24/10/2006 - 22:00

Planning power to go regional

24/10/2006 - 22:00

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Western Australian Planning Commission chairman Jeremy Dawkins believes the state’s future regional planning powers may be decentralised, with regional lead agencies taking control using their own budgets and simple region schemes.

Western Australian Planning Commission chairman Jeremy Dawkins believes the state’s future regional planning powers may be decentralised, with regional lead agencies taking control using their own budgets and simple region schemes.

Mr Dawkins expressed his desire to see greater regional decision-making structures in his address to the Infrastructure WA conference last week entitled Coordinating Urban Infrastructure - Making a Good System Better.

“I think the main deficiency in our present system is its weakness in the regions, and it’s in the regions where the big resource development projects are happening. It’s in the regions where equity and access is most important,” he said.

“Each region needs to have a lead agency, to which the regional [government] branches and other agencies can relate and operate through…there has to be seen to be a whole of government input.”

His comments follow the government’s release of its State Infrastructure Strategy green paper last month, which provide a framework to identify and prioritise WA’s infrastructure needs for the next 20 years.

The government estimates public and private infrastructure investment could reach $650 billion over the period, and through the strategy, aims to provide greater certainty about the nature, timing and location of ‘big ticket’ infrastructure projects.

Mr Dawkins applauded the strategy and said without good planning and coordination of infrastructure, efficiency, equity and accessibility would suffer, and the state would be less competitive.

However, he believed the green paper’s ability to be “government ready” presented a challenge and carried something of a contradiction, in that it recognised long-term planning and provision for major projects which were unknown, but expected a quick response in the short-term when they emerge.

“Somehow we have to be simultaneously allocating routes, land and resources in the long-term for projects we don’t yet know about, and then be highly responsive in the short-term when they emerge,” he said.

“When they do emerge, the demands of resource based projects often compete with the demands for ongoing social and urban infrastructure.”

During his speech, Mr Dawkins highlighted increasing local government support for separate region schemes, such as the Greater Bunbury Region Scheme, which is to be tabled by parliament shortly.

He also revealed a growing consensus for a region scheme in the Gascoyne region to manage potential urban development and infrastructure projects along the Ningaloo Coast, as well as in the Great Southern and Mid-West regions.

The State Infrastructure Strategy will be subject to biennial and five-yearly comprehensive reviews

Public submissions on issues raised in the green paper can be made until Friday December 15, and a white paper, which will finalise the strategy, is due to be released in 2007.

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