NSW Premier Mike Baird and Planning Minister Pru Goward have announced plans to establish a Greater Sydney Commission to modernise the delivery of NSW’s major infrastructure and urban planning priorities.

To be based in Western Sydney, the agency could be tasked to implement the Sydney Metropolitan Strategy, advise government on future plans, and assist the development of sub-regional plans in partnership with the local government.

This includes major infrastructure projects like WestConnex, a 33 kilometre motorway which will extend across several council areas.

“Other major jurisdictions such as London have shown the way on how to better manage urban growth and provide choice and opportunity for housing and employment,” says Baird. “The Greater Sydney Commission will ensure planning for Sydney’s future is done in a holistic way.”

Goward adds that the agency will be a part of a new approach needed to deal with the challenges posed by Sydney’s growing population.

“I envisage a Commission that draws on the experience of independent experts as well as local councils, so we can achieve a balance between the strategic development of Sydney, and local input into decision-making,” she says.

However, some organisations have responded saying that the new commission would only add another layer of bureaucracy for NSW planning.

Corinne Fisher of Better Planning Network, a volunteer-based organisation in NSW, is one questioning the need for a Greater Sydney Commission. Instead of spending money to create yet another body, she suggests that the Department of Planning and Environment is well-placed to coordinate Sydney’s strategic planning and development if it is adequately resourced.

Urban Taskforce’s CEO Chris Johnson also says that while there is opportunity for the new organisation to focus on projects that are of state and regional significance, its role needs to be carefully structured in relation to existing government planning and delivery bodies to ensure it is not just another piece of red tape.

“We already have the Planning and Environment agency, the Planning Assessment Commission (PAC), the Joint Regional Planning Panels (JRPPS), Urban Growth NSW and Infrastructure NSW on behalf of the State Government and of course many councils,” notes Johnson.

“The Melbourne Planning Authority could be looked at as a model as it seems to be taking a state government proactive role across councils and supporting growth. The Melbourne authority chairs all strategic planning committees of sub-regional groupings of councils.”

The Planning Minister has been asked to develop a detailed proposal for the Greater Sydney Commission for consideration by Cabinet, including the relevant bodies and people required to govern the board.