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Government "hits pause" on "generational" planning reforms

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The Marshall Government’s new statewide planning overhaul will be delayed by at least three months after stakeholders raised concerns about the pace of the rollout, InDaily can reveal.

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InDaily revealed last week that implementation of a new Planning and Design Code – and a corresponding ePlanning framework – was causing friction among councils and the building industry, with the Local Government Association and Urban Development Institute of Australia among those calling for the deadline to be wound back.

Planning Minister Stephan Knoll today confirmed that would be the case, with the Government forced to amend its existing legislation mandating a July 1 deadline for the code’s full statewide rollout.

Knoll now says it is “likely” that the new regime will be delayed by three months, with rural areas to now adopt the new framework from July and metropolitan areas to follow suit in September.

However, the new dates will no longer be mandated by the legislation, with amendments to ensure the timeframe can be set by proclamation in the Government Gazette.

The Government insists it was “ready to launch the new code as scheduled” but was acting on advice from the State Planning Commission based on stakeholder and community feedback.

“The advice from the Commission is that stakeholders, councils and the community are asking for more time to understand the code and become familiar with the new e-Planning system,” Knoll said in a statement.

“I will be acting on the advice of the Commission to grant councils and the community more time to understand, prepare and become business-ready before the new planning system.”

He said the new regime represented “a generational reform” of the planning system, arguing “if industry and the community want more time to get it right, them we are open to granting them that time”.

“It would be counterproductive to the planning system and developments across SA if we were to ignore the feedback from councils and the community and push ahead with the initial timelines,” he said.

“The Bill will also facilitate more time for testing and potentially more enhancements to be made to the e-Planning system, should they be required.”

It comes just days after the resignation of the Department of Planning, Transport and Infrastructure’s Director of State Planning Reform, Marcus Bal, less than a year after he was hired to oversee the transition to the new e-Planning regime.

Departmental sources have told InDaily there have been internal concerns about the July deadline, however the agency insisted the rollout was “on track”.

The agency has now appointed a new State Planning Reform Director, with Ray Partridge – whom the Government describes as “a project and program implementation specialist” – stepping into the role.

UDIA SA CEO Pat Gerace congratulated the Government on the go-slow, saying “an overwhelming majority of the development sector have said the most important thing is to get these reforms right and not rush into uncertainty”.

“Our members, who are responsible for creating so much of the state’s jobs and economic development, can’t afford another dent to market confidence like we saw with the recent land tax reform process,” he said.

While some welcomed the rollout delay, Property Council SA executive director Daniel Gannon was less than impressed.

“This is a disappointing decision that removes certainty from development,” he said.

“The planning review initiative began in 2013, and here we are seven years later complaining about a rushed process and hitting the ‘pause’ button – this is frankly bizarre.

“This decision is at odds with what developers want, as well as property owners and industry professionals.”

Greens MLC Mark Parnell said the mechanism for delaying the reforms was already in place, arguing a Greens Bill that passed the Upper House late last year provided for the ability to re-set the deadline, “because it was as clear as anything that more time would be needed given all the problems with the Code”.

He said the Government should back his Bill once it is restored to the notice paper, rather than introduce its own.

At the time it was introduced, he told parliament : “I know it would have been potentially embarrassing for the minister to have to come back to parliament and asked for this himself, so I am doing it for him.”

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