DAF Reform Implementation Report Card

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					DAF Reform Implementation
              Report Card

                 A review of the performance of
           states and territories in implementing
                 the Leading Practice Principles
Published by Residential Development Council,             Copyright
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Executive Summary                                  4
1. Background                                      8
2. State and Territory Comparisons                12
3. Summary of Key Issues & Key Actions Required   16
    New South Wales                               17
    Victoria                                      18
    Queensland                                    19
    Western Australia                             20
    South Australia                               21
    Tasmania                                      22
    Australian Capital Territory                  23
    Northern Territory                            24
4. Benchmarking Assessment Performance            25
5. Recommendations for Early Actions              27
    10 Leading Practice Principles                30
                Efficient, fair and consistent planning and
                development assessment systems are
                fundamental to operating a healthy property
                market and the economic wellbeing of the

    Executive   But policies and processes to manage
                development and growth have struggled to
                keep pace with the dramatic, financial,
                demographic and other social changes that

    Summary     have occurred over the past three decades.

                State, territory and local government reform
                efforts have been patchy and often
                uncoordinated, leaving all stakeholders
                frustrated by delays and disappointed by

                In 1998, the Development Assessment Forum
                (DAF) was established with the aim of
                improving, and where practical, harmonising
                planning and development assessment
                systems. Comprised of representatives of the
                three tiers of government, the property
                development industry, and professional
                groups, 10 leading practice principles were
                developed which set the framework for how
                systems should be developed and operate.

                Implementation of these principles has been
                slow and patchy.

The Residential Development Council (RDC),         Results
a division of the Property Council of Australia    The results of the study scored the states and
(PCA), engaged a consultant to undertake an        territories out of 10 as follows:
independent evaluation of the progress in          9
each state and territory in implementing
planning reforms.
The study also identified, on a state by state
basis, the key issues, milestones and
                                                   7                                             7.3
benchmarks necessary to implement the DAF
Principles and to improve the functioning of
individual planning systems.                       6         6.2                           6.2
The economic and property boom of the first
                                                   5   5.2               5.3         5.2
part of the decade put enormous pressure on
development assessment systems and
exposed flaws and shortcomings of systems.         4
                                                                   AVERAGE SCORE
The research indicates that even where
reforms have been implemented there still              NSW VIC QLD WA          SA TAS ACT NT
exist areas for improvement. For example, the
length of time taken to process simple             Figure 1: Average scores - current
applications varies considerably between                     performance
jurisdictions.                                     The Northern Territory and Australian
Despite the reforms that have occurred, in         Capital Territory score highly through a
many cases systems are still not fully effective   combination of the reforms they have
for a variety of reasons including:                developed and the fact that they provide a
                                                   single level of planning control. They,
• overly complicated codes or assessment           therefore, do not face the difficulties of the
  processes;                                       states in requiring reform at a local
                                                   government level. The Northern Territory
• local political imperatives to retain control    scored higher than all other jurisdictions.
  over development assessment;
                                                   Of the states, South Australia has made the
• a lack of measures to identify performance;      most advances. While it has some way to go
  and                                              to be consistent with DAF Principles, it is
                                                   delivering on setting policies and strategies,
• cultural and administrative constraints.
                                                   and providing planning direction to local
                                                   government. Its Development Assessment
                                                   Panels have created a model for other states.

                                                   Victoria leads all states in the establishment
                                                   of policies and frameworks for planning but
                                                   fails to create workable assessment systems,
                                                   particularly as it allows widespread
                                                   involvement in both major and minor
                                                   application matters, including extensive third
                                                   party appeal rights. This has lead to
                                                   uncertainty, delays and cost imposts.
Queensland, Western Australia and                  The study rescored each jurisdiction on their
Tasmania are at early stages of their reform       potential should reforms announced be fully
agenda compared to other states and                implemented. On this basis the following
territories, having identified problems, and the   potential scores are:
legislative and other means to address these.
It is not clear at this stage how consistent
future reforms may be with the DAF Principles.
                                                   7.5                           7.7
New South Wales scored equal lowest in the
country, notwithstanding the welcome major                                                         7.3
                                                   7                       7.2
reforms being put in place by the state                  7.1
government. The volume of applications, the                          6.8                     6.9
number of councils, and the extent to which        6.5                                 6.6
the system, particularly at a local government
level, has traditionally had the greatest
number of difficulties has made the task of
reform the most difficult of all jurisdictions.
Opportunities                                                        AVERAGE SCORE
One common theme arising from the study is
that each state and territory has either made            NSW VIC QLD WA          SA TAS ACT NT
changes or is in the process of making
                                                   Figure 2: Average scores - potential
changes to improve their planning and
development assessment systems.                    New South Wales clearly has the most
                                                   potential, as reforms underway could improve
Some are further advanced, having made
                                                   its score by nearly 30 percent and create one
significant changes, while others have either
                                                   of the most effective systems in the country.
commenced reviews or are reasonably
advanced in implementing legislative or            Other states also have the potential to
procedural reforms.                                improve their systems significantly if the
                                                   changes they have announced are delivered.

