Streamlining Environmental Approvals

Achieving public acceptability, efficiency, certainty and clarity, or ‘PECC’ in the state and federal environmental approvals systems were the key goals emerging from UDIA’s industry breakfast yesterday featuring presentations from SAPPR Independent Review Panel Chair Darren Cooper and EPA Chairman Dr Tom Hatton.

Frank and open discussion instigated by both speakers centred around how a ‘business as usual’ approach to environmental values and urban development in Perth and Peel is not going to be able to continue due to growing environmental constraints along the Swan Coastal Plain. Dr Hatton suggested that moving forward, given the growing environmental constraints, it is likely that more developments will be deemed ‘scheme incapable’ and will not go ahead.

With the extent of Perth and Peel’s Matters of National Environmental Significance (MNES) continuing to grow WA requires greater clarity and certainty in the approvals system, and more solid scientific research into the impact of urban development and how in some circumstances it can actually deliver improved environmental outcomes.

Chair of the SAPPR Review Panel, Darren Cooper provided insights into the progress of the SAPPR review and the benefits of the SAPPR being finalised. Darren highlighted that a clear funding model for implementation is critical and anticipated that, if approved by government, the SAPPR would take approximately two years to finalise and implement.

Mr Cooper said that the review panel is currently focusing on a detailed cost benefit analysis and exploring potential funding models.

UDIA has indicated that based on member feedback, the development industry is willing to contribute its fair share to conserve Perth’s environmental values, but shouldn’t have to foot the entire bill. It is hoped that a revised SAPPR once implemented, would deliver improved clarity, certainty and efficiencies in processing which can offset any new costs for industry, so that housing affordability isn’t adversely impacted.

During the question and answer session facilitated by UDIA Councillor Darren Walsh, it was made clear that the environmental considerations are not just an issue for new growth areas, but also infill areas as well. A clear, efficient and certain system is just as important for infill sites as greenfield areas if Perth is to achieve a more consolidated urban footprint.

RBA meets in Perth

The Reserve Bank held it’s official meeting in Perth on Tuesday where once again the decision was made to leave the official cash rate on hold at 1.5 per cent. UDIA CEO Allison Hailes attended a formal dinner with the RBA Governor Philip Lowe on Tuesday evening, where he said that the Australian economy is moving in the right direction. Over the past year, GDP increased by 3.1 per cent and inflation was around 2 per cent. The unemployment rate is currently 5.3 per cent, which is the lowest it has been in nearly six years.

Looking at WA conditions in particular, Governor Lowe said that there are positive signs for the economy with sustainable capital expenditure picking up in the iron ore sector in particular and higher prices being achieved for a number of minerals. In terms of the local housing market, the RBA’s WA liaison expects a stabilisation of conditions is in prospect. If so, this should help support consumer confidence and household spending and reinforce the recent more positive news from the resources sector.

Governor Lowe also advised that “the Board is closely monitoring housing markets across the country and trends in housing finance. Housing credit growth has slowed, which, from a medium-term perspective, is a positive development. Our assessment is that this slowing largely reflects reduced demand for credit by investors, although there has been some tightening in the supply of credit as well. With housing prices falling in a number of cities, largely due to a shift in the underlying fundamentals, investors no longer find it as attractive to invest in residential property as they once did…”

Overall, Mr Lowe said that the Board is seeking to be a source of stability and confidence, as further progress is made towards full employment and having inflation return to around the midpoint of the target range.

UDIA National Council Meets

UDIA’s National Council met in Melbourne this week and discussed a range of federal issues of priority to members. Key elements of the discussions were UDIA’s engagement with the federal government, elevating the future cities agenda within the new Cabinet and priority issues for the upcoming federal election, such as infrastructure delivery, land and housing supply, taxation reform, reducing red and green tape and housing affordability. UDIA National is updating current policy statements outlining actions for the federal government, finalizing a strategic plan for use with national stakeholders, refining its federal election campaign messages and developing its national research agenda for the next 12 months and beyond. The organisation is also looking at other opportunities to enhance delivery of member services.

Mortgage rates rise

Following Westpac’s move late last month, The Australian reports that ANZ borrowers with variable home loans would face a 16 basis point rate increase from September 27. The Commonwealth Bank have also advised that it will implement a 15 basis point increase by October 4.

Waterwise Perth roundtable outcomes

UDIA WA CEO Allison Hailes attended the Water wise Perth industry roundtable last month opened by the Minister for Water. The three sessions of the event focused on water wise urban form; making our community water wise; and planning for water wise cities.

