Australia: Independent Hearing Assessment Panels will allow councillors to focus on their constituents

In this article we outline the key elements of the new Environmental Planning and Assessment and Electoral Legislation Amendment (Planning Panels and Enforcement) Bill 2017.

Independent Hearing Assessment Panels (IHAPs)

Independent Hearing and Assessment Panels will become mandatory for all councils in the Greater Sydney Region1 and Wollongong, following the assent of the Environmental Planning and Assessment and Electoral Legislation Amendment (Planning Panels and Enforcement) Act 2017 (Planning Panels Act) on 14 August 2017, ostensibly to guard against corruption and to lead to better planning decisions. The majority of the provisions of the Planning Panels Act also commenced on 14 August 2017.

From 1 March 2018, all councils within the Greater Sydney Region and Wollongong will be required to set up a local planning panel.

The Planning Panels Act

Prior to the passing of the Planning Panels Act, the implementation of a local planning panel was voluntary. However, this was not taken up by the majority of the local government authorities within the Metropolitan regions. Following a series of high profile corruption issues surrounding the improper approval of development applications by councillors and council staff, the NSW Government has sought to make planning panels mandatory in the Greater Sydney Region and the City of Wollongong through the Planning Panels Act.

The majority of the Planning Panels Act commenced on 14 August 2017, however Schedules 1 [4] and [11] and Schedule 3 are not in force.2

Current IHAPs operate along similar lines, but procedures and panel member format can vary from council to council. All new IHAPs required to be established by 1 March 2018, will comprise of 3 independent experts and a community member and follow a standard model. The panels will be subject to a code of conduct and they will operate under statutory rules.

The Department of Planning and Environment will establish a pool of expert members which will be approved by the Minister for Planning. Councils will be able to select their expert member for their panels from the pool and they will responsible for the appointment of community members.

Benefits of IHAP

Other state governments, including Western Australia, Victoria, South Australia have established similar development assessment panels.

Having an IHAP benefits councils, its councillors and its constituents. Wollongong and 15 other Sydney Metropolitan Councils are already using IHAPs.3

There are a number of benefits in having an IHAP. These benefits include:

  1. The de-politicisation of contentious developments. Politically sensitive developments such as 'new generation Boarding House' development applications can be difficult to approve in a political environment. Removing this pressure allows Councillors to represent and voice the concerns of their constituents, while allowing an independent panel of decision makers to consider all of the factors of the proposed development without the political pressures that Councillors face
  2. Reducing conflicts of interest and risk to Councillors. Councillors are elected because they know people within their community and represent the community's interests. Making decisions on development applications increases the risk to Councillors falling foul of their Code of Conduct and the conflict of interest provisions in the Local Government Act 1993. IHAPs reduce the risk to Councillors and they will also be used for development applications where a Councillor has indicated that they have a conflict of interest
  3. Increasing community representation. The panel must include a community representative for the local government area (LGA) and if the LGA has wards, a representative from that ward. This ensures that community issues are heard and included in any decision made on a development application. They also provide for additional opportunities for the applicant and the community to engage and allow for their views for be considered, which increases procedural fairness
  4. Cost savings. IHAPs can assist in the reduction of the number of appeals to the Land and Environment Court, reducing the legal costs associated with these types of appeals and the cost to local councils associated with assessing development applications
  5. Time saving efficiencies. Councillors are able to reduce meeting times and deal with other pressing matters. This enables councillors to focus on the delivery of delivery its core business services and allows councillors more time to consider the 'big picture' issues.

Types of development that IHAPs determine

IHAPs consider development applications that are:

  • over a particular value (more than $5 million and less than $30 million)
  • receive more than 10 objections, where there is a conflict of interest
  • are accompanied by a voluntary planning agreement
  • involve a departure from Development Standards; or
  • considered or perceived to be at high-risk of corruption.

Conclusion

While it is voluntary for councils outside of the Greater Sydney Region and Wollongong it is anticipated that more regional councils will voluntarily appoint IHAPs of their own once they observe the benefits that their urban counterparts enjoy from the use of IHAPs.

Footnotes

1The 'Greater Sydney Region' includes the local government areas of Wollondilly, Blue Mountains and the Hawkesbury, but excludes Wyong and Gosford.