                                                   Through a series of workshops with
                                                   stakeholders, it was revealed that:

                                                   • there is a strong need for development
                                                     assessment benchmarks to measure
                                                     efficiency and consistency between councils
                                                     and between jurisdictions;

                                                   • more attention should be given to reduce
                                                     processing times, which delay projects and
                                                     add significant costs to developers and

• planning schemes and codes should allow
  for the broadest range of development           Recommendation 1
  applications to be exempt from assessment,      Establish a common system and create a
  self-assessable or code assessable in order     national registry to collect and monitor data
  to reduce pressure on existing systems; and     on progress with planning and development
                                                  assessment performance and reform at local,
• private certification should be introduced      state, and territory level.
  across the board to free up council staff for
  strategic planning.                             Recommendation 2
                                                  By June 2011, at least 50 percent of all
To this end, local government must drive          applications lodged in each local government
reforms that update planning schemes and          area should fall within the development
documents to be consistent with the               assessment tracks of ‘exempt’, ‘self
track-based systems proposed by DAF.              assessable’, or ‘code assessable’ as
                                                  outlined under principle 4 of the DAF leading
State and territory governments can assist by     practice model.
developing model schemes and model codes
for residential, multi residential, commercial    Recommendation 3
and industrial activities.                        A model template for track-based assessment
                                                  should be adopted nationally by 2012, in
A well developed monitoring framework is          consultation with all jurisdictions and industry.
fundamental to measuring and maintaining
progress in the reform of development             Recommendation 4
assessment. A common system and national          Each state and territory should develop
register would be the best way to achieve this.   stand-alone codes for:

Four actions will have the greatest impact on     • single dwelling residential developments by
reform agendas in the shortest period of time.      June 2010;

These four actions represent the first stage      • multi-unit residential developments by June
of reforms for development assessment               2011;
processes nationally and have been
supported by announcements made by the            • industrial developments by June 2011; and
Council of Australian Governments (COAG)
                                                  • commercial developments by June 2012.
in 2009.

Early implementation is now paramount, as is
the next wave of reform.

             The need for reform

             Over the last three decades the complexity of
             planning controls and delays in development
             assessment processes have increased

             Thirty years ago a development application for

Background   a house was assessed on simple set-back,
             bulk and location controls.

             The same application today will be assessed
             on highly complex formulas covering every
             aspect of the size, impact, orientation,
             expected environmental performance, design,
             appearance and materials of the building.

             The result has been less certainty, as
             individual jurisdictions seek to implement an
             increasingly complex and diverse set of
             planning rules and requirements.

             This is further complicated by assessment
             processes that are often subjective, due to the
             ambiguity of planning schemes, uncertainty of
             strategic priorities, and intervention by elected

Development assessment has become more             Delays caused by these inefficiencies lead to
dysfunctional through a shortage of planners       significant costs for applicants, including
at local and state government level who are        holding costs, rent (for individual homeowners
sufficiently skilled to manage these               awaiting approval), lost revenue (for
increasingly byzantine systems. As complexity      landlords), interest costs, inflation costs on
has increased, the private sector has had to       products and labour, penalties, etc. The end
engage a significant proportion of                 result has been:
experienced planners to interpret the rules
and help developers manage the application         1. the evolution of a plethora of complex
process.                                              planning schemes;

The assessment process has become even             2. little consistency between councils;
more politicised in recent times with
                                                   3. assessment processes that are slow,
cash-strapped councils looking to the
                                                      uncertain and expensive; and
development assessment process as a
convenient source of additional revenue.           4. overtly politicised decision-making at a
                                                      local government level.
With no standard document listing the fees
and charges in each area, some councils            The goal of any reform program should seek
have been able to hold the planning approval       to simplify and depoliticise the system,
system hostage to obtain the best deal for the     minimise delays and reduce costs for
community and raise the most revenue,              stakeholders.
choosing to ‘negotiate’ with applicants over
development fees, charges and, ultimately,
consent conditions.

Undue influence by external parties,
particularly those who may be politically active
within the community, has led on many
occasions to further subversion of
decision-making processes.

DAF reform agenda                                  The study

The Development Assessment Forum (DAF)             The Residential Development Council, a
has identified a ‘road map’ of 10 Leading          division of the Property Council of Australia,
Practice Principles that have formed the basis     engaged Black Swan Consultants to
of reform programs being planned or                undertake an independent assessment of the
implemented in individual states and territories   reform of the nation’s development
(attached as Appendix 1).                          assessment systems.

These Principles aim to provide a greater          The study identified the key issues, milestones
degree of certainty for applicants and the         and benchmarks necessary to implement the
community, while delivering greater national       DAF Principles and to improve the functioning
and state-wide consistency.                        of individual planning systems.

They outline the key features of a planning        A series of workshops were held in each state
system that balances individual and                and territory to gather feedback on the
community interests in development                 operation of the assessment process.
outcomes, delivers clear and objective rules,      Invitations were sent to various stakeholder
and simplifies the assessment and appeals          groups of the planning system, including
process.                                           developers, planning consultants and local
                                                   government representatives.
The DAF Principles also seek to streamline
development approval to ensure that simple         Workshops were conducted in each capital
applications, such as minor additions and          over a three week period in May 2009, with
alterations, or straight-forward detached          participants invited to:
housing projects, can be processed quickly
and not add unduly to the workload of              • evaluate the extent to which their state or
planning officers.                                   territory had implemented the 10 Leading
                                                     Practice Principles;
While the DAF Leading Practice Model is
strongly supported by the development              • quantify the level of implementation; and
industry, its implementation at state and
                                                   • provide anecdotal input on key actions,
territory level has been inconsistent.
                                                     milestones and benchmarks they
                                                     considered essential to effective reform.

                                                   *The research was conducted by Bruce Harper of Black
                                                    Swan Consultants. Bruce is a qualified planner with
                                                    comprehensive planning experience within state and local
                                                    government and with extensive private and public sector
                                                    property development industry experience. His roles have
                                                    included CEO of the South Australian Government’s Land
                                                    Management Corporation, executive general manager
                                                    (NSW) of AV Jennings Pty Ltd and CEO of the
                                                    Queensland based property developer Petrac Pty Ltd.

