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NSW Government to mandate councils have Independent Hearing and Assessment Panels
Georges River Council is supportive of the NSW Governmentandrsquo;s decision to make Independent Hearing and Assessment Panels (IHAP) mandatory for all councils in Sydney and Wollongong, to guard against corruption and lead to better local planning decisions. Minister for Planning and Housing, Anthony Roberts, and Minister for Local Government, Gabrielle Upton, announced today (Tuesday 8 August) the Government would set a criteria for which development applications (DAs) are to go to the panels. Minister Roberts said mandatory IHAPs would bring expertise, transparency and integrity to the assessment of DAs at the local level.andldquo;It is essential the Government has a transparent and accountable process in place when assessing DAs of significant value, when there is a conflict of interest for the council or developer, or when they are of a sensitive nature,andrdquo; the Minister said.Georges River Council established its own IHAP immediately after its proclamation by the NSW Government in May 2016. The NSW Governmentandrsquo;s model closely resembles Georges Riverandrsquo;s best practice Panel.andldquo;Our expert panel has already determined more than 42 DAs with a value of more than $100 millionandrdquo; Council Administrator, John Rayner, said. andldquo;The panel visits sites, allows the applicant and objectors to put forward their point of view, and determines an application totally on merit. Panel members are highly qualified and a community representative adds a local perspective. andldquo;The independent panel also decides on planning and development matters where Council has a financial interest and this overcomes perceptions that Councils give approvals to suit their own purposes.andrdquo; andldquo;While there is a cost in paying panel members, this is insignificant compared with the reduction in legal expenses Council can face in defending decisions in the Land and Environment Court. In fact, Georges River Councilandrsquo;s legal expenses for 2016/17 were the lowest in the past three years.andrdquo; Mr Rayner added. andldquo;We expect these panels to give communities and ratepayers greater certainty about planning decisions and will improve the probity standards and reputation of local councilsandrdquo; he said. For more information please contact Council via 9330 6400.