20/02/2007 - 22:00

Master plan call for South West

20/02/2007 - 22:00

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A radical new proposal by the Property Council of Australia to unite the South West under a single development master plan and create four local ‘super’ authorities has sparked fresh debate on regional council reform.

Master plan call for South West

A radical new proposal by the Property Council of Australia to unite the South West under a single development master plan and create four local ‘super’ authorities has sparked fresh debate on regional council reform.

Released in Bunbury last week, the PCA discussion paper titled ‘South West, now is the time’ outlined 26 initiatives, including the development of a regional strategic master plan, a reduction in the number of local governments and the establishment of a South West Regional Planning Authority.

A number of transport, tourism, education and environmental strategies were also revealed, namely the extension of the Metro-Rail line from Mandurah to Bunbury, building a railway spur to Kemerton Industrial Park, and the establishment of at least one additional university within the next five years.

The PCA is concerned that the current ad-hoc approach to planning in the region will result in significant barriers to long-term growth.

By 2031, it is expected the region will experience an average of 40 per cent economic growth and reach a population of around 190,000 people.

PCA WA executive director Joe Lenzo said the overwhelming opinion in the South West was that there were too many agencies operating in the region, with small plans that were reactive and lacking a big-picture vision.

The initiatives emerged from extensive community consultation around the region, including 26 public sector agencies.

“There is a lack of overall strategic planning in the South West resulting from too many competing micro strategies,” Mr Lenzo said.

It is understood there are 28 different blueprints currently being implemented in the region by 28 different bodies with little reference to each other.

WA Country Builders South West sales and marketing manager Peter Cherry believed the initiatives were principally driven by the developers who were after faster land approvals.

The company currently has between 600 and 700 homes under construction in WA, with many concentrated in the South West.

“From a builder’s perspective, clients are affected by low affordability of property and the land component is a big driver of that,” Mr Cherry told WA Business News.

“If it can be clearly demonstrated that amalgamating some councils or creating a development authority will make more land available, then we would support it.”

WA Country Builders has reportedly found smaller councils exceptionally adept at dealing with projects, while some larger councils were found to be “less reactive”.

Responding to issues raised in the discussion paper, Planning and Infrastructure Minister Alannah MacTiernan said while there were some valuable ideas in the paper, there were also some glaring omissions.

“There is a total lack of financial accountability. The discussion paper calls for state government and local government expenditure which appears to total billions of dollars and, at the same time, call for cuts in state government taxes and charges…don’t tax, but spend, spend, spend,” Ms MacTiernan said.

But the property council hit back, saying the state government’s $2.62 billion tax take from the property sector already made up more than half of total state tax revenue in 2005-06.

“The South West deserves better from the state government, which is reaping huge tax revenue gains from the property sector, particularly in the South West,” Mr Lenzo said.

 “Now is the time for the South West to take advantage of the state’s economic boom and fully realise its potential.”

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