Following each workshop, representatives of       This study is not intended to be a detailed,
each state government responsible for             definitive review and description of each state
development assessment were consulted to          and territory planning and assessment
ensure a balanced response.                       system. It instead provides a subjective
                                                  snapshot perspective from key stakeholders
A scoring system measuring implementation         involved in the development process.
on a scale of zero (no implementation) to 10
(fully implemented) was introduced.               It is the intention of the Residential
                                                  Development Council and the Property
Scoring was calibrated to take into account       Council of Australia that this report will be
the effectiveness of reforms against relevant     updated annually.
DAF Principles. For example, a state that
might have fully implemented a track-based
assessment system, but where the majority of
applications were still considered as merit
assessments, could not be said to have met
the leading practice principle with 100 percent

While this assessment noted the intent of
some jurisdictions to make further legislative
and procedural changes, it focused primarily
on a fixed point in time. As such, some
jurisdictions may have received low scores
where legislation has been developed or
proposed but not yet enacted, or where
procedures have not been implemented.

To identify and acknowledge the progress of
each jurisdiction, reforms that have been
announced, or are in the process of being
delivered, were identified and their potential
effectiveness separately scored.

State and Territory

The most encouraging aspect of this review      However, even where reforms have been
has been the extent to which each state and     implemented, there still exist areas for
territory has:                                  improvement and performance.

• acknowledged the need for planning reform;    For example the length of time taken to
                                                process simple applications varies
• adopted (or adapted) the DAF model to         considerably between jurisdictions. The
  their jurisdiction; and                       economic and property boom of the first part
                                                of the decade has placed enormous pressure
• either made changes or is in the process of
                                                on development assessment systems and
  making changes to improve their systems.
                                                exposed their flaws and shortcomings.
Some jurisdictions are reasonably well
                                                Those systems most impacted have made
advanced, having made significant changes
                                                the greatest structural changes. However, in
while others have either commenced reviews
                                                many cases they are still not fully effective,
or are in the process of implementing
                                                because of:
legislative or procedural reforms.
                                                • overly complicated codes or assessment

                                                • local political imperatives to retain control
                                                  over development assessment;

                                                • a lack of measures to identify performance;

                                                • cultural and administrative constraints.

Table 1- 10 Leading Practice Principles: Summary of performance by jurisdiction against the DAF

           1       2       3       4       5       6       7       8        9      10    TOTAL
  NSW      5       3       2       5       2       7       5       6        8      9         52
  VIC      6       7       8       7       5       6       4       7        7      5         62
  QLD      5       5       2       8       4       8       4       7        9      6         58
  WA       4       7       3       5       4       4       2       6        8      10        53
  SA       5       5       6       6       7       8       4       9        9      9         68
  TAS      4       3       4       7       7       7       3       3        8      6         52
  ACT      5       6       7       7       4       6       6       6        8      7         62
  NT       5       7       8       8       8       7       5       7        9      9         73

The numbers 1 through 10 (above and in Table 2) represent each of the 10 Leading Practice

The table above reflects the ‘raw’ scores measuring the performance of each
jurisdiction at a point of time. This performance is measured against the Leading Practice
Principles created by the Development Assessment Forum, namely:

1. Effective policy development
2. Objective rules and tests
3. Built-in improvement mechanisms
4. Track-based assessment
5. A single point of assessment
6. Notification
7. Private sector involvement
8. Professional determination for most applications
   • Option A - local government may delegate DA determination power
   • Option B - an expert panel determines the application
9. Applicant appeals
10. Third-party appeals

The scores in Table 1 do not take into account those reforms that have been announced or that
are in the process of being delivered but which are not yet fully implemented.

Table 2 acknowledges reforms in progress and ‘scores’ each state and territory on the
assumption that all matters that have been announced or that are in the process of being
delivered have been implemented and are operational. As such it provides a target to measure
overall progress.

Table 2- 10 Leading Practice Principles: Performance by jurisdiction against the DAF principles
incorporating actions announced but not implemented

           1       2       3       4       5       6      7        8       9      10    TOTAL
  NSW      7       5       6       8       5       7      8        8       8      9       71
  VIC      7       7       8       7       6       6      4        8       7      5       65
  QLD      7       7       6       8       6       8      4        7       9      6       68
  WA       7       7       7       7       6       7      4        9       8      10      72
  SA       8       7       8       8       7       8      4        9       9      9       77
  TAS      7       7       7       7       7       7      4        6       8      6       66
  ACT      7       7       7       7       7       6      6        7       8      7       69
  NT       5       7       8       8       8       7      5        7       9      9       73

New South Wales has announced, and is in the process of delivering, a raft of reforms and has the
potential to improve its ‘score’ by nearly 30 percent.

Queensland, Tasmania and Western Australia have also announced significant reforms and which
may dramatically improve their systems, although this is expected to take somewhat longer.

These scores are important in that they demonstrate progress being made and the commitments
across the jurisdictions to a reform agenda.

There remains hope that significant improvements can be made to the development assessment
systems across all states and territories in the foreseeable future.

