Regional councils get financial support for digitising planning process

Regional councils across the State will have access to almost $5 million funding to digitise their planning processes thanks to the advocacy efforts of NSW’s peak body for councils.

Local Government NSW (LGNSW) President Linda Scott said the funding would help councils transition their existing planning procedures to the statewide e-planning platform by 1 July 2021.

“For many years some councils have implemented their own online development application (DA) lodgement systems, and when the NSW Government announced plans for a uniform, digitised e-planning portal we were cautiously optimistic,” Cr Scott said.

“We welcomed the new system but wanted to ensure that councils would not be left holding the can of implementation and upkeep costs. Councils already bear a cost shifting bill of more than $820 million a year and we should be doing everything possible to reduce it, not add to it.

“In our submission to the 2020-21 State Budget, we called on the Government to fund the integration to the new system to ensure ratepayers don’t end up bearing the costs, and a resolution of our annual conference last November echoed this call.

“Funding support should not just reflect the implementation of the new processes but the need to cover staff training and community awareness.

“I am pleased the Government has listened to our calls with this latest funding announcement, which will not only alleviate some of the financial pressure of implementing the compulsory new system but also improve efficiencies in the longer term through simplifying planning processes.”

Up to $50,000 funding will be available to 95 regional councils and the Lord Howe Island Board to help with the transition to the Government’s planning portal, which will streamline council lodgements of development applications and complying development certificates.

“While there are still teething problems as councils work to integrate the changes with their own systems, in the long term it will prove to be a time saving and cost saving process for councils that will also make it easier for applicants and local communities,” Cr Scott said.

Cr Scott said LGNSW had signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the NSW Government last July ensuring provision of online tools to maximise ease of use of the new system as well as the Department of Planning, Industry and Environment’s responsibility to protect the privacy and maintain the system.

Regional councils are encouraged to apply for the grants via the Planning Portal. Applications close 30 April 2021.

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