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Conflicts between government departments (federal, state and local) are as much a threat to each Australian’s prosperity, as is the Corona-Crisis itself.

I have been collecting examples of government departments (or political leaders) saying that they will “do everything possible to encourage economic activity”, whilst at the same time, other government bureaucrats, whose numbers have increased during this period of isolation, are busily increasing regulations that will throttle any economic activities.

You ask for an example?  Emma Young (WA Today, May 20, 2020) reports W.A. Planning Minister, Rita Saffioti, launching the ‘planning reform’.

“The laws also expand what had been 19 key planned reforms to 26, in an effort to support the industry’s post-pandemic recovery and stimulate private sector spending.

“This has made us all work quicker to get legislation drafted and bring it forward,” Planning Minister Rita Saffioti said.

The first major change to take place after the legislation passes will be a new application process for any proposal costing $30 million or more, any building with 100 dwellings or more, any commercial development of 20,000 square metres or more, and any regional or tourism projects considered to assist in COVID-19 recovery.

These will be diverted from the standard joint development assessment panels pipeline and go directly to the Western Australian Planning Commission.

Ms Saffioti said “80-90 per cent” of the reforms had already been announced and were the direct result of community consultation, and the final additional reforms had also been discussed with the WA Local Government Association in recent weeks.

Councils and communities would still be consulted and the WAPC would still have to give due regard to each council’s planning policies.

This process would stand for 18 months and after that a new “special matters” development assessment panel would take over.

Large proposals are routinely referred to not just neighbours and councils to comment, but also many state agencies, including departments managing water and environmental regulation, transport, main roads and so forth, for issues such as water table and traffic impacts.

Ms Saffioti said such agencies had been as much to blame as anyone for long delays. The reform was not about making projects jump through fewer hoops, but rather about the state co-ordinating this referrals process and ensuring agencies didn’t just place proposals “in a pile”.

Artist's impression of Civic Heart South Perth, a $150-million, 320-apartment project that has taken seven years to gain approval, and if proposed now would qualify for the WAPC assessment.
An artist’s impression of Civic Heart South Perth, a $150-million, 320-apartment project that has taken seven years to gain approval, and if proposed now would qualify for the WAPC assessment.

The reforms also abolish change-of-use approvals councils often require for many types of small business to start up or adapt, exempt many small household projects such as patios, decks and extensions from having to get planning approval and abolish requirements on small businesses to pay cash-in-lieu for parking shortfalls up to 10 bays.

They also mean instead of having to gain a separate building approval after a planning approval, one will count as both.

It will also standardise community consultation, which currently varies widely between councils, resulting in some neighbours getting excluded from consultations in seemingly arbitrary ways.

Now, all neighbours within a simple radius of a new development will get consulted and there will be visual representations of proposed developments on the sites.

WAtoday has fielded countless complaints from residents angry at the system’s complexity, murkiness and poor consultation processes.

Likewise, developers have bemoaned the long wait times, inconsistency and uncertainty, with major developments frequently taking four years or more to get off the ground and facing high additional costs due to those delays.

The announcement was welcomed by commentators including Perth developer Adrian Fini, the Urban Development Institute of Australia WA, the Property Council of Australia WA, and Blackburne Property Group.

It came just as the Housing Industry Association released new forecasting showing collapsing international migration and spiking unemployment would lead to a 40 per cent fall in WA home building commencements by mid-2021 and calling for consumer incentives.

The latest update to HIA’s outlook outlined a decrease in WA home building starts by 14 per cent this financial year, before an additional decline of 27 per cent in the next.

Executive director Cath Hart said if nothing was urgently done WA would see more job losses, the exit of businesses from the WA market, and knock-on economic impacts.

“While other reforms are important for subsequent phases of recovery, with the long lead times for our projects we need to be careful not to park the ambulance at the bottom of the cliff,” she said.

“With a huge rate of WA projects being cancelled or put on hold and just a 13-week pipeline of home building projects from when COVID-19 hit – compared to much longer project queues on the east coast – construction work in WA will start to decline from late June or sooner.”


The grim reality is that land developers have had applications unfairly held up for many years. The previous State Government shares the guilt, bordering on having been corrupted by vested interests resulting in property rights being trashed.  These developers seldom receive replies to their telephone calls or requests for a face-to-face meeting with the aforesaid minister.

On the broader federal scene there are “starry-eyed idealists”, whose salaries we are paying, still insisting that their Corona-Crisis remedy – of giving payments to people who have been robbed of their jobs – should be extended beyond September.

Any clear-thinking individual should realise that the prospect of paying people to do nothing guarantees a very bleak future for our next generation of Australians.

How can anyone justify paying people to do nothing when there is so much to be done?

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