       Summary of
Key Issues and Key
  Actions Required

New South Wales

New South Wales is currently ranked       A model Stage 1 Residential
as equal lowest in the country.           Complying Code has been                   Key actions
                                          introduced, but the government’s          1. Revise the Metro Strategy housing
However, this should not be               target of 50 percent of all matters          and employment targets and
interpreted as a lack of reform effort,   being code-assessable will be highly         ensure these are reflected in local
as several key policies are currently     contingent on additional codes,              planning instruments. (Principle 1)
being implemented to improve the          covering smaller lots, medium
planning and assessment system                                                      2. Introduce a feasibility analysis of
                                          density housing and commercial               each new local environmental plan
across the state.                         development being rolled out.                to ensure required housing and
The volume of applications, the           New South Wales has a well                   employment targets can be
number of councils and the extent to      developed monitoring framework               achieved. (Principle 1)
which the system has traditionally        which provides a powerful tool for
had the greatest number of                                                          3. Bring forward priority release areas
                                          measuring and promoting                      and the renewal of priority centres.
difficulties has made the task of         development assessment reform.
reform the most difficult of all                                                       (Principle 1)
jurisdictions.                            Joint Regional Planning Panels were       4. Ensure the successful operation of
                                          introduced from 1 July 2009, as the          the new Joint Regional Planning
The planning system in New South          consent authorities for all projects of
Wales is perceived to be the most                                                      Panels. (Principle 8)
                                          between $10 million and $100 million
difficult to work with and                in value.                                 5. Complete, implement and
subsequently drew the most                                                             mandate Complying Codes for
complaints, with the greatest level of    The state has made considerable              smaller lots, multi unit residential,
concern being linked to the areas of      progress in other areas, including:          commercial and industrial
policy formulation, scheme reviews        introducing processes for                    development and ensure the
and application assessment.               streamlining Local Environmental             government’s target of 50 percent
                                          Plans (LEPs), monitoring                     of matters to be dealt with under
The majority of these concerns            development approval at council
related to the assessment process                                                      the codes are met. (Principles 2
                                          level, expanding the role of private         and 4)
and its handling by local government,     certifiers, and creating an
although the interaction of state         independent Planning Assessment           6. Implement the LEP Gateway
agencies with this process was also       Commission to determine some state           process and rapid rezoning for
of concern.                               significant projects.                        priority growth areas. (Principle 4)
New South Wales scored similarly to       The state has also committed to           7. Reform state agency concurrences
other well performing states in           expanding the scope of residential,          further to remove unnecessary
respect to half of the leading practice   commercial and industrial codes and          concurrences, integrate decision
principles but was dragged down by        to reform state agency approval              making, and more efficiently
the failure by local government to        processes following the Jobs                 manage agency assessment.
review planning policies and reform       Summit.                                      (Principle 5)
their development assessment
processes.                                The key focus on reform now needs
                                          to be directed at creating effective
Compared to other jurisdictions, New      planning schemes.
South Wales has some way to go to
deliver strategic outcomes and policy
reform at a local government level.


Victoria has a well developed             The passing of legislation to
framework with a suite of state           introduce Development Assessment         Key actions
policies and objectives. It has also      Committees is an important               1. Finalise the definition of ‘state
developed long term planning              milestone in progressing reform.            significant’ projects. (Principle 1)
strategies on a range of development
                                          The review of the Planning and           2. Regulate amendments to limit
issues, including land supply.
                                          Environment Act has also                    third-party appeal rights.
However, there continues to be some       recommended important reforms,              (Principle 10)
disconnect between state and local        such as the adoption of the impact
                                                                                   3. Ensure local scheme reviews are
government policies and objectives.       assessment track for projects with
                                                                                      finalised and provide a template as
Specifically, the sheer number of         considerable impacts and the more
                                                                                      required. (Principle 3)
state objectives has made it difficult    appropriate definition of ‘state
for local councils to implement them      significant’ projects. These reforms     4. Complete regional strategies and
consistently and without subjectivity.    will improve performance                    ensure their spatial implications
                                          substantially.                              are identified. (Principle 1)
The development of a hierarchy of
state objectives would facilitate their   While much of the ‘front end’ of         5. Establish Development
more uniform implementation in local      reform is underway, problems still          Assessment Committees, now that
government planning schemes and           exist at the assessment end of the          legislation underpinning such
processes.                                process.                                    bodies has been passed.
                                                                                      (Principle 8)
The state’s current focus is on           These problems are specifically
strengthening control at activity         profound with referrals, where           6. Introduce a ’deemed no comment’
centre level with the development of      agencies don’t meet deadlines.              if a response is not received from
precinct structure plans by the           At the post approval stage there is         referral agencies within a defined
government across these centres.          no statutory requirement for agencies       period. (Principle 5)
The government has also recently          to resolve issues.
provided further funding to expand                                                 7. Introduce statutory timelines for
their Electronic Development              Although the framework for planning         referral agencies to finalise
Assessment (eDA) planning                 appeals is appropriate, the system is       approvals/conditions post
processes, in order to improve            ‘clogged-up’ with significant delays.       development approval.
approval times and performance            This is largely due to third-party          (Principle 5)
monitoring.                               appeals being available for all
                                          objectors, and the legal fraternity is   8. Provide further resources to ’free
A system of code assessment is in         heavily criticised for having hijacked      up‘ appeals system. (Principle 10)
use, with several minor and some          the appeals process using ‘natural
larger matters now either exempt          justice’ and a ‘human rights charter’
from development assessment or not        as justification.
requiring approval where they meet
clear objective measures.

The state actively intervenes in some
large projects to hasten or
depoliticise assessment. The Minister
takes an active role in both the
reform process and the determination
of projects.


