Petition power less in NSW planning revamp
Thousands of signatures on a petition may count as just one formal objection under a proposed overhaul of the NSW Independent Planning Commission.
Recommendations from an extensive review into the IPC - which even questioned whether the commission should exist - have been accepted in full, planning minister Rob Stokes said on Saturday.
A key change will be doubling to 50 the number of community objections required to cause a major project to be referred to the IPC.
Identical submissions such as petitions and automatic form letters will be counted as just one objection.
The NSW Productivity Commission's review into the IPC came after the commission rejected The Star casino's proposed Ritz-Carlton tower in Pyrmont and made several decisions on coal mine projects based on climate change in 2019.
It found most of the criticisms about the IPC's policy stances came amid gaps and uncertainties in difficult policy areas.
Besides a name change, the body was found to be barely any more independent than its predecessor, the Planning Assessment Commission.
Under the overhaul, public hearings will be more interrogative and shorter and a clear path to ask the planning minister about policy matters will be established.
The transformation would be "significant", Mr Stokes said.
"An effective planning system is vital to the health of the NSW economy and the recommendations of the Productivity Commission will increase certainty and confidence in the way planning decisions are made," he said in a statement.
Other key changes include making the IPC a separate government authority like the Ombudsman and the electoral commission, reducing the number of commissioners from 29 and focusing on employing decision-makers instead of technical experts.
Industry organisations for big and small miners and property developers had wanted the IPC reduced to an advisory body, the review said.
NSW Labor welcomed IPC being kept an independent decision-maker.
But its planning spokesman Adam Searle expressed concern it may be forced to rely more on the planning department's legal advice, instead of seeking its own.
"If it can't obtain that and is simply bound by material put before it by government, that would be a weakening," he told AAP.
"The other concern is reducing the trigger for objections ... I wouldn't want to see the views of the wider community being diluted on matters of widespread public interest."
Premier Gladys Berejiklian last November promised to deliver "the simplest and most effective planning system in Australia" to create jobs and improve the way people live and work.
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