MANY of the participants in the recent WA Business News heritage forum considered the State Government’s implementation of planning authorities to be a double-edged sword.
“There is an ideology within the property development industry that basically the heavy hand of government should be removed and the private sector will do the right thing,” Heritage Council chairman Patric de Villiers said.
“I would like to challenge that in the sense that if you look at the very substantial benefits to have flowed to the private sector out of the East Perth and Subiaco redevelopment, where they have got appalling constraints on what they can do.”
Property Council executive director Joe Lenzo agreed that the development industry had done well out of East Perth and Subiaco. But he said the reason for that was because a planning authority had been in place to bypass all the planning rules and provide a succinct, clear system of what developers could and couldn’t do.
“The certainty issue is the biggest factor,” he told the forum.
WA Business News executive director Elton Swarts raised the point that it was due to the implementation of a planning authority in Subiaco and East Perth that these areas had become the “places to be”.
“So in essence, by the big system breaking down you precipitate the need to have these authorities and then you build an authority and you give them carte blanche authority, both politically and over process and they riot against all the other process,” Mr Swarts said.
Mr Lenzo agreed that State planning authorities were an indictment on the current planning system.
Mr de Villiers said the practice of creating a State planning authority was common in Australia.
“The current system is so bad that if you want to do anything different or big you have to run around the system,” he said.
Mr de Villiers said he was doing strategic planning for Perth and that “when you do strategic planning you had a category called governance”.
“And the governance for Perth is really simple. We can put a new coordinating mechanism … with no statutory power and no budget,” he said.
“So they wave their arms loudly and have enough coffees with enough people and maybe life will be slightly better than it is now.
“On the other end, blow the bum off the system get rid of the council, restructure, you know the big stuff that is never going to get up.
“And in the middle, the too-hard bit, cut it off and give it to Tony Morgan [SRDA and EPRA chief executive].”
National Trust chief executive Tom Perrigo lambasted the planning authority’s redevelopments of Subiaco and East Perth.
“I am not so convinced and neither is my organisation that the heritage values of East Perth and Subiaco have been properly conserved,” Mr Perrigo said.
“I am not quite sure in 20 years’ time that we haven’t created a slum.”
He said a standard model of economic growth had been created, but in reality this model had destroyed the character of what has made these places special.
“I’m not convinced that a development authority that is the developer and planning approval – talk about a conflict of interests folks – is the right way to go either,” Mr Perrigo said.
“Where is the regulator for the development authorities?”
Mr de Villiers said that, at the end of the day, it was who set the parameters and who set the criteria that defined what was delivered.
“The reason Tony gets slices of town is that he delivers,” he said.
“And if we are telling him to deliver the wrong thing it is an indictment on the political process. not on the delivery process.”
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