The Planning and Development Amendment Bill 2020 (the Bill) was introduced into the WA Parliament on 20 May 2020 by the Hon Rita Saffioti MLA, Minister for Transport and Planning (the Minister). In a joint media release with Mark McGowan, the Premier, the Bill was described as including "major reforms to simplify Western Australia's planning system and boost the State's economic recovery from COVID-19."
The Bill's broad objectives are described in the media release as:
The Government's planning reforms are said to be based upon three years of "extensive consultation" by the Government. The reforms are now being urgently brought forward to "support the wider economic response to the pandemic, protect WA jobs and create new job opportunities". The Bill is part of a series of amendments to planning legislation and regulations that are intended to simplify the planning system, cut red tape and increase support for small business.
A key initiative that would be in effect upon the passing of the Bill is the introduction of a new development application process for significant, job-creating projects. The new process would apply for the next 18 months, and is intended by the Government to provide immediate support for the State's economic recovery from the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. In the short-term, the decision maker for such projects would be the WA Planning Commission, which would eventually be replaced by a specifically created new Special Matters Development Assessment Panel after the 18-month period.
To be considered a significant development a project would have to fall into one of the following categories
The significant development approach, according to the joint media release "will ensure that large and complex developments receive a State coordinated approach with referral agencies and streamlined assessment processes to ensure job creating projects can start as soon as possible".
The reforms proposed by the Bill are to be supported by changes to the planning regulations and the State planning policies. The reforms add to the Design WA policies launched in 2019 which, according to the Government, "prioritise the importance of good design in planning and development".
Other proposed reforms in the Bill are intended to provide flexibility for small businesses, improve community engagement requirements and increase the number of exemptions for approval.
The Bill includes planning reforms that respond to community and stakeholder feedback, for example:
According to the joint media release:
In the joint media release, the WA Premier indicated that the reforms introduced by the Bill had been "talked about for decades and were long overdue":
The WA Planning Minister stated in the joint media release:
According to a report in WA Today, the Bill has come at an opportune time. The WA Housing Industry Association (WAHIA) has just released new forecasting showing collapsing international migration and spiking unemployment would lead to a 40 percent fall in WA home building commencements by mid-2021, and have called for consumer incentives. Cath Hart, executive director of WAHIA, is reported by WA Today as saying:
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Planning and Development Amendment Bill 2020 (WA) second reading speech and explanatory memorandum available from TimeBase's LawOne Service.
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