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Property Council says independent umpire undermined
Released 22 June 2011

The determination of major projects that create housing and jobs is being exposed to local politics and made more inefficient, according to the Property Council of Australia.    

The Property Council of Australia said NSW Government has announced changes to the independent umpire in development assessment – the Joint Regional Planning Panels.

The threshold on eligible projects has been increased from $10 million to $20 million, and the role of chairing panels will need the sign-off of local politicians.

NSW Executive Director Glenn Byres said the umpire’s independence has been undermined in a blow to the property sector that powers the NSW economy.

“Giving local politicians an approval role in selecting chairs effectively switches the balance of power on the panels in favour of local politics.

He said the move to increase the threshold on the independent panels also increased the role of politicians in development assessment.

“The Government argued Part 3A had to be abolished because it left the determination of projects in the hands of politicians.

“It makes no sense to then reduce the number of projects determined on merit by an independent umpire and instead have them decided by local politicians.

Byres said NSW desperately needs to kickstart the generation of new investment, housing and jobs.

“The property sector contributes more jobs than any industry in NSW, with 366,000 people employed by the industry. It also generates over $44 billion each year to economic growth and pays $18.5 billion in wages to NSW families and workers.

“The sector is crucial to the economy yet remains under strain, with NSW producing fewer homes than Victoria and Queensland.

“The increased politicisation of projects will do nothing to reverse the trend.”