POLL | Reform bill to save councils' planning power

Kelledy Jones Lawyers Victoria Shute and Philippa Metljak explained the proposed changes to planning legislation to councils in the region on Thursday, October 15.
Kelledy Jones Lawyers Victoria Shute and Philippa Metljak explained the proposed changes to planning legislation to councils in the region on Thursday, October 15.

A planning reform bill was introduced to state parliament last month amid concern from local government that the power of planning decisions will be taken away from councils.

On Thursday, October 15, two representatives from Kelledy Jones Lawyers, Victoria Shute and Phillipa Metljak, met with 25 staff, elected members, CEOs and Development Assessment Panel members from Victor Harbor, Alexandrina, and Yankalilla councils to discuss the impact of the changes in legislation.

The government's proposals include scrapping council development plans and replacing traditional zoning rules with a single state-wide planning and design code, according to Matt Pinnegar, the CEO of the Local Government Association (LGA).

Mr Pinnegar said concerns have been voiced by the LGA and member councils.

"Councils have backed the need for reforms to state planning laws for many years, but we are concerned the government's model removes community input and has the potential to shift costs to councils and ratepayers through infrastructure levies and an uncosted e-planning system," he said.

"If the government gets its way communities will have no voice and no choice when it comes to local planning.

"Our research clearly shows that communities want input on local planning issues and that councils are best placed to represent communities when it comes to planning."

Mr Pinnegar said the LGA still hoped that planning minister John Rau would amend the bill to give local communities a greater say.

Kelledy Jones Lawyers is South Australia's first law firm solely dedicated to local government and not-for-profit organisations.

Ms Shute, an experienced planning and building lawyer, said the meeting went very well.

"Attendees at the seminar heard about the framework for the new planning, development and infrastructure system proposed by the government," she said.

"This framework poses opportunities and challenges for Fleurieu councils, including measures to encourage increased co-operation between councils; to protect important food production areas from urbanisation; new infrastructure delivery and funding arrangements; changes to the way in which the community is consulted on development matters; and increased centralisation of the development system through a single, online planning portal.

"There's now a chance for local councils and communities to put forward their views as part of the community engagement period."

Ms Shute said the bill represents an opportunity to achieve positive outcomes for the future of South Australia.

"The proposed reforms are important for everyone.

"Planning plays such a large role in most people's lives at some point, whether it be the house you live in, the roads you drive on or the places you work and play."

Ms Shute said it was early days and the government was seeking feedback from bodies including local councils, the LGA, Property Council, Housing Industry Association, National Trust, Defenders Office and Infrastructure Funding System.

"It is only a framework and so much could happen," she said.

"The emphasis of this legislation is community consultation at the front end, not at the back end.

"The minister has drawn up an engagement charter and people are worried there will be less community engagement and that is not right."