Local Government and Planning Reforms
(Verbal Question, Legislative Assembly, NSW Parliament)
My question is directed to the Minister for Local Government. Will the Government address the concerns of councils about the various conflicting and complex local government and planning reviews now underway by creating a whole-of-government oversight body with local government representatives to coordinate the process and provide unified and coherent proposals?
Mr DONALD PAGE: I thank the member for Sydney for his question and interest in the New South Wales Government's reforms in the local government and planning sectors. It is important to state at the outset that the reviews in the local government and planning sectors are separate reviews but, of course, they are related. There are currently two review processes for the local government sector which I established: the independent review of local government and the review of the Local Government Act. These reviews were specifically requested by New South Wales councils at Destination 2036 in August 2011 and they are being delivered as part of the Destination 2036 Action Plan. In fact, it was the then Local Government and Shires Associations, now known as Local Government NSW, as the peak representative body for local government in New South Wales that requested the establishment of the Independent Local Government Review Panel.
The review of the New South Wales planning system is in the capable hands of the Minister for Planning. These processes are coordinated and complementary. I reject the suggestion that these processes are conflicting. The addition of any oversight body will just create an additional layer of bureaucracy and red tape which this Government is trying to reduce, not increase. It is important to note that the terms of reference of the Local Government Acts Taskforce require it to:
• Take account of the work, findings and government decisions, in relation to the NSW Planning System Review, the Destination 2036 Action Plan and the NSW State Plan …
• Conduct its work in a manner that recognises the terms of reference and approach being taken by the Independent Local Government Review Panel.
As can be expected, there has been ongoing consultation between the Independent Local Government Review Panel and Planning NSW on these matters. In addition, members can be assured that I am working closely with the Minister for Planning and my other colleagues. This occurs formally and informally, as well as through what is called the Cabinet process. Indeed, Cabinet is what one could call a whole-of-government oversight body. We know that we cannot and will not achieve lasting change in local government and the New South Wales planning system without involving the New South Wales community, local government representatives, local councils, councillors and key stakeholders. This is why extensive community consultation and engagement has occurred and continues to occur.
Creating a separate oversight body would simply create another layer of bureaucracy and introduce more red tape to the process rather than progressing with much-needed reforms to strengthen local government within New South Wales. So instead of setting up additional bureaucracies the Government is getting on with the job of strengthening local government in New South Wales and reforming the planning regime in this State for the betterment of the people.