Kiama responds to state planning proposals

Published on 22 December 2021

Kiama Housing Strategy - Kiama aerial

Kiama Council’s CEO Jane Stroud has responded to last week’s NSW Government Department of Planning, Industry and Environment (DPIE) announcement of new planning rules.

Outgoing NSW Minister for Planning and Public Spaces Rob Stokes proposed reforms that he said would reduce timelines by up to a year for rezoning applications in an attempt to unlock more homes for the state.

Mr Stokes, who was appointed Minister for Infrastructure, Cities and Active Transport in last week's cabinet reshuffle, released two initiatives before leaving DPIE:

The draft reform includes a range of ideas that are captured in the discussion paper, which councils now have the opportunity to respond to. Kiama Council staff will prepare a report for consideration at the February ordinary meeting of Council.

“We welcome discussion around strategic reform in the housing and planning system. Planning and development assessment reform have been a key focus for improvement in our team,” said Ms Stroud.

The proposed reforms include the introduction of a new planning guarantee requiring councils to refund rezoning application fees if they do not meet timelines imposed by the State Government.

Under Kiama’s current fees and charges, rezoning application fees range from $23,000 to $55,000 depending on the scale of the proposal. The draft reforms suggest the refund amount for rezoning applications could be 10% of the application fee for every week councils do not meet the determination timeframes.

Ms Stroud said Kiama Council meets the timeframes for rezoning applications currently contained in the Local Environmental Plan (LEP) Making Guidelines and the Gateway Determinations issued by the Department.

“The kind of reforms the NSW Government is proposing are big-picture. And that’s where we also see room for evolution. For example, we’ve listened to requests by the community and developers to establish clear planning controls and guidelines to enable DAs to move through the system more efficiently.”

“We’re also interested in offering a fast-track approvals fee and we see a good opportunity here for the NSW Government to change its charging regime to allow this process,” she said.

The draft reforms also look to empower councils to have more say in the level of information to be provided with rezoning applications and create different categories of rezonings.

The Department is also considering introducing an appeals pathway, either in the Land and Environment Court or through the Independent Planning Commission, if progress with the assessment has been delayed or if applicants are dissatisfied with the final decisions.

“Although we support applicants’ right to appeal, Kiama, alongside many other local councils, has concerns that any proposed appeals pathway would increase costs to the rate payers and undermine strategic planning,” said Ms Stroud.

“While this announcement has come at an awkward time when we’re in Caretaker mode, we look forward to continuing to build on the excellent work our staff have already achieved in this important area as we move into 2022 and will provide comment back to the Department in due course.”