Councils welcome moves to fairly fund community infrastructure

Properly and fairly funded community infrastructure built by councils will help NSW’s economic recovery from the coronavirus, Local Government NSW (LGNSW) President Linda Scott said today.

“Communities know there’s a shortage of good quality public infrastructure in NSW, and tough decisions must be made about how to fund our parks, libraries, sporting fields and footpaths into the future,” Cr Scott said.

Cr Scott was responding to the announcement that Planning Minister Rob Stokes had established a review of developer contributions, headed by Productivity Commissioner Peter Achterstraat, which will deliver a final report by March 31.

“We welcome this review and congratulate Minister Stokes for taking a step in the right direction to ensure governments, councils, communities and industry can have their say on funding public infrastructure for the public good,” she said.

“Supporting community infrastructure is critical to development; it’s why developer contributions were introduced in the first place.

“The system recognises that those profiting from the development of a residential community must also contribute to the infrastructure that helps them sell it.

“Massive residential development without supporting community infrastructure just builds the slums of tomorrow.

“The local government sector welcomes recognition of this absolute fundamental principle that underpins the planning of healthy, liveable communities in NSW.”

Other measures released for public comment included moves towards greater transparency and flexibility in the provision and usage of development contributions.

“Councils strongly support greater transparency in our planning system,” Cr Scott said.

“We believe it is absolutely vital that the community have full knowledge of the significant costs involved in the infrastructure required to support new residential developments, and how that infrastructure is funded.

“Greater transparency and flexibility will also help overcome the old furphy that councils sit on developer contributions for no purpose, when the truth is they are handcuffed by developer contribution contracts, state laws and legal agreements.

“A residential development can be built in three stages, but councils cannot build one-third of a library.

“Some community infrastructure requires additional funding from state or federal sources, which means the developer contributions can’t be spent effectively until that complementary funding is received.”

Cr Scott said she was also pleased to see the Government had spelled out its commitment to consult with all stakeholders, including local government, in the review’s Terms of Reference.

“Genuine consultation is critical to achieve meaningful reform that delivers for the community,” she said.

However, she warned the promised fresh approach to developer contributions would not be enough, particularly given the review’s final reporting date of March 31 next year.

“Councils right across NSW need financial assistance from the State Government now,” she said.

“With State Government funding, councils can employ people to build the infrastructure for the future, and deliver the community supports needed to ensure no one is left behind in the wake of the pandemic.”

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