Many of the actions identified during the sessions were generalised land use and water planning and policy items which aimed to enable land and water planning to integrate and work together at various scales.  A summary of the outcomes from the event can be downloaded here.

Farewell to Robyn Ganzer

Many of our members will be familiar with our long standing Finance and Administration Manager Robyn Ganzer. After 11 years of service at UDIA, Robyn has decided it’s time for a new challenge, following a well-earned overseas holiday! UDIA staff and Council appreciate the dedication and professionalism that Robyn has shown to UDIA throughout her time with us and her warmth and generosity will be missed. Good luck to Robyn for the future.

UDIA welcomed new Finance and Operations Manager Marcos Benedit to the team in August. We will provide a short profile and contact details for Marcos in next week’s edition.

Dwelling approvals rise

According to the latest data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) the trend estimate for total number of dwelling units approved in Western Australia rose 1.0% in July. The trend estimate for the number of private sector houses rose 1.1%.

These results were contrary to national figures which show the trend estimate for total dwellings approved fell 1.3% in July. The trend estimate for private sector houses approved fell 0.9% nationally.

More details here.

Your feedback is valued  

UDIA is currently working on a response to the discussion paper on cost recovery for the Department of Water and Environmental Regulation. More details here and the submission is due by Thursday 1 November 2018.

UDIA will also be providing a response on behalf of members to the Biodiversity Conservation Act 2016 – Biodiversity Conservation Regulations. More details here and submissions are due by 30 September, 2018.

Any feedback on the above two documents can be forward to prior to the submission closing date for incorporation into our submissions.

Awards countdown is on!

Only nine sleeps to go until the UDIA WA Awards for Excellence Gala Dinner!  We are looking forward to greeting guests in all your finery. In case you missed it last week, the list of nominated projects can be found here.

Plans for Alkimos Central METRONET precinct announced

UDIA has welcomed the announcement of plans for the Alkimos Central METRONET precinct, which we hope will act as a catalyst for a vibrant community precinct and improve transport connections for the people living in the northern corridor.

The Landcorp development, located on a 212-hectare parcel of land east of Marmion Avenue, will become a mix of residential, retail, recreational, entertainment and commercial uses, with work to commence in 2019.

More details here.

Train patronage up

Speaking of trains, the Public Transport Authority’s annual patronage figures show that train patronage has risen for the first time in three years, with more people boarding trains in 2017-18 than the previous financial year. The amount of people using trains rose 0.7 per cent in 2017-18, with a total of 60.6 million boardings across the five metropolitan train lines.

Overall, public transport figures continued to decline, down another 0.7 per cent, the fifth year of decline in a row. This can primarily be attributed to stagnating population growth and weaker economic conditions.

Impact of tax on Build to Rent

A new CBRE Viewpoint report: A Taxing Time for build-to-rent, analyses the impact of land tax, the Goods and Services Tax and withholding tax for different ownership structures, and the steps required to put the sector on a level playing field.

The paper analyses the main tax issues and seeks to qualify their impact on returns in a hypothetical project to assess whether changes are required for the build-to-rent sector to flourish.

Key aspects of the report cover the impacts of land tax, GST and withholding tax on the build to rent sector and find that factoring in all three taxes, the total IRR is reduced by 2.42 percentage points, delivering a return 25% lower than if those taxes were more supportive of build-to-rent developments.

Find out more here.

Corrected from last edition: Environmental Protection Amendment Regulations, Meeting with Minister Dawson

The Minister for the Environment, Hon Stephen Dawson MLC hosted a parliamentary meeting with Shadow Minister for Environment, Steve Thomas MLC, UDIA and representatives from DWER, HIA and CME to discuss the Environmental Protection Amendment Regulations disallowance motion.

A number of issues concerning the Regulations were discussed, including the uncontaminated fill testing requirements. The Department provided a commitment to release further guidance supporting the Regulations in the coming weeks and to establish an industry working group to review the uncontaminated fill thresholds. UDIA will keep members informed of progress.

WA economy lifts

Australian Bureau of Statistics figures released yesterday show WA’s domestic economy expanded 0.2 per cent in the three months to June 30, taking annual growth to 1.3 per cent — the highest since 2013.

There was a 2.8 per cent increase in public investment in the June quarter as the State Government pursued a capital works program centred on transport.

Business investment continued its recovery, growing modestly over the past year despite a dip in the latest quarter as mining companies responded to higher prices for commodities such as iron ore and lithium.

State final demand lifted across all states and territories except the Northern Territory. The Australian economy grew by 0.9% overall.

Detailed information here.