Urbis Think Tank
The implications of the Productivity Commission’s report
Managing Director of Urbis John Wynne was a panellist at a recent Urban Taskforce event to discuss and debate the implications of the Productivity Commission’s report into Australia’s Planning, Zoning and Development Assessment systems.
In an opening statement Wynne welcomed the Commission’s report labelling it as:
”…an important benchmarking exercise which assesses the effectiveness of planning systems at a number of levels and provides a clear agenda for on-going planning reform and improvement.”
Wynne felt that a particularly useful insight from the report was the finding that while planning systems vary greatly across states and territories – all suffer from ‘objectives overload’ and this has been increasing in recent years.
He then outlined his views about the likely success of implementing some or all of the Commission’s leading planning practices in NSW, and listed three big issues which needed to be navigated/managed to have any chance of success.
1) Planning is a political process
- The key challenge is to ensure short term political expediency does not override broader planning frameworks and longer term strategic objectives when making decisions.
- The effectiveness of our planning process largely hinges on the willingness and ability of our politicians to appropriately balance metropolitan needs with local expectations.
2) Get balance right between strategic and statutory planning
- In too many jurisdictions there is a massive imbalance between the amount of regulatory compliance/base line statutory approval type planning work and bona fide strategic planning including preparation of regional plans, structure plans, local redevelopment strategies and community plans.
- This imbalance is weighing down many local planning departments and means that in the absence of accepted strategic frameworks and clear policies much of the decision making is pushed to a detailed development assessment level, which is fraught with difficulties.
3) Focus on the Critical Issues
- In many jurisdictions planning at all levels has become bogged down with an overload of information and detail. The integrated planning mantra has morphed into a never ending demand for more and more information considered important to decision making.
- Too much time, money and effort is spent on reports and technical analysis that are largely irrelevant to the planning/development decision at hand. In NSW we often cloud the key issues with process and information which while important is better left to another day.
Wynne concluded by stating that the Productivity Commission’s report is critical in defining a model approach to efficient planning nation-wide, but whether this can be achieved in NSW in light of the range of obstacles and issues identified is a very big question.