Council’s DA process stifling economy
We all accept that the 2016 forced merger of Gosford and Wyong Councils has been a disaster right from start.
The first phase in the amalgamation of Central Coast Council saw the Administrator back off from anything contentious leaving it to the elected council. So the whole organisation virtually went into limbo for eighteen months until we ended up with an elected council.
This council under Mayor Jane Smith, former CEO (part-time) of Community Environment Network, resulted in one of the most dysfunctional organisations ever to be foisted upon ratepayers and business anywhere.
It ended up mismanaged, over staffed and in colossal debt and something more sinister – an Environment and Planning Department with a dislike for property developers and anyone who wanted to build a factory or business on an industrial zoned and employ people.
The banks woke up and in November 2020 forced the Government appoint Administrator, Dick Persson who appointed a CEO Rik Hart to get the finances and staffing, among other things, under control.
It worked and now this Council, under Administrator Rik Hart who took over from Dick Persson and CEO David Farmer, Council’s finances are in good shape.
One thing that hasn’t changed however is the workings of Council’s Environment and Planning Department.
(Putting the words Environment and Planning together to form a Department of Environment and Planning has to be one of the more absurd oxymoron ever. However, it explains Council’s priorities when it comes to the growth of the region.)
While the hierarchy at Council has sat back and allowed a culture of delaying and denying legitimate Development Applications to thrive, exasperated property developers are now falling back on the only remedy they have – the Land and Environment Court.
It matters not that Council staff are tied up in Court hearings that finally result in them losing almost all cases. And the legal costs it seems are worth the effort of denying any form of development.
There are two issues here.
One is residential subdivisions and here at present Council is opposing around 3,000 lots that could and should be developed at once. Additionally, builders across the Coast who just want to build a house in established residential areas are finding that a simple Development Application will take 12 months or more to get approval.
Meanwhile, building costs are skyrocketing, builders are going broke and people are living rough because the housing supply has been stymied by people within council who see their job as denying any form of development.
This month CCBR focusses on the frustrations of developers who see no way out and are heading for the Land and Environment Court.
As the Court brings down its Decisions on these cases CCBR will be highlighting the reasons behind each.
While housing is a critical issue there is also the issue of building on industrial zoned land and the absurd reasons behind refusals and delays.
The bottom line behind all of this is that Council has no concern for the damage it is doing to the regional economy.
Having fixed all the financial and staffing issues it is now time for this Council to remedy the economic damage and get on with the job of growing the Coast’s economy and creating jobs.
Meanwhile to throw people off the scent, Council has come up with a draft Local Housing Strategy (see Page 9) which they put out for public exhibition in January and in April held a ‘Consultation Session’ with key stakeholders to comment on.
In their media release they say:
“Council recognises that it has an important role to play in addressing local housing issues, by ensuring that there is an adequate supply of land in appropriate locations through land use zoning, co-ordinating infrastructure delivery and managing development assessment processes efficiently.”