Rita Saffioti says the new reform will reduce duplication and create a more transparent and accountable process. Photo: Attila Csaszar

LandCorp and MRA to merge

Wednesday, 22 November, 2017 - 15:19

The state government has announced a progressive merger of its two land development agencies, LandCorp and the Metropolitan Redevelopment Authority, with the property industry calling for the new agency to retain the planning approvals powers held by the MRA.

The merger will occur over two years to ultimately create one central agency for land development.

This, the government said, would reduce duplication and provide a more effective and professional organisation.

The reform is a continuation of changes made to the public sector, with the first stage announced in April, which reduced the number of government departments by 40 per cent.

The as-yet unnamed new land agency will assume responsibility for metropolitan planning activities and have a sharper focus on delivering economic opportunities in regional WA. It will also include the creation of the Industrial Lands Authority arm to streamline job-creating projects aimed at strengthening the WA economy.

The government said it would also look at integrating the Department of Communities' housing development arm.

Ms Saffioti said this was the start of a major reform process to ensure the government was equipped to create stronger suburbs with more housing choice, better public transport connections and sustainable communities.

"This reform will reduce duplication, and ensure we have the best possible team in government to deliver key policy priorities such as Metronet and regional projects such as the Bunbury Waterfront," she said. 

"The new structure will also create a more transparent and accountable process that will ensure greater financial rigour is placed on the key land development activities.

"The planning and development functions will remain, and the focus on key areas such as regional development and urban renewal projects will continue.”

LandCorp and the MRA will continue to operate in their current form during the transition period, while the state government work on legal and structural changes that need to be implemented.

Ms Saffioti said there would be a focus on creating a financially sustainable entity during this transition period.

An administration merger is set to be finalised by 2019 and will involve: the appointment of common directors to both boards beginning January 2018; the creation of a standing subcommittee of the joint board to manage the transition of the two organisations into a single entity; the appointment of a single CEO to take effect on or before January 1 2019; and a review of all projects, assets and liabilities to enable an optimisation of organisational and project efficiencies.

Any necessary legislative changes will follow.

Property Council of Australia WA executive director Lino Iacomella has backed today’s announcement.

“Merging LandCorp and the MRA  makes sense because there are duplication of activities,” Mr Iacomella said.  

“It creates a more streamlined process of delivering major state projects. The current process can be confusing because LandCorp’s projects followed the traditional local government approvals process, whereas the MRA followed an internal approvals process.

“To be effective for projects like Metronet, the new agency must also retain planning approvals powers.

“However, it is crucial that the government also puts strict limits on the new bigger land agency so that private industry is still able to operate effectively.”

Mr Iacomella said the reform was also an opportunity for government to re-set the boundaries for the operations of a government land agency in the broader market.

“Over many decades the government’s land agencies have taken on work that could ordinarily be done by the private sector," he said.

“The new land agency needs to focus on delivering state strategic projects and projects that need significant de-constraining to be viable in the regular market."

Mr Iacomella was also pleased a specialist authority would lead the government’s industrial lands development.

“For too long the government’s industrial land strategy has been ineffective because of a lack of focus,” he said.

“It is crucial that the new Industrial Lands Authority is backed up with adequate infrastructure funding to ensure WA’s industrial lands needs are property met.”