Democracy stolen

Letter to the Editor, Post Newspapers, by Cr Andrew Mangano of Nedlands

11 April 2020

The recent flood of development applications into the City of Nedlands has highlighted just how undemocratic is the development application process for large developments using  development assessment panels (DAPs).

Firstly, a DAP is made of up of two elected members of a council and three non-elected people selected by the state government. It is obvious the government appointees effectively decide the outcome of any DAP development application. This is exactly what happened last week for the 135 Broadway development, and will happen again and again in the future.

Secondly, the responsible authority report (RAR) to the DAP is written by a council’s administration, is not approved by the elected members, and in many cases is not even presented to the elected members. The elected members have virtually no influence on what is written in the RAR and it often does not reflect the views of the elected members or the community.

Thirdly, the concept of design review panels being thrust upon councils by the Office of the Government Architect allows unelected, unaccountable people to give opinions on a large-scale development that may contradict the community or elected members’ views on a development, as happened in Subiaco.

Fourthly, the Planning Minister can decide the outcome of a development application contrary to the community, or even the DAP itself. Finally, with the advent of online DAP meetings as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, the community is now excluded from all meetings. It is no wonder that communities across WA have no faith in the DAP system, created by the last Liberal government and being used by the current Labor government, more often than not, against the wishes of the community that is affected by a development.

2020Apr11ltrAManganoDAP

Minister creates uncertainty

The Minister for Planning Rita Saffioti is using the COVID-19 State of Emergency to change planning rules to avoid community consultation on development applications.

The community will not be consulted if an approved development application requires a two-year extension to commence development.  The Minister is offering an automatic blanket two-year extension without community consultation. Ref Business News, 9 April 2020

2020 Two year extensions approved by minister

Local governments are encouraged by the Minister for Planning to fast track and approve “non-controversial developments” to avoid public scrutiny but provides no definition on what those developments are.  Ref Minister’s letter to WALGA President, 25 March 2020

These changes to planning rules may appear innocuous but the Minister has form in ignoring community consultation and approving local planning schemes and a high-rise development ignoring the controversial impacts on communities. Ref Subiaco and Nedlands‘ Local Planning Scheme changed by Minister for Planning, April and December 2019.  Civic Heart 39 storeys approved by Minster for Planning, 7 February 2020

2020 Civic Heart approved by minister

The Minister for Planning can’t be trusted to act in the interests of the community.  These changes to planning rules should be vigorously challenged by the community and elected members of local government.

The role of Mayors, Presidents and Councillors is to represent the electors of their districts (s. 2.10 of the Act), not the Minister for Planning or the WA Planning Commission.  Elected members have a duty of care to their electors, especially the most vulnerable during this COVID-19 State of Emergency.

Please write to your elected members of local government and remind them of their obligations during this time of uncertainty.

All development applications should be in the public domain and listed on the local government website and in print in a local community newspaper so that the community can be consulted and decide if a development application is controversial.