Queensland has for a number of            Outside of Brisbane and several of
years operated under an Integrated        the larger council areas, which have      Key actions
Planning Act that in theory should        comprehensive planning systems            1. Complete strategies and ensure
have created an effective                 with development assessment                  regional, sub-regional and local
performance based assessment              frameworks and plans, there is little        plans are based on strategic
system.                                   strategic direction in many local plans      intent. (Principle 1)
                                          and little consistency in formats,
In 2007, as a result of a review of the                                             2. Complete Regional Plans.
                                          codes or performance.
system, a number of shortcomings                                                       (Principle 1)
were identified and a comprehensive       With some exceptions, most local
                                                                                    3. Develop and mandate template
list of actions proposed. To date,        government planning schemes are
                                                                                       schemes, model codes and a
many have not been implemented,           outdated and are in need of review.
                                                                                       timetable for their implementation.
although the government has               The recent amalgamation of councils
                                                                                       (Principle 3)
announced legislative change              regrettably failed to provide for such
through the Sustainable Planning Act      revision.                                 4. Implement proposed legislative
2009. The Act is set to, among other                                                   changes within a defined time
things, fast track proposals, provide     The development and roll out of
                                                                                       period. (Various Principles)
a new assessment category                 template planning schemes and
(compliance assessment), include          model codes under the Sustainable         5. Introduce certification for
some deemed approvals and offer a         Planning Act, would go a long way to         operational works. (Principle 7)
simplification of some appeals.           improving the system.
                                                                                    6. Enforce periodic review of local
Several regional and state strategy       The state has lagged behind some             planning schemes and set
plans are under development.              others in reforming development              timetable for reviews to be
However, key issues and concerns          assessment, despite having                   completed. (Principle 3)
about the Queensland system relate        introduced an advanced integrated
                                          system some time ago. Over the next       7. Simplify codes to ensure greater
to the need for strategies that are
                                          two years the creation of common             percentage of applications are
supported by research and aligned
                                          plans and codes should greatly               permitted, self assessable or code
with key infrastructure, transport and
                                          reform the way plans are made and            assessable. (Principle 4)
economic priorities. This will deliver
greater certainty.                        applications are assessed.
                                                                                    8. Introduce ‘deemed no comment’
                                                                                       if a response is not received from
A fundamental shift in regional, sub-
                                                                                       referral agencies within a defined
regional and local planning is the
                                                                                       period. (Principle 5)
proposal to provide for ‘strategic
intent’, but this has not yet been
implemented. If it proceeds, it will
go some way to establish a more
rational planning and assessment
framework at both state and local
level, placing more focus on
outcomes than on development

Western Australia

The economic and property boom of        The state government has recently
the early part of the decade exposed     developed and released a                   Key actions
problems with the Western Australian     comprehensive ‘warts and all’              1. Review the state Planning Strategy
                                                                                       and integrate it with other state
planning system that until then          appraisal of its planning system and
                                                                                       and regional strategies.
seemed effective and had strong          a roadmap for reform:
                                                                                       (Principle 1)
features, such as the role of the
Western Australian Planning              • legislative amendments are
                                                                                    2. Develop statewide regulations on
Commission.                                required to develop statewide
                                                                                       development assessment and
                                           regulations on development
                                                                                       implement the DAF ‘tracks’.
The legislative framework is               assessment and amendments to
                                                                                       (Principle 4)
fundamentally sound, with the              the Environmental Protection Act
Planning and Development Act (2005)        have been suggested to avoid             3. Ensure regular review of template
streamlining procedures for preparing      overlaps and confusion;                     scheme and establish a timetable
and amending regional and local                                                        for councils to amend their local
schemes. At a state level strategic      • Western Australia has uniform
                                                                                       planning schemes. (Principle 3)
planning and its integration with          residential codes that apply state
infrastructure and transport planning      wide and detached housing is             4. Develop model schemes and a
has fallen behind.                         normally exempt from approval.              timetable for the update of local
                                           The development of uniform codes            plans. (Principle 3)
The state planning strategy is             for other developments is now also
out-of-date, and many regional and         required;                                5. Extend Residential Codes to other
local plans are now inconsistent with                                                  uses. (Principle 4)
state objectives. However the state      • there is centralised control of
                                           subdivision through the Western          6. Prioritise major projects.
government has recently released
                                           Australian Planning Commission.             (Principle 4)
Directions 2031, an updated
metropolitan development strategy,                                                  7. Introduce a ‘deemed no comment’
                                         Despite the fact that reform lags
together with a commitment to                                                          if a response is not received from
                                         many other states, there is less
update the metropolitan growth areas                                                   referral agencies within defined
                                         criticism by developers of the existing
strategy. The first strategy for South                                                 period. (Principle 5)
                                         system than occurs in some other
Metro and Peel was released at the
same time.                                                                          8. Implement other policy and
                                         This suggests the current planning            procedural reforms, as identified
The system is described by                                                             in the Planning Review document,
                                         base, while not without its problems,
stakeholders as complex and                                                            within a defined time period.
                                         is not fundamentally flawed. It might
inconsistent, which is exacerbated by                                                  (Principle 3)
                                         also reflect the informal nature of less
overlaps in agency responsibilities.
                                         populated jurisdictions, where it is
Applications are often assessed                                                     9. Establish applicant appeals on
                                         easier to get parties together to
slowly through local councils.                                                         rezoning or a Ministerial power to
                                         resolve issues.
                                                                                       amend schemes. (Principle 9)
Reform is needed to simplify
approvals, facilitate major                                                         10. Introduce common provisions for
development projects, develop more                                                      the preparation and approval of
effective planning schemes and                                                          structure plans and developer
update the regional planning                                                            contribution plans. (Principles 1
framework.                                                                              and 2)

South Australia

South Australia has made significant    There is a low level of complaints by
steps in the past few years to reform   developers whose main business is          Key actions
its planning and development            focused in growth area councils, as        1. Complete state and regional
assessment system. As a result of a     these councils have up-to-date                policies and Strategic Planning
comprehensive review, several           schemes and provide rapid                     documents. (Principle 1)
detailed, high-level recommendations    assessment turnarounds.
                                                                                   2. Finalise and release the
have been adopted by the state.
                                        South Australia has led all other             Residential Code and mandate its
Some of these have been
                                        jurisdictions in establishing                 implementation. (Principle 2)
implemented and others are still in
process.                                Development Assessment Panels
                                                                                   3. Develop rules for defining matters
                                        and has high levels of delegation.
                                                                                      of state significance. (Principle 4)
Some state strategic policies and       The panels have improved the
objectives are still being reviewed     separation of powers between               4. Implement recommendations
and integrated with land use planning   council policy making and                     arising from a review of the overall
strategies. Matters such as land        development assessment, and                   system within a defined time
release strategies through the          provide a model for other states.             period. (Various Principles)
Metropolitan Development Program        Allowing the Minister power of veto
need to be revamped. Best practice      over independent member                    5. Create and monitor a data base
modules exist but are not fully         appointments would ensure that                on performance in processing
implemented.                            this separation of policy and                 development applications.
                                        administration functions was not              (Principle 3)
While some local authorities have       abused.
reviewed and updated their planning                                                6. Review the extent of referrals and
schemes, others are lagging. Reform     There is some need for a review of            measure the responsiveness of
has been concentrated at the delivery   the responsiveness of referral                agencies. (Principle 5)
end of the process with further work    authorities and the integration of their
required at the ‘front end’.            advice with the assessment authority.

