23/09/2010 - 00:00

Federal red tape

23/09/2010 - 00:00


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DESPITE the state government’s best efforts to simplify the process, planning and environmental approvals remain a fundamental hurdle in satisfying demand for land.

Federal red tape

DESPITE the state government’s best efforts to simplify the process, planning and environmental approvals remain a fundamental hurdle in satisfying demand for land.

The development industry’s biggest concern remains the amount of time it takes to push a project not only through the state approvals process, but also federal environmental departments.

“A major masterplanned community takes longer to approve than a major project like Gorgon,” Satterley Property Group managing director Nigel Satterley said.

Legislation to introduce specialist development assessment panels, which passed through state parliament in August, should ease pressure on local government authorities, but Mr Satterley said a priority should be on incorporating federal environmental requirements into the state planning process for endangered fauna.

“Basically the federal environmental process is fairly onerous, and the feds have got jurisdiction over the states.

“What we want to do is encourage the Barnett government to enter a bi-lateral agreement, similar to what Victoria has done, so that the state agency here deals with Carnaby’s Cockatoos and the Golden Sun Moth.”

Aspen Living chief executive Chris Lewis said the nature of land available for development, and market requirements for sustainable design led to more reliance on the federal Department for Environment, which he said was under-resourced.

“The easy land to develop has been developed, so you’re dealing with land that has more environmental constraints,” Mr Lewis said.

“There is a higher requirement for better outcomes, because as an industry we’re meeting the market in terms of sustainability, the market is ultimately the one that says ‘this is what we want and we deliver it’.

“We lack resources in that area to be able to respond quickly.”

Dealing with the federal department could sometimes be cumbersome and difficult, Port Bouvard chief executive John Wroth said.

“You’re looking at three to five years to get a piece of land re-zoned with a subdivision application, to add that uncertainty there is not a good outcome,” Mr Wroth said.

“Anything that creates uncertainty makes it that much harder for a developer to put those other pieces together. It’s not just the planning uncertainty; it makes it harder for any company to raise money from the banks.

Mr Wroth warned that the federal approvals process could become even more cumbersome after the Greens’ rise to prominence in the Senate in the federal election.

He pointed to Port Bouvard’s experiences attempting to develop a masterplanned community at Gidgegannup as evidence the multi-layered approvals process could derail a development, even when the subject land is zoned urban or residential.

Port Bouvard cancelled its plans to develop at Gidgegannup in May, which contributed to the firm posting a $26 million loss last financial year.

“The issues that Port Bouvard had with Gidgegannup in terms of when it believed it would get planning approvals and be able to bring product to market, created uncertainty to a degree.”

“Things were never identified fast enough for us, but it’s still been recognised, and as far as development is concerned, there is a lot of sound principle around the work that we’ve done up there.”



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