Changes to NSW developer levies look likely

Controversial changes to developer levies in NSW look set to go ahead, with the NSW Planning Minister, Rob Stokes, saying he is “impatient for reform” despite pushback from councils.

Asked if he was open to making amendments to the proposed Environmental Planning and Assessment Act legislation during a NSW parliamentary committee hearing, Minister Stokes said he wanted to press ahead with the reform.

“Yes I do want to move reasonably quickly because I’m impatient for reform,” he said.

The legislation, which is yet to pass parliament, would implement recommendations contained a Productivity Commission report released last year, but councils say it will also provide the government with powers to implement other reforms without parliamentary scrutiny.

The Bill replaces special infrastructure contributions with a broad-based pooled regional contributions system. It also extends provisions, originally introduced in response to Covid, allowing developers to defer payments until after construction.

Councils say the legislation, due to come into force next July, leaves uncertainty about the sorts of projects that will be eligible for contributions, will delay and reduce payments to councils, and allow the planning minister to decide what developer levies are spent on, and when they are paid.

LGNSW president Linda Scott said the plans would result in a “lose, lose, lose scenario”.

“This is a one-sided approach that risks letting developers off the hook at the expense of communities and still does not resolve the financial needs of councils to support more infrastructure,” Cr Scott told the committee.

City of Sydney Lord Mayor Clover Moore said the legislation would allow the state to take 50 per cent of the City’s developer contributions and expect Council to make up the shortfall by raising rates.

“We estimate that the city would need to raise rates by 13 per cent a year,” she said.

She said the legislation would radically change the way local infrastructure is planned, funded and delivered and curtail the ability of local government to deliver.

“This bill threatens the financial viability of local councils,” she said.

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