Changes to the New South Wales planning system touted as the ‘biggest overhaul in a decade’ have failed to restore the community’s right to have bad decisions reviewed by the courts, according to critics.
Nature Conservation Council campaigns director Daisy Barham said the announced changes contained some positive changes but failed to deliver on the Coalition’s 2011 election promise to return planning power to the people.
‘The minor improvements in today’s package do not compensate for the loss of community control of planning decisions resulting from council amalgamations and the appointment of panels and commissions that override local council planning powers,’ Ms Barham said.
‘Crucially, the changes do not restore the rights of ordinary citizens to challenge bad decisions in the courts.
‘These merits appeal rights were effectively stripped by Premier O’Farrell when he added the Planning Assessment Commission as a new tier of the planning system.
‘Denying communities the right to have decisions scrutinised by an impartial arbiter means bad decisions go unchallenged, increasing the risk of serious harm to wildlife and public health.
‘The planning system already favours developers, who have the resources and connections to ensure their interests are protected.
‘We need a planning system that prioritises people and wildlife over the interests of big business.”
Ms Barham said the new package contained some positive elements, including proposals for: Improving the quality of environmental assessments; requiring more comprehensive assessment of modifications and expansions of mines, and increasing emphasis on community participation in planning decisions.
‘Planning decisions affect all aspects of our lives, so it is vital it’s important the government get it right,’ Ms Barham said.
‘Unfortunately, Mr Stokes has missed an opportunity to give the people the power to shape the kinds of sustainable, just communities that they want.’