NSW planning minister admits high density wrecks liveability

In a rare slice of honesty, NSW Planning Minister, Rob Stokes, has admitted that high-rise apartments wreck liveability:

A Reserve Bank report last week suggested that doubling the construction of high-density units every year would reduce housing costs by 2.5%per annum.

Mr Stokes warned that a modest benefit to homebuyers [in price reduction from more high-rise] would become a “massive potential cost to everyone else” in NSW due to increased traffic congestion from higher urban density, heritage impacts and the need to retrofit utilities, hospitals and schools to cope.

“There just seems to be this constant pressure from economists that the planning system is to blame for all of society’s ills,” he said…

“It completely fails to consider the congestion costs, the amenity costs, the heritage costs, the overshadowing costs, the wind tunnelling costs. Of course we need more housing but it’s not right to say it should all be two-bedroom houses in high-rise apartment buildings.”

True enough. So why then, after a decade of unprecedented high-rise construction, is Rob Stokes so adamant to accelerate development by cutting ‘red tape’?

In April, Rob Stokes used the COVID-19 pandemic as an excuse to turbo-charge development:

NSW planning processes and development applications will be fast-tracked in a bid to support the construction sector and maintain jobs during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Assessments of state significant developments, rezoning and development applications will be accelerated under the changes announced by Planning Minister Rob Stokes… More decisions will be made by the minister if required…

“We have incredible opportunity to help keep our state’s economy moving and keeping people in jobs and also keeping businesses operating,” he told a Commission for Sydney event…

Mr Stokes said the so-called planning system acceleration program would create opportunities for more than 30,000 construction jobs in the next six months.

Then in late May, 10 News revealed that the deputy executive director of the Property Council of NSW, William Power, was asked by the NSW State Government to become the executive director of the planning department’s COVID-19 response.

As expected, that response involved fast tracking the decision making around major projects, some of which were proposed by members of the Property Council.

And last month, the Greater Sydney Commission (GSC) appointed the NSW Property Council head as its CEO:

The Property Council of Australia congratulates Jane Fitzgerald on her appointment as interim Chief Executive for the Greater Sydney Commission.

Jane has been the Property Council’s NSW Executive Director since 2016 and over that time has played a major role in tax, planning and infrastructure policy in NSW…

“Jane has a deep understanding of the challenges and opportunities that will shape Sydney’s future based on her extensive experience working across government and industry. I’m sure she will be incredibly successful in this role,” said Ken Morrison, Property Council of Australia Chief Executive.

“The Greater Sydney Commission is a vitally important body and Jane’s role in helping the NSW Government and the people of Sydney shape the future of this city in a post-COVID world will be vital.

“We thank her for the big contribution she has made on behalf of our members and industry and wish every success in her new role,” Mr Morrison said.

The GSC was set up by the NSW Government to “lead metropolitan planning to make Greater Sydney more productive, sustainable and liveable”. It’s role is to “coordinate and align the planning that will shape the future of Greater Sydney… taking a collaborative “one government” approach… so we can lead and guide the planning for development, transport and housing”.

Game of Mates has clearly infiltrated the NSW Government, with the Property Council pulling the strings and advocating for more shoddy developments.

Sydneysiders should brace for another deluge of poorly-built shoe box apartments and destroyed amenity.

Leith van Onselen
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