The state has developed a simple        The appeals system is operating
and objective Residential Code to       effectively with easy access and no
provide consistency and to permit       significant delays. Third-party
minor and small scale development.      appeals are available, but limited.
At present this is mandatory on
councils only for minor additions and   The state has already partly
alterations but with opt-out clauses    implemented a clear blueprint for its
for larger scale (but still simple)     development assessment reform.
residential applications.

Until the Residential Codes are
mandated across all councils
(but flexibility for some local
characteristics) the balance between
exempt and merit applications is
skewed with too many applications
still subject to discretionary


Reform of the Tasmanian planning          The state government has now
system is lagging behind most of the      developed some elements of a              Key actions
other states. Conversely, however,        reform package that will closely          1. Enact proposed legislation within
most developers and planning              mirror the DAF Principles, which it is       a defined period. (Principle 1)
practitioners were generally happy        ready to enact and implement. The
                                                                                    2. Complete regional plans,
with how the system currently works,      preparation and roll out of template
                                                                                       infrastructure plans and other
while still acknowledging reforms         planning schemes and model codes
                                                                                       strategic land use policies and
would be beneficial.                      will achieve consistency and ensure
                                                                                       overlays. (Principle 1)
                                          that such codes permit minor matters
A major reason for this is the small      to be determined under code or self       3. Ensure regular review of template
number of applications lodged.            assessment.                                  scheme and establish a timetable
If there were a significant increase in
                                                                                       for councils to amend their local
these numbers the system would be         The current appeals system appears
                                                                                       planning schemes. (Principles 2
unable to cope and would face many        to function effectively but third-party
                                                                                       and 3)
of the problems previously or currently   appeals are too readily available and
being experienced in other states.        have the capacity to clog up the          4. Develop and implement model
                                          system.                                      codes. (Principle 4)
Notwithstanding this lag, the
Tasmanian Government has now              The state is lagging behind on its        5. Review the state’s notification
developed a framework for legislative     front-end policies, with the                 policy to reduce or eliminate
and procedural reform but appears to      development of state strategies              notification for minor matters.
have very few resources to develop        and state-wide objectives yet to be          (Principle 6)
and implement the DAF reforms.            undertaken. This includes the
                                          development of a metropolitan             6. Reduce the number of matters
At the present time the system is         strategy linked to land use planning         that can be appealed by third
reasonably robust but characterised       and transport.                               parties. (Principle 10)
by an absence of articulated state
and regional strategies and highly
individualised out-of-date local plans.
The system is antiquated and
cumbersome but seems to work
because it is a smaller sized
jurisdiction and has fewer
development pressures than some
of the larger states.

Australian Capital Territory

The Territory Plan (March 2008)          Yet it is criticised by users as overly
consolidated over 80 policies into a     bureaucratic, with language               Key actions
single planning scheme, which went       impenetrable to the average user and      1. Review and simplify
through an extensive public              an administration both bureaucratic          assessment/administration
consultation process.                    and highly political. Stakeholders           procedures. (Principle 4)
                                         complain about inconsistent
Criticisms of the strategic framework                                              2. Simplify codes to allow a greater
                                         assessment decisions, delays
have been leveled at the lack of                                                      percentage of applications to be
                                         caused by reviews and a shortage of
robust technical analysis and the                                                     permitted, self or code assessable.
                                         experienced planners available to
generalised nature of the strategies                                                  (Principle 4)
                                         assess applications.
contained within the Plan. Continual
                                                                                   3. Review the referral system to
changes have occurred over the last      The planning framework and system
                                                                                      provide clearer rules and
12 months as the government has          is relatively new and this is causing
                                                                                      processes. (Principle 5)
moved to amend the plan and              some problems with administration of
correct errors.                          the Territory Plan that will hopefully    4. Simplify assessment criteria,
                                         improve as parties come to terms             where possible. (Principle 4)
The ACT system has, through              with it. However, development
the formulation of objective rules for   assessment processes could                5. Strengthen the strategic base of
minor matters, enabled the               improve significantly if modifications       the Territory Plan by undertaking
assessment and approval of small         were made to simplify the criteria for       analysis to support strategies.
additions and simple house               discretionary uses.                          (Principle 1)
applications. It has not, however,
been able to carry this over to those    While the appeals system is generally     6. Review the appeals process to
applications assessed through merit      working well there is some criticism         discourage frivolous and vexatious
assessment. These rules have been        of the number of frivolous and               third-party appeals. (Principle 10)
identified as complicated and            vexatious third-party appeals, which
unevenly applied.                        serve to slow down the application
The track-based assessment system
has adopted many aspects of the
DAF model and is being extended
beyond single storey residential
codes to cover other uses.

In most respects, and more than
other jurisdictions, the ACT model
aligns with the DAF model. Given
this, and having a predominant
planning authority (noting the role
also played by the National Capital
Authority) and a well developed
legislative framework, it could be
expected to be the most effective
and efficient system in Australia.

