WA planning reforms bypass local government

Major reforms to ‘simplify Western Australia's planning system and boost the State's economic recovery from COVID-19’ passed the Legislative Assembly on 20 May and will go before the Legislative Council this week.

The McGowan Government's planning reforms were urgently brought forward to support the wider economic response to the pandemic, protect WA jobs and create new job opportunities.

A series of amendments to planning legislation and regulations aim to simplify the planning system, cut red tape and increase support for small business.

The first initiative, made effective upon the passing of the legislation, would introduce a new development application process for significant, job-creating projects for the next 18 months to provide immediate support for the State's economic recovery.

In the short term, the Western Australian Planning Commission will be the decision maker for such projects, with plans to create a new Special Matters Development Assessment Panel after the 18 month period based on a similar model.

WA Local Government Association President, Mayor Tracey Roberts said not enough consideration had been given to the potential impact on residents and communities of the wide ranging reforms when an expedited process of reviewing the potentially unforeseen impacts of the legislation could be achieved within one month.

“Rushing through such important legislation without the proper consideration by all affected parties, especially residents and the community, is a high risk.”

Mayor Roberts said she was aware of a suggestion by the property and investment industry that WA needed to hasten the reforms to ensure projects were not lost to other states.

“The proposed planning reform is well intentioned, but it would be a tragedy if the legacy of the pandemic response was ill considered or problematic developments that adversely impact communities for the long term.

“The unintended consequences on the community could be projects that are not required to give consideration to issues such as, traffic, heritage, or appropriate building heights to reduce overlooking and overshadowing of private property."