On 16 June I attended a strategy meeting of this key organisation, which now has 460 affiliates throughout NSW. The Network realises that defeating the State Government’s pro-developer planning legislation is only the first step, although an essential one. Now we have to pre-empt moves to introduce negative changes by stealth, as the Government has promised to do.
The Network has the advantage that the political landscape has changed. The Coalition government has taken quite a battering, and this is at least partly because of the issue of political donations from developers. Not only has a Premier had to resign but several Liberal MLAs, as well as members of their staffs and other hangers-on, are under investigation by the Independent Commission against Corruption. The former Planning Minister, Brad Hazzard, has become Attorney-General and the former Community Services Minister, Pru Goward, is now in charge of Planning.
The Government is therefore less secure facing the next election in March 2015. Over the last few weeks the Government, and its developer supporters, such as the Urban Task Force, have renewed efforts to convince the electorate that developers should be given special help because of projected population increases. This is despite the doubling of the number of new dwellings completed in the last year.
The first response of the Network is to produce an alternative to the Government’s failed legislation in the form of a Good Planning Charter that includes the key elements the Government left out, such as protection of the environment (including heritage), equity, public participation at all stages, and transparent and accountable processes free of corruption.
This Charter is still in its draft stage, but once it is more complete the Network will seek further public input and endorsement, and then use it as the basis for seeking the support of candidates for the next State election for improved planning laws. A simplified document, free of planning jargon, will soon be available and at that stage I will circulate it to all members for their comments. We should expect a steady and very public campaign to keep planning issues at the forefront over the next nine months leading to the election.