Northern Territory

An early start to the reform process   Development is tracked into streams
and a single authority rather than     which are closely aligned to the DAF       Key actions
local government level planning has    model and many minor works are             1. Undertake a second phase review
ensured that many of the DAF           exempt from planning approval or              of the planning scheme.
Principles have been implemented       are self assessable.                          (Principle 3)
and development assessment
                                       Referrals to other agencies could be       2. Integrate infrastructure and
procedures are working effectively.
                                       improved and a regular forum is               transport plans with the planning
A key to reform has been the           being established so that referral            scheme. (Principle 1)
collation of the numerous and varied   agencies and applicants can meet
                                                                                  3. Develop clearer rules and
plans and policies into a single       to discuss issues.
                                                                                     processes for referral agencies.
planning document in 2007.
                                       The Northern Territory has a simple           (Principle 5)
While a significant amount of          notification system and a single
                                                                                  4. Provide further resources to
strategic planning work has already    authority which makes all planning
                                                                                     improve efficiency of assessment.
been done, some elements still need    decisions. Additional resources
                                                                                     (Principle 5)
to be completed and integrated in      within the authority would assist in
the Strategic Planning Framework, in   dealing with applications.
particular the Infrastructure Plan.
                                       The appeals system appears to
The planning scheme contains           function well with virtually all matters
simple clear rules, as most local      resolved before formal appeal. There
variations have been removed to        are very limited third-party appeal
ensure more consistency.               rights.

A second review of the Plan has
been proposed to make further
improvements and increase

               There are several ways to benchmark the
               performance of state, territory and local
               governments and their management of
               development assessment.

               Through a workshop with key industry
               leaders, the following benchmarks for
               assessing performance across jurisdictions
               were developed.

               During industry forums, participants indicated
               that the key end goal of reform is to develop
               planning codes that will allow for the broadest
               range of applications to be exempt from
               assessment, self assessable or code

               The overriding benchmark can therefore be
               measured as a percentage of all applications
               lodged that fall within these categories.
               Industry participants held that a practical and
               achievable goal would have between
               50 percent and 75 percent of all applications
               falling into one of them.

               Of the applications that fall into categories
               that require referrals, notification or merit
               assessment, industry proposes the following

1. Rezoning new urban settlement areas           4. Multi residential dwelling and
   where consistent with the planning               commercial building applications
                                                 Benchmark – 90 business days
Benchmark – 75 percent of all proposals to be
resolved within two years and 100 percent        The benchmark takes into account lodgment,
within three years                               notifications and referrals, assessment by
                                                 design review panels (where required),
Some matters are more complex than others,       internal assessment and referral to a decision
requiring additional studies and referrals.      making body. It recognises that the size and
                                                 scale of the applications often require external
This benchmark represents a significant          referrals and allows for a number of actions to
reduction in time for many jurisdictions and     be taken in parallel rather than sequentially.
can be achieved by better management,
including undertaking referrals and impact       5. Industrial buildings and detached
studies concurrently.                               dwellings not meeting code
2. Spot rezoning
                                                 Benchmark – 40 business days
Benchmark – 100 percent of all proposals to
be resolved within one year.                     The proposed standard relates to those
                                                 applications that are not code compliant but
This benchmark reflects the need to prioritise   are able to be assessed against criteria and
those changes that are minor in nature and       performance objectives in the relevant
have less public impact than major rezoning      planning scheme.
                                                 In order to measure the performance of
3. Subdivision applications                      assessment authorities successfully there
                                                 needs to be detailed and reliable data
Benchmark – 75 percent of applications
determined within 40 business days and
100 percent within 60 business days.             The data collection system needs to be
                                                 constructed in such a way to determine the
Most applications to divide land should be
                                                 length of time taken for each phase of
able to be determined with reference to the
                                                 assessment, that is, from receipt to
relevant planning scheme or code. The
                                                 notification, length of referral period, internal
proposed benchmark provides sufficient time
                                                 consideration, etc, as well as the absolute
to enable referrals, assessment and
                                                 time taken from lodgement to determination.
                                                 This is necessary to identify where delays and
                                                 log jams may occur, to assist in overcoming
                                                 distortions in averaging and preventing the
                                                 manipulation of statistics, such as through
                                                 the use of ‘stop the clock’ provisions or
                                                 requesting applicants to withdraw and
                                                 resubmit applications.

  for Early Actions
                      This study showed that the level of adoption of
                      the DAF Principles into states and territories
                      planning systems has been varied, as
                      jurisdictions have chosen to interpret each of
                      the principles their own way when introducing

                      This has created a significant hurdle for those
                      in government and industry seeking to
                      harmonise planning and development
                      assessment systems and to pursue national

                      The property and development industries would
                      ideally like to see a harmonised system of
                      development assessment across the
                      country, which would reflect the commercial
                      reality of organisations that operate nationally.
                      This is clearly a long-term goal, so industry has
                      developed a roadmap to help each
                      jurisdiction improve their individual schemes,
                      along the lines of the DAF leading practice

                      Three specific reforms would have the
                      greatest short term impact across all
                      jurisdictions, and these are outlined below.

                      1. Data collection and reporting
                         (Principle 3)

                      A key to understanding and improving the
                      performance of planning systems at a national,
                      state, territory and local government level is the
                      development of a comprehensive database on
                      development assessment.

                      At least three states have, or are developing
                      collection and monitoring systems, but there is
                      no universal measure to compare performance.

                      While existing data can be useful, it can also
                      produce misleading answers. For example
                      measuring the length of time it takes to assess
                      an application is unlikely to include time lost
                      due to inefficient council practices, which can
                      be used artificially to improve results.

