In November 2017 the newly minted Minister for Planning gushed about making Strategic Planning the cornerstone of all planning decisions.

Roll forward 5 years and emergency legislation is being rushed through to extend the life of the State Development Assessment Unit and in doing so continue to override community involvement in planning decisions through the strategic planning framework.

“I am appalled that the Minister is looking to extend a system which seems to operate in the shadows, over-riding the will of the people as it is not captured through a comprehensive strategic planning process,” said the Hon Neil Thomson, Shadow Minister for Planning.

“This process has already been used to consider controversial projects such as Smiths Beach and high-rise on the Cottesloe Foreshore.”

Mr Thomson continued “To imply that this approach has bipartisan support today, based on support given through the early days of the COVID-19 crisis, is simply untrue.”

“When this system was first introduced in 2020, everything was uncertain, including the economic stability of the State. The argument given then was that we didn’t know how our economy was going to go with the pandemic.

“Fast forward to now, and we have shortages of labour and there is absolutely no need for this legislation.

“At the time, the timeframe was to run for 18 months and that might have been appropriate, but to now extend these powers for a further eighteen months is not warranted.

“The argument was that planning shortcuts through Part 17 of the Act were designed to ensure projects could proceed to stimulate the economy and create job opportunities,” said Mr Thomson.

Mr Thomson went on to say that “We now have an overheated market with labour and supply chain roadblocks, the question is why are we trying to stimulate that market further?”

“This ad-hoc approach removes the role of local government and is not good for developers either because it creates uncertainty in the system,” said Mr Thomson.

“Clearly the Government has not been able to get its house in order with respect to Development Assessment Panel reforms, so it has reverted to a sledgehammer approach.

“But we should not be letting more projects into this flawed system, with an overheated market pushing up prices. New projects should not be considered under this arrangement,” said Mr Thomson.

“This is an admission that the proposed Special Matters Development Assessment Panel is flawed and no amount of spin, or urgency, can cover the Minister for Planning’s inability to lead a comprehensive reform process that doesn’t trigger the need for band-aid solutions.”