Good News Story - Planning Reform and the Role of WAPC

The COVID-19 pandemic has had a catastrophic impact on the State’s economy. The State Government’s sweeping changes to the Planning and Development Act 2005 are an integral part of the drive to support our economic recovery and get people back to work.

The Government is progressing three streams of planning reform – legislative, regulatory and policy – to significantly reduce administrative processes, remove barriers to enable development, create and protect jobs and support business.

The reforms come after almost three years of consultation across State and Local Governments, industry and the community, and have been brought forward to help drive the COVID-19 economic recovery.

Possibly the most significant proposal is the introduction of a new planning approvals pathway via the Western Australian Planning Commission.

For 18 months after the reforms are passed into law, the Commission will be responsible for determining significant development proposals to support our economic recovery.

A significant development proposal must have an estimated cost of $30 million and either incorporate 100 or more residential dwellings, or a minimum of 20,000 sqm net lettable area of floor space. Also, the Premier, on recommendation of the Minister for Planning, can refer any proposal deemed to be of State or regional significance to the Commission for determination. Without special authorisation, no other authority can make a decision that is inconsistent with a Commission decision.

Public consultation will be a key part of this pathway and we will work with all stakeholders to ensure that the referral process is timely, efficient and responsive.

An applicant would still have a right of appeal through the State Administrative Tribunal and the Bill provides a special oversight role to the Governor - noting that the Governor acts on the advice of Ministers - and Parliament, to check, add, amend or even cancel any Commission decision. This would give proponents a high degree of certainty, but ultimately reserves the right to oversight of Commission decisions to the Government of the day and Parliament.

The Department of Planning, Lands and Heritage, is currently drafting processes to support this proposal, but it is likely that applications would be submitted to the Department’s new State Development Assessment Unit who would undertake the assessment, including all consultation and referrals. Essentially this team takes on the all of the responsibilities of local government in processing and assessing the application.

Early engagement with all stakeholders is critical. By taking a broad range of matters into consideration, the Commission will ensure that the community benefits incorporated in development plans meet the expectations and needs of the local community.

It is important to acknowledge that planning reform is not about reducing scrutiny or transparency. This is not about ‘fast-tracking’ development and bypassing the crucial level of early engagement, examination and assessment that underpins good planning. This is about creating a more efficient, effective and streamlined system at a time of critical need.

The Commission stands ready for its new responsibility and to offer all possible support to reinvigorate the State’s economy in a time of crisis.

Acknowledgement of Country

The Committee For Perth acknowledges the traditional custodians throughout Western Australia and their continuing connection to the land, waters and community. We pay our respects to all members of the Aboriginal communities and their cultures; and to Elders both past and present.