‘Hell is empty and all the devils are here’ wrote William Shakespeare in The Tempest.
With that in mind, dear reader, the Liberal–Nationals NSW government have shuffled their ministry deckchairs.
The latest NSW premier is a young bookish man of faith and many offspring, and has been known for selling public assets to make it look like he is a good fiscal manager.
Dominic Perrottet has installed nine first-time ministers, which can be seen either as bringing inexperience, or fresh ideas, to the table.
There’s also added ministries to Perrottet’s cabinet, according to the ABC, just in case you were thinking the Liberal-National party were the party of small government and less red tape.
The reshuffles include former Police Minister, David Elliott, known for gleefully and thuggishly overseeing police strip searches of minors. He’s been given the office of Transport to take on the pesky unions.
While long-serving Nationals MP, Melinda Pavey, was dumped from cabinet, locally-based MLC Ben Franklin (also Nationals), was appointed Parliamentary Secretary for Energy and the Arts.
Significant for all NSW Councils is that Goulburn Liberal MP, Wendy Tuckerman, replaces Liberal Shelley Hancock, as Local Government Minister.
Yet another significant appointment is that of former John Howard staffer, Anthony Roberts MP, who will make a return to the planning portfolio, while also becoming Minister for Roads – a new ministry.
This brings us to outgoing planning minister, Rob Stokes (Liberal), who will now head up new ‘cities’ ministries.
As a parting gift to NSW residents, Stokes announced plans to radically overhaul the planning system last week.
The peak body representing NSW councils, Local Government NSW (LGNSW), says they are ‘furious’ at the potentially ‘punishing new planning regime’.
They described it as ‘disrespect and contempt for the third tier of democratically elected government, and the communities they represent’. Ouch!
Stokes’ plans are all contained in the planning department’s A New Approach To Rezonings Discussion Paper, which is on exhibition.
Part of the reforms – if enacted – would be that councils will be required to refund planning application fees if they do not meet government-imposed time frames.
Yet LGNSW point out there is no recognition ‘that the development industry often submits partially complete, or wildly speculative proposals, well outside the approved strategic plans for the area, slowing the process’.
If there’s any doubt that the modern political age serves no one other than the governing and monied classes, have a squiz at this 44-page Discussion Paper.
With largely conflicting language, it uses meaningless rhetoric, broad stated aims and motherhood statements designed to disguise intent.
For example, the minister’s press release says his department ‘worked closely with industry, council and Land and Environment Court’. It didn’t seem that way from LGNSW’s hostile reaction.
The discussion paper claims the ‘rezoning process has become unwieldy, and is ‘complex and time-consuming, and pointed to long timelines, duplication of assessment, an ‘onerous’ Gateway process and ‘delays in the finalisation stage’ of land rezoning.
Instead of, perhaps, offering reform that would address this, the paper aims to ‘encourage investment, improve supply and create jobs’, and give ‘private proponents control and responsibility for rezoning requests’.
There’s also the threat of Ministerial intervention if the Government believes councils are not upholding their responsibilities.
To have your say by February 28, 2022, visit www.planningportal.nsw.gov.au/rezoning-new-approach and provide your feedback.
Hans Lovejoy, editor