Local Government reorganisation: People matter in Planning

It would be no surprise that to the WA State Government that the re-organisation of Local Government would be aggravated and highly controversial. Obviously perceived winners and losers will use all available means to defend and promote their long established local Civic territory and traditions.

However, what was perhaps less obvious is further concentration of land-use Planning powers with fewer, larger Local Authorities, and arising from that, inevitable pressure on the State Government to relinquish some control to the new Councils.– Perhaps not of the larger-scale strategic role of the WA Planning Commission, but of the highly prescriptive role it has developed over the relative minutiae of development at the very local level, through its detailed ‘guidelines’ and associated procedures that in formal terms all funnel up to a Government Minister to decide, on the advice of the WAPC.

That pressure had been building anyway as successive State Governments have progressively complicated the approvals system and introduced other centrally-determined decision-making layers over and above Local Councils e.g. Development Assessment Panels and the Metropolitan Redevelopment Planning Authority.- All with the cumulative effect of weakening the authority of Local Councils to actually determine approvals on planning developments in their localities.

Many Local Authorities; meaning  the Elected Member Councils not the Executive officers, often feel intimidated by this centralised System whereby all decisions responding to local development proposals have to pass through a lengthening line of over-riding external authority, and also meet WAPC ‘Guidelines’ -(that were formed remotely from direct relevance to actual local circumstances).

Local Authorities through their Executive Officers are ‘presumed’ by the procedural guidelines to be fully aware of detailed local site conditions and evolving social circumstances in their various localities, but it is well known that in reality with very few exceptions, their resources have been completely inadequate for that complex purpose, and commercial developers vary rarely research those adequately, if at all.

Consequently, the existing system has already become pre-loaded to minimise the relevance and authority of Local Councils in decision-making. Yet ‘Planning’ decisions actually pre-determine and create the future living environments and directly influence life-styles of all those thousands of people that Local Councils are meant to represent and care about .(i.e. Those that all this Planning is supposed to benefit, and who actually pay taxes to have done competently and fairly on their behalf!)

Local Authority Reorganisation already a hot issue in 2014, with controversy about planning powers now emerging,  is about to get even hotter in 2015.

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