‘This changes everything’: System displays new DAs in real-time
The public will now be able to view a development application less than a day after it is lodged with a local council, rather than having to wait six to 18 months.
NSW’s Customer Service Minister Victor Dominello said the government has been trialling a new online tool called ePlanning, which requires homeowners and developers to submit DAs online.
The trial with 12 councils has cut the paperwork and the time it takes to publish a DA for public viewing from up to 18 months to just one day.
“This changes everything. The public gets to see it in real-time. This is the first of its kind in Australia, and arguably the world,” he said.
“This is so much more efficient, so much faster, so much easier, than the old, paper-based, cumbersome system.”
The ePlanning trial began in December last year, but Mr Dominello – then the finance, services and property minister – kept a lid on it because of the state election last March.
Now, as customer service minister, he said ePlanning represented what his new portfolio and the government’s digital transformation agenda were all about.
“We have reduced the need for five paper or PDF-style forms to one online form, which means what once took two days now takes 20 minutes,” he said “That’s massive.”
Twelve councils, including Blue Mountains, Lane Cove and Sutherland Shire, are part of the trial, with eight more expected to take up the system by the end of the year.
Mr Dominello said he wants all councils eventually to be using the system. Nearly 600 DAs have been submitted via the online system so far.
He said the flow of real-time data would allow government and planners to quickly identify trends and hotspots and improve their ability to plan for the future.
“How on earth can we shape tomorrow when we can’t measure today? What ePlanning enables us to do is measure today in real-time and therefore more appropriately plan for tomorrow,” he said.
He also believes the system will boost transparency and “significantly reduce corruption risk, that’s common sense”.
Chris Johnson, chief executive of developer lobby group Urban Taskforce, said he was a “big fan” of the ePlanning system, but said he was still waiting to see how helpful it is to applicants.
“An important component will be to ensure real-time data on referrals to other government agencies like Roads and Maritime Services who are often very slow in commenting on a DA,” he said.
“Hopefully the e-planning process will do more than just digitise the current paper process. There is an opportunity to streamline the planning system to make it more efficient.”
Mr Johnson said ePlanning should be compulsory for all councils. He said it should come with targets that limit processing times and allow applicants to make a complaint if the process is too slow.
“The real time accountability will put pressure on council planners to work to deadlines,” he said.
Linda Scott, president of peak body Local Government NSW, said she supported the rollout of ePlanning because it would increase transparency.
She urged the state government to keep properly funding the system to ensure it is successful.
“We understand online lodgement of DAs will be voluntary,” she said.
“Local governments look forward to working in partnership with the new Planning Minister on this program to ensure it delivers benefits to councils and the community.”
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