ANSWERS: Joe Lenzo says the inquiry was timely and achieved industry’s desired result. Photo: Attila Csaszar

Complaints process focus of DAP inquiry

An inquiry into Western Australia’s development assessment panels has recommended a more transparent process to deal with complaints regarding decisions, but has ruled out allowing third-party appeals.


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Mt Lawley. Email:
The Property Council response to the report on Development Assessment Panels ('Complaints focus of DAP inquiry', Business News, 11th September 2015) is so predictable as to be almost laughable. Of course the Property Council supports a report that doesn't address the key issues of community interest and variations from planning schemes and policies. We all know that DAPs favour development interests, but Joe Lenzo doesn't tell us why the community interest should be ignored in this way. Unless Joe Lenzo already lives in an apartment tower, would he be happy for one the DAPs' outrageous approved developments to be built in his neighbourhood? Even if he does live in an apartment tower, would he be happy about another tower intruding into his view. I suspect that were such a tower to be approved by a DAP, Mr Lenzo might well have a different view on third-party appeals. Perhaps one reason the development industry appears to be so keen on isolated high-rise/high-density rather than towers grouped in centres with good access (eg around train stations) is that it can sell the uninterrupted views at a premium. It is, incidentally, worth noting that third-party appeal rights do exist in other places and do not appear to have the dire consequences Mr Lenzo fears. In Queensland, for example, the Sustainable Planning Act, 2009, provides for any person who has made a proper submission on a development application to have a right of appeal against a development decision or in respect of conditions that form part of that approval. The Queensland Government is currently reviewing its planning legislation ( and proposes to retain the third-party appeal right provision. It seems to me that restricting that right to those who have expressed an interest in or concern about a development proposal at the assessment stage, through making a submission, is a sensible way of managing third party appeal rights. Those with a genuine interest would have this right available to them, but the 'johnny-come-lately' and opportunistic objectors would be precluded. Let's not forget, also, that appeals are not costless; the playing field is not level. Individuals and community groups rarely have much in the way of resources, but the development industry has deep pockets with the further advantage that appeal costs are tax-deductible. Any talk of appeal rights is predicated, however, on the decision-making process itself being open, participatory and accountable. It is by no means clear that the DAPs come within the proverbial bull's roar of this state of affairs. The Legislative Council Committee's report also criticises local governments for 'outdated and inconsistent planning schemes', apparently ignoring the facts that (a) the WA Planning Commission itself is often a major contributor to delays in adoption of new planning schemes and (b) the WAPC requires schemes to comply with its 'Model Scheme Text' under the Town Planning Regulations. If local governments are to be held to account for delays in reviewing town planning schemes, let's also apply the same scrutiny to the WA Planning Commission.

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