Local government performance on planning and development is being hindered by lack of State Government support and funding for underperforming councils.

Development industry advocate UDIA WA is urging the State Government to offer more support to local governments needing help.

The Property Council of Australia WA has been a vocal critical of local governments that have not updated planning schemes, leading to costly delays for developers and sometimes contributing to friction between residents.

However, UDIA WA chief executive Allison Hailes said there had been no extra funding for local governments to help them plan for extra planning and strategic work.

As well as extra support, the UDIA WA has asked the State Government to make local governments accountable for the spending of developer contributions, collected from developers for public amenities such as parks and sporting facilities.

It is an issue that has been canvassed in the Green Paper on how best to overhaul WA’s cumbersome and inefficient planning system. Under the new system, local governments would have to:

  • maintain up-to-date local planning strategies in consultation with their communities.
  • develop local housing strategies to show where they will accommodate growth and the types of housing needed.
  • report on their planning performance including decision making times, outcomes and the status of local planning strategies and schemes.
  • develop a genuine community engagement charter.
  • incorporate development contribution schedules into planning schemes.
  • report on administration of development contributions.
  • develop a process for collaboration between decision-makers and applicants including formal pre-lodgement advice.
  • create rules for efficient referral of planning matters.

Each of the 138 WA local governments had differing capacities to cope with developing up-to-date local planning strategies and town planning schemes. Ms Hailes said when the Victorian system was overhauled a decade ago, the State Government set aside $30 million in grants to help local governments fund their extra responsibilities. It had added another $25 million to this, she said.

“You could have a system where well-performing councils are given extra responsibilities,” Ms Hailes said. “Councils that are underperforming are either given support or have their responsibilities reduced to enable them to provide the services that they need to well.”