In an exclusive interview with Architecture & Design, NSW planning minister Anthony Roberts gives us an insight into how he juggles his every growing list of signature capital projects.
Do you think we are sacrificing good design over speed and cost of build?
Good design is essential for the future of planning in NSW. But so is speeding up the bottlenecks in our planning system.
I recently announced the introduction of the State Design Review Panel (SDRP) pilot program, ensuring good design will be front and centre for all new State Significant Developments (SSD).
The panel will work with the Government Architect NSW to review and consider key elements of the assessment process such as local character and design excellence.
The State Design Review Panel pilot program will provide expert advice on the most significant developments in the state and will help ensure better design and planning outcomes for NSW.
Having a diverse group of expert and experienced voices guiding the decisions of the Department will not only ensure that we continue to have a strong assessment process, but also ensure the community has an even greater say on the future direction of planning and design.
NSW is already leading the country in innovative design and planning, with state-wide polices such as Better Places and Greener Places showing we’re planning not just for today, but tomorrow as well.
What is the signature piece of infrastructure that you would like to be remembered for?
I want my legacy to be the greening of Sydney and other parts of NSW. This is a passion with me and as planning minister, together with the premier, I have taken concrete steps to ensure this legacy.
Premier Gladys Berejiklian and I recently launched the Five Million Trees for Greater Sydney Initiative. These initiatives are a great win for the people of Sydney. This partnership program between local and state government and the community will more than double the tree canopy from 16.8 percent to 40 percent by 2030 in areas where it’s needed most.
And to kick things off, we will be giving away 15,000 trees over three years to homeowners who have a fast track complying development approval for a new home in new land release areas in Western Sydney, as part of a new Greenfield Housing Code which requires a tree to be planted in both front and backyards.
This will be supported with $37.5 million of government funding over four years that will assist with the establishment of tree canopy cover.
Green open space is a fundamental element of planning for future communities. A planned network of parks, rivers, bushland and street trees supports a good quality of life in an urban environment and is as crucial to cities as transport, road upgrades, schools and health facilities.
Pretend your department had access to unlimited funds – what would you build in NSW first and why?
I would love to build a fast train connecting Sydney Canberra and Melbourne.
The idea of connecting Australia's major cities by very fast trains is exciting and has great benefits for the nation and its citizens.
With an explosion of population expected in Sydney and Melbourne in particular, one of the factors that can alleviate the problems associated with population growth are high-speed trains, which, as the Australian Financial Review’s Brian Toohey wrote, “ make it more attractive to live in new population centres and still be in easy reach of Sydney or Melbourne and later Brisbane”.
I would also love to develop a major transport corridor to the Central West of NSW by tunnelling through the Great Dividing Range.
In terms of sustainability, what are some of the sustainability strategies your department is applying to new builds?
Building a sustainable Sydney is a key focus of the Department of the Planning and Environment.
The NSW government recently introduced a new Building Sustainability Index (BASIX) energy targets, part of the government’s initiative to reduce energy use and greenhouse gas emissions.
These changes will improve the energy efficiency of homes in NSW, resulting in lower utility bills for residents, and lessen impacts on the environment.
Part of the Development Application (DA) process for homes in NSW, BASIX ensures proposed designs are sustainable. Currently, homes use approximately 17 percent of the state’s total energy consumption. With 1.8 million new homes expected to be built over the next 40 years, it’s important these are designed in a way that maximises energy efficiency.
Energy targets for houses and low-rise units will increase by approximately 10 percent, and by 5 percent for mid and high-rise units. Thermal comfort heating and cooling settings will also change.
How much green space do you think Sydney needs, and is this a priority for your dep’t?
Securing green spaces is key to make Sydney a liveable city.
That's why communities will have access to more open spaces and playgrounds, as part of a $290 million funding injection from the government to make NSW communities more liveable and green.
The NSW government has committed $100 million to secure strategic open green space while also setting aside an extra $20 million to build more than 200 new or upgraded playgrounds that are more inclusive and engaging.
Having access to green open space is crucial in making communities thriving and enjoyable places to live.
We are committed to not only creating the jobs and infrastructure our communities need, but also the vital open and green spaces so that families can have the best quality of life.
We've also released a Greenfield Housing Code will speed up the delivery of new homes in new land release (greenfield) areas will meet the needs of NSW’s growing population and deliver faster approvals for new homes.
The Greenfield Housing Code will reduce the average time taken to approve new houses in new release areas.
Is affordable housing a main focus for the NSW gov’t, and if so, can you give examples.
The government is committed to facilitating affordable rental housing, and supply to address affordability in the wider housing market.
To help increase the supply of this type of housing we are currently reviewing a number of housing state policies to improve their effectiveness, and to create a modern and easy to use planning system that supports streamlined approvals.
This includes examining ways to help increase housing diversity and affordable housing across the state.