Change to infrastructure contributions reform welcomed

Public parks, like this one from Sekisui House in Gregory Hills, are just one of the things which can be created through infrastructure contributions. Picture: Sekisui House
Public parks, like this one from Sekisui House in Gregory Hills, are just one of the things which can be created through infrastructure contributions. Picture: Sekisui House

Community infrastructure funded through voluntary planning agreements with developers can continue under modifications proposed in a planning reform.

The NSW Government was looking to take up to half of local government developer contributions funds under the proposed Environmental Planning and Assessment Amendment (Infrastructure Contributions) Bill 2021.

More than 20 councils banded together to fight the plan - including Liverpool, Campbelltown, Sutherland and Bayside - and published an open letter to raise public awareness of the 'detrimental impact' the levy change could have on their communities.

They wanted the money raised through developer contributions to remain in the areas where they came from.

This week the government announced modifications to the planned reforms.

The changes will:

  • allow councils that currently fund community infrastructure from developer contributions to continue to do so
  • ensure state contributions are spent in the region where they are collected
  • reset the blanket rate councils can charge, known as 7.12 plans
  • increase the maximum amount councils can charge for infrastructure associated with solar and wind farms

NSW Minister for Planning and Public Spaces Rob Stokes said the changes to the package addressed issues raised by Local Government NSW (LGNSW) and councils during extensive consultation.

"The changes we're making will build a simple, fair, consistent and clear system for delivering infrastructure to support more homes and jobs across the State," Mr Stokes said.

"I said that no council will be worse off under these reforms and we will continue to work with LGNSW and councils to make sure that happens.

"We all want the same thing - great infrastructure and more investment in our local communities. That's what these reforms will deliver.

"I want to thank LGNSW President Linda Scott for her tireless advocacy on behalf of councils. She worked with me to make this a better package for the benefit of her community and others across NSW."

Cr Scott welcomed the government's commitment to working with her to make changes to the package.

"The minister has listened to the concerns of the local government sector and worked with local governments to make changes that address our concerns," she said.

"With the commitments made and changes to be made to the draft legislation, I am now confident that this is a package that will improve the infrastructure contributions system.

The Property Council of Australia was less welcoming of the changes to the reforms.

Their NSW executive director, Luke Achterstraat, said the reforms now made little difference.

"The changes bring this policy closer to the starting position that prompted the need for reform in the first place, requiring a relook at whether the package remains balanced," he said.

"Tweaks to the package risk unbalancing the proposal and are a move away from delivering the certainty, flexibility and productivity outcomes needed to maximise the state's economic recovery."

Liverpool councillor Nathan Hagarty praised the changes as a win for the southwest.

"I'm glad the state Liberals have come to their senses on this dangerous Bill," he said.

"Without these amendments, contributions could have been siphoned off to pay for community facilities in the North Shore or Eastern Suburbs."

Incoming councils will have until the week after their first ordinary meeting in February 2022 to make submissions on the policy package currently on public exhibition.