail and everything in between, demonstrates a clear opportunity to provide a dedicated planning pathway for projects that will deliver long term benefits for the WA community."

Ms Brewer said the specialised planning unit, created initially to drive investment and construction activity through the uncertainty of the pandemic, had delivered much-needed capacity to WA's housing market and provided unique urban renewal opportunities in key activity centres across Perth.

"The creation of the SDAU process has proven to be a sage decision, providing the industry with an opportunity to present development proposals that offered more community value by providing a pathway for developments which do not fit into the standard planning framework."

"Already, projects totalling $1.61 billion have been approved, with a further $3.4 billion in projects able to be approved. This activity has contributed immensely to the robust work schedules of professional consultants and the many people engaged in the property industry. The income provided to Western Australian companies has secured thousands of jobs and driven growth in many businesses, giving the construction sector a strong pipeline for the future."

With Phase Two planning reform recommendations due to be released this quarter, the Property Council has advocated for the benefits of the SDAU to be made permanent.

"While SDAU has many benefits, the most valuable process change has been the active management of referral agencies by the SDAU," Ms Brewer remarked.

"Referral delays and red tape are extremely costly. The Property Council has estimated that if costs incurred by the state's property industry were to represent just one per cent of the value of building permits in the first six months of 2021, they would exceed $80 million."

"Addressing referral delays could be achieved through the creation of a State-led application pathway for projects that trigger matters of State interest, with an assigned State planner, and an assisted and coordinated referral regime."

"Extending the powers granted to the SDAU in some form and making eligible improvement and redevelopment areas would enable the WA planning system to be more responsive to innovation and provide a permanent pathway for projects capable of positively reshaping the state," Ms Brewer concluded.

Media contact:  Emily Young | P 0475 161 328 | E [email protected]