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Posted By Jim Davies, Principal Planner  
11:03 AM

GDS commends the findings and recommendations of this year’s “Building Blocks” report by the Urban Development Institute of Australia (NSW). The report makes recommendations to the NSW Government, to alleviate the “housing affordability crisis” caused by a lack of supply, despite recent record construction and approvals. Being at the ‘coalface’ of land and housing delivery, all the report’s recommendations resonate with us in some way, based on our daily experience having our clients’ subdivisions approved and then building them.

The “Building Blocks” report identifies 17 critical infrastructure projects (roads, electricity, water and sewer) in Sydney’s four greenfield growth sectors that would unlock around 94,500 dwellings in 3 years, at a cost of $286 million.

In his introductory message to the report, UDIA NSW CEO Steven Mann concludes:

“Government investment is needed to catalyse supply and deliver the last piece of infrastructure, which is too big for a developer, but not big enough for typical focus from government. These lots will bring forward the homes that can help fill the 100,000 dwellings backlog and meet our economic and population growth targets.”

This remark indicates the Government needs to shift or complement its current priorities to alleviate housing supply shortages. In our work with clients across outer Sydney’s greenfields areas we are only too well aware of the ‘road-blocks’ to development, like the missing infrastructure cited by the UDIA. A number of other issues are tackled in “Building Blocks”, issues which we at GDS grapple with practically every day, in getting approvals for our clients so they can get on with the job of providing new housing land for Sydneysiders.

Here are a few examples:

  1. More flexible zoning – while the move to an ‘urban development zone’ with the details later filled in by ‘precinct planning’ is positive, it is too early to tell if this shift in zoning and development control will accelerate making land development-ready. The Department’s recent initiatives to help bring land to the market quicker than in the past is however welcomed.
    On a related matter, since the introduction of the Gateway process almost 10 years ago the time taken to rezone land has increased. This change to the process has been an abject failure, worsened by the burgeoning number of studies and level of detail required to support a rezoning, not to mention the exorbitant fees charged by many Councils to consider a request for a planning proposal. There is definitely room for improvement. A review of the Gateway process, reigning-in the requirements for supporting rezoning and Council’s fees must be reviewed by the Government.
  2. Streamlining Development Assessment – in our experience there are too many plans and too many controls in those plans. Too many development pathways. DCPs are overly prescriptive and should be more performance based. While many of the growth sector precinct DCPs we must navigate daily run to hundreds of pages, we actually only use about 20 pages of each DCP to prepare DAs for our clients. Navigating the plethora of plans and controls wastes time and money. And has anyone ever asked if the outcomes are any better for this over-regulation? We can only hope the new DCP template gets it right!
  3. The Biodiversity Conservation Act 2016 set out to simplify a process that was already complex – and has made it worse. If land is of such conservation significance to warrant permanent conservation, it should be acquired by government and suitably reserved and protected. What sort of legacy the new framework will leave future generations is certainly questionable and is unlikely to be sustainable.
  4. Decentralised water treatment - having worked for clients in an area with its own treatment plant, we can attest to the value of using this approach in other release areas. A policy to facilitate this approach to critical infrastructure in urban release areas should be considered by the Government.