Rezonings a gift for developers, too bad for Council and residents

After sweeping to power on a promise to create a new transparent and accountable planning system in NSW the Liberal government are already proceeding to do just the opposite with a raft of spot rezonings currently being considered, including on sites in the City of Sydney.

Council has a zoning plan, developed in consultation with the community, to guide the future development of the City in the long term. But what is it's future under a Liberal government?

In November last year the government asked for submissions from landowners who would like to see their land rezoned for housing.  With housing prices in Sydney what they currently are residential land can sell for much more than land with other zonings, so this was effectively an offer of pennies from heaven (or more accurately millions of dollars from heaven).  

However you can’t get something for nothing.  Councils, who are generally responsible for the zonings, don’t give land non-residential zonings just to deprive landowners of money.  They give land other zonings because their long term plans have shown that they need the land for those purposes (eg industrial or commercial) or because the land lacks the infrastructure needed for a sustainable residential area, such as transport, open space or schools.

Rezonings therefore might be acceptable in some cases if the government were prepared to step in and provide the necessary infrastructure.  However in this case they have specified that the rezonings must come at no cost to the government – so no new infrastructure or services will be provided, meaning that any new residential areas created under this scheme will likely be miles from shops, schools and parks and totally car dependant.

The City of Sydney is now faced with potentially having around 50 hectares of industrial land in the southern parts of our Local Government Area declared residential by the government, despite it being set aside for employment purposes in our long term plans and despite it having none of the amenities one needs in a residential area.

The land in question is owned by the developer Goodman, the group that already stand to make a massive windfall profit for the Ashmore Estate development.

Planning Minister Brad Hazzard has said that rezonings will be carried out in consultation with Councils, however the communications received from the Planning Department to date do not even list the locations of the proposed rezoning sites, leaving Council staff to guess what sites may be affected.  Hardly effective consultation by anyone’s definition.

Council therefore once again finds itself at the mercy of unelected bureaucrats to maintain the integrity of its long term planning and the quality of life and sustainability of it’s suburbs.  The government that used the notorious Part 3A planning laws to force unwanted developments on Councils was voted out last year but it seems the new government is just continuing down the same path under a different name.

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