Appalling grab for power


PROPOSED planning reforms, due to be debated in the NSW Upper House today, have been variously described as 'an attack on democracy' and 'an appalling grab for power' by local council representatives.

Coffs Harbour MLC Melinda Pavey described the legislation as 'crazy'.

However in a press release from Minister Sartor's media department the controversial amendments are defined as 'comprising a range of practical and reasonable measures to improve efficiency ? and further streamline planning and development'.

One aspect particularly worrying cash-strapped local councils is a proposal to permit the State Government to channel 'special infrastructure contributions' from the council's Section 94 levy to infrastructure and services specified by the minister.

"The amendments will allow the minister to specify where infrastructure and services must be delivered hand in hand with development," a departmental spokesperson said.

"This is an extension of the existing arrangement where the minister is already able to fund regional infrastructure through environmental planning instruments. The special contributions will be spent on important items such as affordable housing, transport, and environmental conservation.

"They will only be collected where it is reasonable to impose an additional levy because of the extent or urgency of an area's infrastructure requirements."

Acting director of planning for Coffs Harbour City Council, Mark Salter, said: "This is the minister bypassing democracy."

Ms Pavey said local communities should have the say on how their future is planned.

"The department of planning is in chaos ? it is not able to decide for local communities," she said.

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