The Urban Development Institute of Australia (UDIA WA) has welcomed today’s announcement by the Minister for Planning in regard to a range of planning exemptions to support the COVID-19 response.

“The temporary exemption measures announced today are reflective of the decisive and swift action that the State Government has been taking over the last few weeks to support households and small business who are facing significant challenges under the current restrictions,” UDIA WA CEO Tanya Steinbeck said.

“For small businesses such as restaurants and cafes wanting to change their use to suit the needs of their customers during this time, these exemptions will take some pressure off in terms of their ability to pivot their business as necessary,” Ms Steinbeck said.

“For the property development industry in particular, the Notice of Exemption providing a blanket two-year extension to be granted for all current development approvals is great news, meaning industry will have the potential to ramp up quickly once we move into the recovery phase,” Ms Steinbeck said.

“Once we come out of the other side of this, whether it’s in 6 months or 12 months, we need to be able to respond to the market and the needs of buyers swiftly,” Ms Steinbeck said.

“With jobs in the property and development industry representing 15% of all employment in Western Australia, the industry can also play a significant role in softening the economic blow created by the pandemic and keep as many people as possible in jobs,” Ms Steinbeck said.

“We are hopeful that we can continue to work collaboratively with the state government so that further measures can be taken to support our industry into the recovery,” Ms Steinbeck said.

“As an industry we are in a positive frame of mind that we have the capacity to get through these challenging times with the right measures in place and we support the government’s continued work on planning reform to ensure a more timely and efficient development approvals process,” Ms Steinbeck said.

“If we can accelerate the planning reform initiatives that were in the pipeline prior to the COVID-19 crisis and look at how project approvals could assist in a rapid economic recovery, we will be on the front foot,” Ms Steinbeck said.

“In particular, looking at projects that are already in the approvals system and how those could potentially be fast tracked would be a huge economic boost for the state and ensure more people can stay in jobs,” Ms Steinbeck said.

“There is also an urgent need to enforce statutory timeframes on responses from referral agencies to ensure timely approvals and minimise unnecessary delays,” Ms Steinbeck said.

“At the end of the day, we all need to work together to ensure that the state can keep moving forward and the health of our economy is protected as much as possible,” Ms Steinbeck said. “The Minister to date has been making much needed decisions quickly and decisively, but still effectively consulting with industry which is to be commended.”