Not only should benchmarking be a priority for        2. Track-based performance measure
all jurisdictions, but any data collected should         (Principle 4)
be collated centrally within a national register,
managed by the Federal Government.                    An early performance benchmark that could
                                                      be adopted would be the introduction of
As part of this process, it is essential that clear   nationally consistent, track-based
definitions for each data set are developed to        development assessment streams.
allow better comparisons across local councils
and states.                                           This would provide a clear and reliable
                                                      measure of the progress of reform at a state,
A common data gathering and monitoring                territory and local government level.
system would better reveal the progress of
state and local governments in reforming their        Track-based development assessment allows
systems, and more accurately measure the              stakeholders to know upfront how their
development assessment performance of                 applications will be assessed and how long
individual councils.                                  they are likely to take before being approved
                                                      or rejected.
This would not only provide some legitimacy
to the information collected, but deliver a           It also would ensure that the majority of
useful tool to enable the Commonwealth to             simple applications and no/low impact
encourage greater reform. This would be a             activities can be handled more effectively,
significant step towards ensuring the effective       freeing up resources to deal with more
implementation of the DAF reforms and would           complex or significant developments.
deliver tangible economic benefits.
                                                      This should lead to dramatic improvements in
The development industry has a significant            approval times, reduced costs to applicants,
interest in the information that would be             and economic savings for consent authorities.
collected – for example, the percentage of
applications that might be streamed into
individual ‘tracks’. As customers of the              Recommendation 2
planning system, industry representatives             By June 2011, at least 50 percent of all
should be involved in establishing the criteria       applications lodged in each local government
for the registry.                                     area should fall within the development
                                                      assessment tracks of ‘exempt’, ‘self
The Planning Officials Group is currently
                                                      assessable’, or ‘code assessable’ as outlined
working on a project to measure performance.
                                                      under Principle 4 of the DAF Leading Practice
However, the expansion of this work to create
a national registry necessitates the
involvement of industry representatives in            Recommendation 3
identifying relevant information for reporting        A model template for track-based assessment
purposes.                                             should be adopted nationally by 2012, in
                                                      consultation with all jurisdictions and industry.
Recommendation 1
Establish a common system and create a
national registry to collect and monitor data on
progress with planning and development
assessment performance and reform at local,
state, and territory level.

3. Codes (Principle 2)
                                                    Recommendation 4
The DAF Leading Practice Model calls for            Each state and territory should develop
planning schemes to be written as objective         stand-alone codes for:
rules and tests.
                                                    • single dwelling residential developments by
This will make it simpler for all stakeholders to     June 2010;
know what is required of them when
submitting an application.                          • multi-unit residential developments by June
Some states have already begun to develop
‘residential codes’, which prescribe a              • industrial developments by June 2011; and
standard set of planning rules for residential
                                                    • commercial developments by June 2012.
development. In conjunction with a track-
based system, such codes will help to
streamline development assessment,
simplify requirements,
and clarify the
responsibilities of

This will further free up
resources to allow
local government
planners to
deal with policy
matters and
assess more

                  1. Effective policy development

                  Elected representatives should be responsible
                  for the development of planning policies.
                  This should be achieved through effective
                  consultation with the community, professional

     Appendix:    officers and relevant experts.

                  2. Objective rules and tests

                  Development assessment requirements and
10 Leading        criteria should be written as objective rules
                  and tests that are clearly linked to stated
                  policy intentions. Where such rules and tests

       Practice   are not possible, specific policy objectives
                  and decision guidelines should be provided.

                  3. Built-in improvement mechanisms

     Principles   Each jurisdiction should systematically and
                  actively review its policies and objective rules
                  and tests to ensure that they remain relevant,
                  effective, efficiently administered, and
                  consistent across the jurisdiction.

                  4. Track-based assessment

                  Development applications should be
                  streamed into an assessment ‘track’ that
                  corresponds with the level of assessment
                  required to make an appropriately informed
                  decision. The criteria and content for each
                  track is standard.

                  Adoption of any track is optional in any
                  jurisdiction, but it should remain consistent
                  with the model if used.

                  These tracks cover the following development
                  • exempt;
                  • prohibited;
                  • self assess;
                  • code assess;
                  • merit assess;
                  • impact assess.

                  The processes used within each assessment
                  track will be predetermined.
5. A single point of assessment                    8. Professional determination for most
Only one body should assess an application,
using consistent policy and objective rules        Most development applications should be
and tests.                                         assessed and determined by professional
                                                   staff or private sector experts. For those that
Referrals should be limited only to those          are not, either:
agencies with a statutory role relevant to the
application. Referral should be for advice only.   • Option A – local government may delegate
A referral authority should only be able to give     development assessment determination
direction where this avoids the need for a           power while retaining the ability to call-in
separate approval process.                           any application for determination by council.

Referral agencies should specify their             • Option B – an expert panel determines the
requirements in advance and comply with              application.
clear response times.
                                                   Ministers may have call-in powers for
6. Notification                                    applications of state or territory significance
                                                   provided criteria are documented and known
Where assessment involves evaluating a             in advance.
proposal against competing policy objectives,
opportunities for third-party involvement may      9. Applicant appeals
be provided.
                                                   An applicant should be able to seek a review
7. Private sector involvement                      of a discretionary decision.

Private sector experts should have a role in       A review of a decision should only be against
development assessment, particularly in:           the same policies and objective rules and
                                                   tests as the first assessment.
• undertaking pre-lodgment certification of
  applications to improve the quality of           10. Third-party appeals
                                                   Opportunities for third-party appeals should
• providing expert advice to applicants and        not be provided where applications are wholly
  decision makers;                                 assessed against objective rules and tests.

• certifying compliance where the objective        Opportunities for third-party appeals may be
  rules and tests are clear and essentially        provided in limited other cases.
  technical; and
                                                   Where provided a review of a decision
• making decisions under delegation.               should only be against the same policies
                                                   and objective rules and tests as the first


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Description: DAF Reform Implementation Report Card