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Planning reform

This policy outlines the HIA position in respect to Planning. HIA is seeking a consistent national approach to planning approval, to reduce unnecessary barriers to industry - such as approval delays - and thus improve the supply and delivery of housing to the market at an affordable price.

HIA's Position statement

HIA supports:

  1. Planning reform that is transparent and will assist to achieve housing affordability through simplified regulatory processes, reduced assessment timeframes and greater certainty of outcomes.
  2. Consistent planning regulation, with standardised approaches to planning scheme layouts, appropriate levels of assessment for development types and clear frameworks for the introduction of changes.
  3. Planning performance being subject to a continual benchmark program that binds all levels of government to ongoing and consistent planning practice improvements – including the potential for them to be tied to federal/state funding arrangements.
  4. Mandatory Regulatory Impact Statements for new planning requirements and a mechanism for any existing requirement to be tested if there is industry wide belief the impact is too onerous. This includes a comprehensive cost benefit analysis with a particular emphasis on housing affordability, including the land component, by any level of government seeking to introduce new planning regulation recognising that there can be economic, social and environmental benefits from a proposal. The cost benefit analysis must be positive for any new planning requirements to be introduced.
  5. Objectives that make housing affordability a principle consideration in the decision making process in all state planning legislation, and included as a decision making tool in all local and regional planning systems.
  6. Streamlining of planning systems that improve decision making timelines, to facilitate the timely delivery of land and housing to market, including the use of:
    • standardised planning requirements
    • prescribed third party notification and timely processes for referrals
    • as of right approvals on complying residential approvals
    • simplified referral processes
    • increased involvement of the private sector in the planning approvals process including necessary engineering approvals required following planning approval
    • e-Planning processes for lodgement and assessment of planning approvals and
    • the implementation of independent Development Assessment Panels (DAPs) or regional decision making bodies, where approvals are not determined by delegation.

    Further detail on each of these initiatives is outlined in Attachment A.

    HIA does not support:

  7. Technical regulation introduced through planning systems in particular, prescribed minimum requirements for environmental performance, which should be applied at the building approval stage based on requirements in the Building Code of Australia (BCA) or which are in conflict with existing standards in the BCA and Australian Standards.
  8. Architectural and building design requirements in planning schemes and housing codes except where they address heritage and identified building character requirements.

Background

  • Technical standards used for the construction of housing across Australia operate through a national building code. Yet each State and Territory presently operates under planning legislation which is not nationally consistent.
  • The impact of state based planning legislation and local housing policies and codes on the housing sector is becoming increasingly evident.
  • The cost of delays and the growing gap between the demand for, and the supply of, housing is in many cases directly related to inefficiencies in planning systems.
  • State and local governments are seeking to address emerging issues, including some technical construction aspects, through their planning systems, rather than seek changes to the national building code.
  • Improvements in the planning system can significantly reduce approval delays and therefore improve the supply and delivery of housing to the market at an affordable price.
  • Planning systems around Australia are characterised by complex and varied zoning controls, definitions and requirements in different council areas.
  • The planning process is increasingly becoming complicated and unpredictable with varied requirements for housing, depending on its location.
  • Growing planning systems are characterised by their complexity, lengthy approval times and requirements for design compliance at significant cost to industry and the home buying public including:
    • a significant increase in the number of proposals that now require planning approval
    • greater opportunity being afforded to third parties to influence the decision making process
    • an increase in the number of referral agencies and an increase in the time taken to process referrals
    • a myriad of ‘additional; issues imposed through local policies and codes coming into play – which at best are subjective and uncosted.
    • government’s continued monopoly in undertaking all development assessment work, accompanied by a shortage of skilled planning and associated staff, particularly at the local government level
    • the rigid application of development standards that generally discourage housing mix and choice and limits the ability of the market to deliver accommodation types that suit demand
  • If the housing industry is to operate successfully in Australia, red tape and bureaucratic differences in the planning system need to be slashed.
  • The core of reform should be based around predictability with the ability to clearly demonstrate that a proposal meets performance guidelines, legislated standards or codes.

