Media Release: Mandatory panels erode local democracy

8 August 2017

The imposition of mandatory planning panels for Sydney and Wollongong further erodes local democracy, the local government sector said today.

“The Government claims this is a governance issue, but this move has the potential to actually reduce the accountability and transparency of planning decisions,” Clr Rhoades said.

“Councils are accountable to the community where panels are not.  There is no accountability like the ballot box.  

“Councillors are their community's voice at the table - they have been elected to represent community views on key issues, such as planning decisions which will have long-term impacts on neighbourhoods.

“And yet the Government has determined that they cannot serve on a panel.

“Instead, councils will only be able to select one community member on the four member panel, and two Government-appointed experts that have been pre-approved by the Minister.

“At the same time, the Minister gets to appoint the powerful fourth member: a chair who must have worked in the law or government.

“This could conceivably include a former member of the Government of the day – hardly the transparent, independent and conflict-free expert promoted in the Government’s media release announcement.”

Clr Rhoades said less than 3% of development applications (DAs) were currently referred to a council meeting for determination, with 97% being approved by professional planning staff under delegation.

“The forced introduction of local planning panels will not only create an additional bureaucratic process where there may be no need for one, but will also introduce additional professional and administrative costs on councils and applicants.

“The Department of Planning and Environment estimates each panel will cost $100,000 per annum – another expense for councils and applicants.”

Clr Rhoades said the Government had at least spared Newcastle, regional cities and coastal councils from the mandatory panels – for now.

“At least these councils can determine whether the panel option is the right choice for their area, and whether there are real benefits to the community rather than simply additional bureaucracy and cost - and less local democracy,” he said.

Media Enquiries
LGNSW President, Cr Keith Rhoades: 0408 256 405
Media Toni Allan: 0412 774 441