The Western Australian state government recently announced a number of changes to the Development Assessment Panel (DAP) system to facilitate better decision-making and communication in development proposals.

The amendments are based on recent feedback from key stakeholders, including local governments as well as suggestions made through the 2015 State Parliamentary inquiry.

Describing the changes as primarily administrative, WA Planning Minister Donna Faragher said these will ensure the system remains flexible and responsive, while more clearly communicating DAP decisions to the public. The changes include publication of DAP agendas at least seven days before a meeting, instead of the current five days, to provide more advance notice to the public; and local governments required to contact each person who has provided a written submission to a development proposal in their area, to let them know when the relevant DAP meeting will take place.

Faragher explained that more information will be available around reasons for decisions to ensure the decision-making process is clearly communicated and can be better understood. According to the Minister, DAPs had delivered an additional level of technical expertise to the State's planning system since their introduction in 2011. DAPs, like local councils, are required to make decisions based on a local government's planning scheme and policies.

Observing that DAPs provide a level of certainty and confidence that decisions will be made on the basis of proper and orderly planning, she added that the system has been comprehensively reviewed twice in the last five years with the latest changes to ensure DAPs continue to provide the best planning outcomes possible for WA.

Development Assessment Panel system amendments:

  • Provide an option to opt-out of a DAP in favour of a local government for developments, such as industrial warehouses, that will not significantly impact local amenity; 
  • DAP agendas will be published at least seven days before a meeting - instead of the current five days - to provide greater advance notice to the public;
  • Local governments will be required to proactively contact each person who has provided a written submission in relation to a DAP application, to inform them of when the meeting will take place;
  • Responsible authority reports to include more information about why decisions can be made, to ensure that the decision-making process is clearly communicated and can be better understood;
  • DAP members and local governments to be provided with more governance support, where required;
  • DAP presiding members will be able to intervene in the 'stop-the-clock' process if parties disagree about the level of information that has been provided for an application;
  • Provide proponents with the option to choose between a local government or a DAP when requesting an amendment to a minor aspect of an existing development approval (Form 2); 
  • Empower the Minister for Planning to remove DAP members who do not undertake the appropriate DAP training;
  • The maximum term of office for DAP members can be extended if a vacancy is waiting to be filled;
  • Add a reference to the DAP regulations that all Form 2 minor amendment meetings should be open to the public;
  • Changes to the DAP fee structure.