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Byron Shire
December 5, 2023

Ballina Council to ‘seek assurances’ on state planning powers

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Independent Ballina Shire Cr Eoin Johnston (PIC SUPPLIED)

The Ballina Shire Council has voted unanimously to seek transparency and details from the NSW planning department about changes to planning approval regulations.

Independent Deputy Mayor Eoin Johnston presented a motion to the ordinary council meeting last week requesting staff write to the relevant minister as well as the local government minister and the Department of Planning, Infrastructure and Environment [DPIE].

‘I must emphasise that it’s not our job to be butting heads with the state government and vice versa,’ Cr Johnston said in his introductory speech for the motion, ‘we’ve got to work together, we’ve got to live together, we’ve got to be considerate of each other’s needs’.

But the councillor also accused the DPIE of ‘drip feeding’ information about a so-called reform agenda for planning regulations.

‘It’ll be state government dictating to local government’ says deputy maoyor

The communication had been ‘inadequate and unsatisfactory’, Cr Johnston said.

‘I’m talking about a different way of getting to your building without having to go through Council,’ Cr Johnston said, before referring to a controversial block of units in Alstonville approved by the state government, allegedly without community consultation.

People in the community were concerned about the block’s size and scale and lack of parking, he said.

‘What I’m saying is that if there’s more of this coming from state government, it’ll be state government dictating to local government what they do with their planning,’ the independent said, ‘it will take out the needs and wants of a local community’.

‘This motion seeks clarity and details of the state’s agenda, and assurances that the unique and specific aspects of our diverse local community areas are not condensed,’ Cr Johnston said.

The councillor said he didn’t want the state government to impose a ‘one size fits all philosophy’ on local governments.

‘A raft of complying development,’ says GM

Ballina Cr Phil Meehan. Photo supplied.

Cr Philip Meehan asked the general manager a few questions around what, exactly, staff planned to include in the letter to the government.

Strategic Planning Manager Matthew Wood said he wanted staff to mention the ‘constant reform’ to recently introduced state government complying developments.

Mr Wood said the council needed time to reflect and consider planning regulation changes before they happened.

‘There’s a raft of complying development,’ Mr Wood said, ‘basically complying development means that if you meet the set criteria, and the development must be approved, it can be either approved by council or by a private certifier’.

Mr Wood said state compliant development included low rise, medium density housing, commercial development, ‘regular dwelling houses’ and industrial buildings.

Nobody spoke against Cr Johnston’s motion and the council voted unamiously in support.

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