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Performance benchmarking of Australian business regulation: planning, zoning and development assessments

19 May 2011

This report identifies wide-ranging differences in the ways all levels of government plan and zone land uses and assess development proposals.

In Performance Benchmarking of Australian Business Regulation: Planning, Zoning and Development Assessments – a report commissioned by COAG – the Commission compared the regulatory frameworks, land supply processes, developer contributions, assessment and referral processes, and the impacts of planning and zoning on competition in retail markets of the jurisdictions.  Governance, community engagement and transparency and accountability were also explored.

Commissioner Louise Sylvan said: 'By its very nature, planning and zoning land to enable uses that will optimise the welfare of communities and the nation is complicated. However, this complexity can be managed better to deliver better outcomes.'

The planning task is also suffering from ‘objectives overload’, according to the Commission. A growing number of issues and policy agendas impact on land-use considerations, including population pressures, climate change and risks posed by fires and floods. The many cases where the costs of a land use are borne by people in localised areas, while the benefits are shared across a whole city or region — such as major residential developments or waste disposal sites — pose a core challenge.

The report identifies numerous ‘leading practices’ which can contribute to smoother processes and improved outcomes, such as:

  • ensuring that local plans are more quickly brought up to date with the strategic city plans
  • completing structure planning of greenfield areas before development commences
  • ensuring alternative development and rezoning assessment mechanisms are transparent and independent and have clear criteria for triggering them
  • engaging the community and business as partners and clients in planning.

Although each jurisdiction is home to at least one leading practice, the report concludes that there are opportunities for all jurisdictions to improve the way they operate in this important area, in order to reduce burdens on business and costs to the community, as well as to increase competition and improve the liveability of cities.