Development Assessment Panels (DAPs) were introduced into Western Australia in 2011 with the objective of increasing transparency, consistency and reliability in decision making on complex development applications.

Controversial at the time, the panels included representatives from local government as well as specialist experts in the planning and development industry.

The goal was to have decision making based on the merits of the project, to “de-politicise” the decision making by balancing local representation with expert advice.  Local authorities were to establish the strategic policy framework for development with DAPs assessing larger projects with a value of more than $7 million, although a developer can opt in with projects of $3 million or more.

The Department of Planning undertook a review of DAPs recently and feedback was mixed.  Transparency and quality of decision making rated highly but there was debate about whether the DAPs improved the timeliness and efficiency of decision making with only 56 percent of respondents believing the new process was more effective.

The challenge with measuring the performance is that reporting of Local Authority approval time frames is not mandatory so there is no valid comparison.   Taken at face value the on-time performance of DAPs would seem to be a “work in progress” with 43 percent not determined within the statutory timeframe.  The Western Australian Planning Commission has a 76 percent on time performance for their statutory planning process.

So why is the efficiency and effectiveness of DAP’s so important?

The total value of the development applications received by DAPs since 2011 is a massive $13.17 billion with most of the applications being in the range of $20 million – $50 million.   DAPs have triggered $1,906,860 in development application fees for the 347 applications received, of which 266 were approved and 19 were refused.

Many of these projects are of state significance with 57 applications valued at over $50 million with nine of those valued at over $100 million.   Not every high value project is sufficiently complex to warrant consideration by a DAP with around round seven percent not meeting that criteria; just over half of those were warehouses in industrial areas.  It is proposed in the current review that some categories will be added to the exclusion list whilst other, potentially lower value applications of state significance, may be added.

Efficient management and transparent assessment of development applications is important, but with our rapidly growing population, it is essential that the right decisions are made.

Access the DAPs review publication here.