The poor vision of Planning Minister Goward

What hope does good planning in NSW have when our Minister (newly appointed Pru Goward) believes the answer is what he community is prepared to live with and the least worst option!

What happened to a vision of providing the best outcomes for the whole community? What happened to integrating public transport, housing and conservation? What happened to making sure we leave the place non-polluted for our children’s children?

Maybe as the NSW Government struggles to fulfil their election promise of returning planning power to local communities they have given us a Minister who they perceive is the least worst option.

James Ryan

NSW planning: Density the price of convenience, says Goward

May 31, 2014

   Urban Affairs Reporter


-“We all have to share the burden, as well as the benefits, of growth”: Pru Goward. Photo: Brendan Esposito

Planning Minister Pru Goward has sent a stark message to Sydney’s established garden suburbs, warning if you live near a train station, be prepared for more density. If you want ready access to jobs or public services? Be prepared for more density.

It won’t only be Parramatta and Liverpool that feel the squeeze, the leafy north shore is also in her sights. Sydney is set for another 1.6 million residents by 2031 and the new planning minister says some of them will ”absolutely” be living near you.

“You can’t live in one part of Sydney and demand that you be in a little oasis of a garden suburb and yet demand that there be greater economic growth because you want job opportunities for your children,” Ms Goward said. “We all have to share the burden, as well as the benefits, of growth.”

It is a message that she applies equally to regional NSW, the inner city and Sydney’s west. But Ms Goward faces a tougher sell in some former planning battlegrounds, such as Ku-ring-gai, where density is still a dirty word. ”You can’t start exempting the north shore,” she said. ”We’ve all got to take our share.”

The MP for Goulburn – who took on the planning portfolio a month ago after a bruising run in community services – comes ready to argue growth’s fairest path is compromise.

“Planning is about trade-offs,” she said. ”It is about balancing competing interests. There is no right answer; it’s the answer that the community is prepared to live with, and often the answer is the least-worst option.”

The blueprint unveiled by former planning minister Brad Hazzard is unlikely to be one of those options.

“The planning bill, I have to say, is looking as though it would struggle to get through,” said Ms Goward, who was “not hopeful” after discussions with crossbenchers, who blocked key components in the upper house.

Even so, the most controversial element may survive the bill’s unceremonious defeat. Ms Goward said the fast-track development approval path known as “code assessment” had its place: ”We just have to work out where.

”Some communities are more tolerant than others,” she said, signalling that willing councils may be given a chance to opt in. “It’s a bit like any reform, including welfare reform: people are going to be very hesitant about a new way of doing business, and a good way to start is often to allow those organisations that want to try the new way of doing it to step in.”

A new way of doing things has so far included sacking the department’s long-term head, Sam Haddad – necessary for ”a fresh pair of eyes”, she said.

Ms Goward was also confident that a public sceptical about urban activation precincts – plans for high-rise housing and jobs near transport hubs – could be won over by what was a ”great opportunity at the beginning of this century” rather than ”big, bad hideous places to live”.

The precincts could be rolled out ”wherever there’s a train line,” she said.

This is one front where Ms Goward already has her work cut out. Three of the eight precincts already announced – at Randwick, Maroubra South and Mascot – have stalled amid a public and council backlash.

Better Planning Network convener Corinne Fisher, whose organisation represents more than 400 community groups, said residents were also critical of another at North Ryde.

”There’s a very strong feeling that their input into zoning controls in the UAP have absolutely been completely ignored,” Ms Fisher said.

Urban Taskforce’s chief executive Chris Johnson welcomed the minister’s statements in support of growth, but said it was waiting to see what direction she would take.

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