2 These provisions deal with the functions of a consent authority which can be conferred on a Joint Regional Planning Panel, and deals with the insertion of Schedule 7 into the State Environmental Planning Policy (State and Regional Development) 2011. Schedule 7 concerns development for which regional panels may be authorised to exercise consent authority functions of councils.

3 This includes the newly amalgamated Councils of Northern Beaches Council and Georges River Council, which included former Councils that had IHAPs and the amalgamated Councils of Strathfield Council, Mosman Council, Waverley Council which allowed the IHAPs to determine applications. Whereas some councils such as Liverpool Council only gave their IHAPs power to make recommendations.

This publication does not deal with every important topic or change in law and is not intended to be relied upon as a substitute for legal or other advice that may be relevant to the reader's specific circumstances. If you have found this publication of interest and would like to know more or wish to obtain legal advice relevant to your circumstances please contact one of the named individuals listed.

To print this article, all you need is to be registered on Mondaq.com.

Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.

Authors
Gerard Timbs
 
Some comments from our readers…
“The articles are extremely timely and highly applicable”
“I often find critical information not available elsewhere”
“As in-house counsel, Mondaq’s service is of great value”

Related Video
Up-coming Events Search
Tools
Print
Font Size:
Translation
Channels
Mondaq on Twitter
 
Register for Access and our Free Biweekly Alert for
This service is completely free. Access 250,000 archived articles from 100+ countries and get a personalised email twice a week covering developments (and yes, our lawyers like to think you’ve read our Disclaimer).
 
Email Address
Company Name
Password
Confirm Password
Position
Mondaq Topics -- Select your Interests
 Accounting
 Anti-trust
 Commercial
 Compliance
 Consumer
 Criminal
 Employment
 Energy
 Environment
 Family
 Finance
 Government
 Healthcare
 Immigration
 Insolvency
 Insurance
 International
 IP
 Law Performance
 Law Practice
 Litigation
 Media & IT
 Privacy
 Real Estate
 Strategy
 Tax
 Technology
 Transport
 Wealth Mgt
Regions
Africa
Asia
Asia Pacific
Australasia
Canada
Caribbean
Europe
European Union
Latin America
Middle East
U.K.
United States
Worldwide Updates
Check to state you have read and
agree to our Terms and Conditions

Terms & Conditions and Privacy Statement

Mondaq.com (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd and as a user you are granted a non-exclusive, revocable license to access the Website under its terms and conditions of use. Your use of the Website constitutes your agreement to the following terms and conditions of use. Mondaq Ltd may terminate your use of the Website if you are in breach of these terms and conditions or if Mondaq Ltd decides to terminate your license of use for whatever reason.

Use of www.mondaq.com

You may use the Website but are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the content and articles available (the Content). You may not modify, publish, transmit, transfer or sell, reproduce, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, link, display, or in any way exploit any of the Content, in whole or in part, except as expressly permitted in these terms & conditions or with the prior written consent of Mondaq Ltd. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information about Mondaq.com’s content, users or contributors in order to offer them any services or products which compete directly or indirectly with Mondaq Ltd’s services and products.

Disclaimer

Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the documents and related graphics published on this server for any purpose. All such documents and related graphics are provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers hereby disclaim all warranties and conditions with regard to this information, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. In no event shall Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers be liable for any special, indirect or consequential damages or any damages whatsoever resulting from loss of use, data or profits, whether in an action of contract, negligence or other tortious action, arising out of or in connection with the use or performance of information available from this server.

The documents and related graphics published on this server could include technical inaccuracies or typographical errors. Changes are periodically added to the information herein. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers may make improvements and/or changes in the product(s) and/or the program(s) described herein at any time.

Registration

Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including what sort of information you are interested in, for three primary purposes:

  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, newsletter alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our information providers who provide information free for your use.

Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) do not sell or provide your details to third parties other than information providers. The reason we provide our information providers with this information is so that they can measure the response their articles are receiving and provide you with information about their products and services.

If you do not want us to provide your name and email address you may opt out by clicking here .

If you do not wish to receive any future announcements of products and services offered by Mondaq by clicking here .

Information Collection and Use

We require site users to register with Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to view the free information on the site. We also collect information from our users at several different points on the websites: this is so that we can customise the sites according to individual usage, provide 'session-aware' functionality, and ensure that content is acquired and developed appropriately. This gives us an overall picture of our user profiles, which in turn shows to our Editorial Contributors the type of person they are reaching by posting articles on Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) – meaning more free content for registered users.

