A review of NSW’s planning rules has suggested several changes to the existing system with a view to preventing corruption in development applications and approvals. Headed by former deputy police commissioner Nick Kaldas, the report, which was handed over to planning minister Anthony Roberts, made several recommendations to the Berejiklian government, including fixing the tenure for members serving on independent planning panels to prevent corruption in the planning approval process.
The Independent Hearing and Assessment Panels (IHAP) were made mandatory for the Sydney and Wollongong local councils last year by the Berejiklian government to address concerns about improper relationships being formed between councillors, local government representatives and property developers.
Though this decision aimed to break the unholy liaison between property companies and local councils by including community representatives and planning experts in the planning approval process, the appointment of former colleagues as community representatives by some councils raised questions about the independence of these panels.
One of Kaldas’ main recommendations is to fix the period of service for committee members to avoid the prospect of members forming close ties with property developers for personal gain. The review also called for mandatory probity checks on community representatives with tighter restrictions to govern the selection of people qualified to sit on the panel.
Development applications for projects valued at $5-30 million will be assessed by independent panels in a wider area covering metropolitan Sydney and Wollongong, and extending to the Central Coast and Newcastle.
The Berejiklian government is expected to move quickly on the recommendations made by Kaldas in the review report.
Pictured: Nick Kaldas. Photography by Peter Rae