The Shift to E-Planning

12/01/2012 12:17 pm

Lodging an application for a new development unlike most activities related to real estate investment and development is typically carried out the old school way through lodging paper applications via mail or in-person at council offices.

Governments around the country are finally starting to embrace the opportunities that the Internet provides, in order to deliver more intuitive, user friendly and convenient delivery of planning information and application processing. Better late than never, I guess.

The NSW Government launched key element to the shift online on 28 October 2011 when the Minister for Planning and Infrastructure, Brad Hazzard, launched the Electronic Housing Code (EHC).

The EHC allows people to investigate development options available on their land. Prepare a standardised complying development application and lodge online. The system also allows developers to track the progress of their application and their approval time.

The system is only operational in 10 councils who a participating in the pilot project:

  • Bankstown
  • Blacktown
  • Lake Macquarie
  • Port Macquarie-Hastings
  • Rockdale
  • Shellharbour
  • Sutherland
  • Tamworth
  • The Hills
  • Tweed

Liverpool City Council is anticipated to be up and running in the first quarter of this year.

The system is only useful those interested in a low impact development, which meets the criteria to apply for a 10 day approval under the NSW Housing Code.

NSW has benefited from the experience of other states, particularly QLD’s RiskSmart system and Victoria’s SPEAR online lodgment system.

RiskSmart streamlines the assessment of selected low-risk development applications, significantly reducing the time it takes to process applications. Approval can be obtained in 2-5 weeks and in some cases, much sooner.

The RiskSmart DA (Development Assessment) process is currently offered by a number of Queensland Councils, including Brisbane City Council, Gold Coast Council, Logan City Council and Moreton Bay Regional Council. However, an application can be lodged by engaging an accredited RiskSmart consultant to make a RiskSmart application.

Victoria’s SPEAR, Streamlined Planning through Electronic Applications and Referrals system was an Australian first, allowing planning and subdivision applications to be complied, lodged, managed, referred, approved and tracked online. In an effort to reduce reliance on paper applications and the effort involved in lodging and tracking applications through the traditional planning processes. Unlike RiskSmart, SPEAR can be utilised by all parties involved in the planning process, though in differing capacities:

  • Applicants use SPEAR to lodge and manage their application and tack its progress
  • Consent Authorities use SPEAR to receive, manage, refer and approve applications
  • Referral Authorities use SPEAR to receive and respond to referrals
  • Member of the public can use SPEAR to find out basic information about an application and lodge and view objections.

It is hoped that the EHC system will assist in speeding up planning decisions.

There are a number of other e-planning initiatives underway within NSW, including applications for State significant development now able to be lodged and tracked online.

The man responsible for the EHC's development John Hudson, Director Sustainable Systems, NSW Department of Planning and Infrastructure ancticipates that the experiences in developing the EHC will provide useful "lessons on how to bring the planning system online." The NSW Government's comprehensive review of the NSW Environmental Planning and Assessment Act 1979, provides a great opportunity to explore how a new planning system can best utilise the capabilities of the net.