Attachment A: HIA planning reform principles

The following principles should be considered by governments for implementation to streamline planning systems.

There are a number of ways in which planning processes can be streamlined. As a basis for planning reform, lobbying around the following principles is considered desirable:

Model planning schemes

Consistency on all planning schemes is desirable and gives a sense of certainty to the industry and reduces red tape for both local government authorities and applicants.

HIA supports:

  • The development of standardised or state planning schemes incorporating standard principles (format, zones, definition, etc.) as a way of providing certainty for all councils in their respective planning schemes.

As of right development – one approval – code assess

If land is zoned for a certain purpose e.g. residential use, the community should have an expectation that it will be used for this purpose – in accordance with the guiding development principles established either by state or local government.

Where planning approval is required for housing in a residential zone, a simplified approval process should be available.

HIA supports:

  • Standardised ‘as-of-right’ development as an appropriate approach for development of a routine nature to ensure only a single approval is required for housing development.
  • If an application for development approval is not determined within the legislated decision making timeframe, including any extension of the period, then the application should be deemed to have been approved.

Third party objections

In all development proposals third party appeal objections and appeal rights which are available in some states can be a source of lengthy delay in the approval of developments, particularly when many proposals comply with Council planning schemes. Expansion of third party appeal rights which would exacerbate this problem is not supported.

HIA supports:

  • If land is appropriately zoned for residential use, third party appeal rights should not apply for complying developments.
  • Clarification of notification procedures on a state-wide basis to avoid subjective analysis by Council officers as to who is affected by a residential development.

Referrals

Referral procedures by councils are causing delays and costs in the planning approval process.

A simplified referral process including the potential for a one stop shop process which allows for earlier consultation on issues is desirable with standardised time frames for responses and cooperative dispute resolution.

The housing industry expects certainty in the decision making process and believes that the consent authority should have the responsibility to weigh up conflicting referral responses and independently make a decision in the required statutory time frame.

HIA supports:

  • A review of appeal and referral procedures by state and local governments.
  • A standardised process for application referrals including time frames and co-operative dispute resolution.
  • Consent authorities having responsibility for weighing up conflicting referral responses and independently make a decision.
  • A third party being allowed to undertake the referral process independent from authorities.

Private certification (see HIA policy certification in planning)

Private involvement in the planning process, subject to clear pre-set rules and procedures, does not threaten the roles and responsibilities of Local Councils or similar consent authorities.

Private involvement in planning assessments can take a number of forms that can assist council. If undertaken carefully, private certification can free Council staff from non-discretionary duties, allowing more time for merit-based assessments.

HIA supports:

  • The introduction of private sector involvement in development assessment processes, both on a formalised and informal basis. Practitioners should be subject to transparency and accountability requirements.
  • Mandatory requirements that Councils must offer private certification as an alternative for proponents to progress planning applications in a timely and efficient manner.

e-Planning

Significant opportunity exists for streamlining the planning process through electronic processes.

The supply of relevant information via local government websites coupled with the electronic planning application lodgement and issue of approvals is a way of reducing housing costs.

HIA supports:

  • The development and application of electronic processes for the lodgement, viewing tracking and issue of planning approvals by local and state governments.

Development assessment panels (DAPS)

Independent Development Assessment Panels (DAPS) can assist the planning process by providing a balance between technical planning advice and local knowledge. They can also assist the planning process by providing independent decisions in a timely manner. DAPs can offer certainty and a consistent interpretation of planning codes.

HIA supports:

  • The implementation of independent Development Assessment Panels as a means of improving the planning process as they provide certainty, consistency and transparency in the decision making process.
  • The setting of clear thresholds as to which applications should be considered by a Development Assessment Panel.

Policy endorsed by HIA National Policy Congress: 05 May 2011. Amended May 2015; Re-endorsed with amendments May 2017; Re-endorsed with amendments April 2022.

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