Backlash from 54 councils, including Central Coast Council, has seen the State Government water down proposed changes to infrastructure Legislation which Local Government NSW (LGNSW)had previously described as a “cash grab”.
Earlier this year, LGNSW President, Linda Scott, said proposed changes to planning rules contained in the Environmental Planning and Assessment (Infrastructure Contributions) Bill 2021 could see growing communities miss out on the local infrastructure needed to support increased housing.
“Infrastructure contributions are made by developers as a critical co-funding measure to deliver footpaths and cycleways, parks, playgrounds, playing fields, skate parks, basketball courts, libraries, childcare centres and public pools – even street lighting, stormwater and drainage facilities,” Scott said
at the time.
“The rule changes proposed by the NSW Government would reduce the type of community infrastructure that could be funded by developer contributions.
“They also want developer contributions to bypass councils and go straight to the State Government, with no guarantee the money will be spent in the area from which it was collected.
“That means they could spend it however they like, wherever they like, and whenever they like.
“The community expects local infrastructure funds to be invested locally in a fair and transparent manner – not hoarded for potential pork-barrelling.”
In August, the Central Coast Council Administrator resolved to support LGNSW in calling for modelling of possible impacts, further details and an extensive consultation process with local governments and industry.
“Infrastructure contributions are an important element of the planning and development system, allowing funds to be secured from developers to contribute towards essential local infrastructure to serve growing populations,” a Minute from Administrator, Rik Hart, said.
“Importantly, contributions reduce the financial burden of providing such infrastructure on local governments.
“Council has supported recommendations that reduce the complexity of the system, improve transparency and equity, and ensure robust financial arrangements.
“Certain elements of the draft Bill do not align with these outcomes.
“It is essential that councils and communities are not left worse off by the NSW Government’s infrastructure contributions reform agenda.”
Following the council criticisms, the State Government has now agreed with LGNSW on improvements to the reforms.
Minister for Planning and Public Spaces, Rob Stokes, said the changes to the package addressed issues raised by LGNSW and councils during extensive consultation.
“The changes we’re making will build a simple, fair, consistent and clear
system for delivering infrastructure to support more homes and jobs across the state,” Stokes said.
“I said that no council will be worse off under these reforms and we will continue to work with LGNSW and councils to make sure that happens.
“We all want the same thing – great infrastructure and more investment in our local communities.
“That’s what these reforms will deliver.”
Modifications to the package include allowing councils that currently fund community infrastructure from developer contributions to continue to do so and ensuring that state contributions are spent in the region where they are collected.
They will also see a re-setting of the blanket rate councils can charge and an increase in the maximum amount councils can charge for infrastructure associated with solar and wind farms.
“The Minister will seek financial assistance for councils that can demonstrate cash flow problems due to directions about the payment of contributions at the construction certificate stage,” Stokes said.
“Incoming councils will have until the week after their first ordinary meeting in February 2022 to make submissions on the policy package currently on public exhibition.”
Scott has welcomed the Government’s commitment to working with councils to make changes to the package.
“The Minister has listened to the concerns of the local government sector and worked with local governments to make changes that address our concerns,” she said.
“With the commitments made and changes to be made to the draft legislation, I am now confident that this is a package that will improve the infrastructure contributions system.”