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Companies breaching NSW planning conditions now risk $5 million fines and are more likely to be caught after NSW Minister for Planning, Rob Stokes announced that amendments to the NSW Environmental Planning & Assessment Act 1979 are now in effect.

The changes were passed by the Parliament last November and include an increase in the maximum fines available to courts in prosecution from $1.1 million to $5 million; and greater powers for councils to investigate suspected breaches of conditions.

Effective 14 August, a further reform will come into force allowing the Government to issue $15,000 on-the-spot fines to companies that breach development consents, an increase from the current maximum of $3,000. This will enable the Department of Planning and Environment to issue the toughest on-the-spot fines in the nation.

Observing that compliance and monitoring are essential to the planning system, Stokes said they needed to send a strong message that conditions enforcing matters such as fire safety were not optional extras. He noted that the heavy penalties for planning offences reflected the Government’s commitment to protecting the community and the environment.

He explained that planning conditions were about ensuring community safety and neighbourhood amenity. Public confidence in planning would be wrecked when conditions are breached and the rights of neighbours are ignored.

Stokes added that the introduction of tough fines makes it very clear to the minority of contractors who breach planning conditions that the NSW Government takes breaches very seriously and will deal with them severely.

The commencement of amendments to the Environmental Planning & Assessment Act 1979 also come following the doubling of Department of Planning and Environment compliance officer numbers across NSW.