We are only able to provide the material on the Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) site free to site visitors because we can pass on information about the pages that users are viewing and the personal information users provide to us (e.g. email addresses) to reputable contributing firms such as law firms who author those pages. We do not sell or rent information to anyone else other than the authors of those pages, who may change from time to time. Should you wish us not to disclose your details to any of these parties, please tick the box above or tick the box marked "Opt out of Registration Information Disclosure" on the Your Profile page. We and our author organisations may only contact you via email or other means if you allow us to do so. Users can opt out of contact when they register on the site, or send an email to unsubscribe@mondaq.com with “no disclosure” in the subject heading

Mondaq News Alerts

In order to receive Mondaq News Alerts, users have to complete a separate registration form. This is a personalised service where users choose regions and topics of interest and we send it only to those users who have requested it. Users can stop receiving these Alerts by going to the Mondaq News Alerts page and deselecting all interest areas. In the same way users can amend their personal preferences to add or remove subject areas.

Cookies

A cookie is a small text file written to a user’s hard drive that contains an identifying user number. The cookies do not contain any personal information about users. We use the cookie so users do not have to log in every time they use the service and the cookie will automatically expire if you do not visit the Mondaq website (or its affiliate sites) for 12 months. We also use the cookie to personalise a user's experience of the site (for example to show information specific to a user's region). As the Mondaq sites are fully personalised and cookies are essential to its core technology the site will function unpredictably with browsers that do not support cookies - or where cookies are disabled (in these circumstances we advise you to attempt to locate the information you require elsewhere on the web). However if you are concerned about the presence of a Mondaq cookie on your machine you can also choose to expire the cookie immediately (remove it) by selecting the 'Log Off' menu option as the last thing you do when you use the site.

Some of our business partners may use cookies on our site (for example, advertisers). However, we have no access to or control over these cookies and we are not aware of any at present that do so.

Log Files

We use IP addresses to analyse trends, administer the site, track movement, and gather broad demographic information for aggregate use. IP addresses are not linked to personally identifiable information.

Links

This web site contains links to other sites. Please be aware that Mondaq (or its affiliate sites) are not responsible for the privacy practices of such other sites. We encourage our users to be aware when they leave our site and to read the privacy statements of these third party sites. This privacy statement applies solely to information collected by this Web site.

Surveys & Contests

From time-to-time our site requests information from users via surveys or contests. Participation in these surveys or contests is completely voluntary and the user therefore has a choice whether or not to disclose any information requested. Information requested may include contact information (such as name and delivery address), and demographic information (such as postcode, age level). Contact information will be used to notify the winners and award prizes. Survey information will be used for purposes of monitoring or improving the functionality of the site.

Mail-A-Friend

If a user elects to use our referral service for informing a friend about our site, we ask them for the friend’s name and email address. Mondaq stores this information and may contact the friend to invite them to register with Mondaq, but they will not be contacted more than once. The friend may contact Mondaq to request the removal of this information from our database.

Emails

From time to time Mondaq may send you emails promoting Mondaq services including new services. You may opt out of receiving such emails by clicking below.

*** If you do not wish to receive any future announcements of services offered by Mondaq you may opt out by clicking here .

Security

This website takes every reasonable precaution to protect our users’ information. When users submit sensitive information via the website, your information is protected using firewalls and other security technology. If you have any questions about the security at our website, you can send an email to webmaster@mondaq.com.

Correcting/Updating Personal Information

If a user’s personally identifiable information changes (such as postcode), or if a user no longer desires our service, we will endeavour to provide a way to correct, update or remove that user’s personal data provided to us. This can usually be done at the “Your Profile” page or by sending an email to EditorialAdvisor@mondaq.com.

Notification of Changes

If we decide to change our Terms & Conditions or Privacy Policy, we will post those changes on our site so our users are always aware of what information we collect, how we use it, and under what circumstances, if any, we disclose it. If at any point we decide to use personally identifiable information in a manner different from that stated at the time it was collected, we will notify users by way of an email. Users will have a choice as to whether or not we use their information in this different manner. We will use information in accordance with the privacy policy under which the information was collected.

How to contact Mondaq

You can contact us with comments or queries at enquiries@mondaq.com.

If for some reason you believe Mondaq Ltd. has not adhered to these principles, please notify us by e-mail at problems@mondaq.com and we will use commercially reasonable efforts to determine and correct the problem promptly.