Plans by the NSW Government to take funds generated through new developments in local communities out of the hands of councils and into a centralised grant scheme have raised fears that the costs of providing future community facilities will fall much more heavily onto ratepayers.
The NSW Planning and Public Spaces Minister Rob Stokes is proposing to amend a number of planning rules, including the rules governing developer contributions, through the Environmental Planning and Assessment Amendment (Infrastructure Contributions) Bill. The Bill could:
- Reduce the type of community infrastructure that could be funded by developer contributions; and
- Pour developer contributions into four regional funds, with no guarantees that the money would be funnelled back into projects in the local areas where the levies had been collected.
“Essentially the proposed reforms would remove the right of local communities to ensure that development in their area is matched by the facilities and services they want and need,” said Coffs Harbour Mayor Councillor Denise Knight.
“They’re proposing to take funding from regional communities – where the need for public facilities is greatest – and put it into a pot that can be spent anywhere in the state by the NSW Government with no accountability on where, or on what, it is used for.
“Meanwhile, communities will still expect councils to provide the same infrastructure and facilities but without the funding to do so. Without having access to the developer contributions raised in their own local areas, councils will either be forced to forgo the infrastructure for their communities or hit residents in their pockets by having to raise rates.
“This move is yet another exercise in state government cost-shifting onto regional ratepayers.”
Councils collect Developer Contributions funding for essential infrastructure for residents such as roads, footpaths, street lighting, stormwater and drainage facilities and community facilities that improve lifestyle like parks, playgrounds, playing fields, skate parks, basketball courts, libraries and public pools.
“They are a means of financing the public infrastructure that is needed as a direct or indirect result of new development. In this way, the developers make a contribution to the costs of infrastructure to meet the demand generated by their new development,” said Mark Griffioen, Council’s Group Leader Financial Services and Logistics.
Coffs Harbour City Council has joined a state-wide push led by Local Government NSW (LGNSW) to call on the NSW Government to withdraw the Bill and undertake further consultation with the local government sector. In addition, the campaign aims to highlight the proposed changes and their implications to ratepayers and the media and lobby MPs and Ministers to seek their support against the proposals.