Industry groups welcome Rob Stokes as NSW’s new Planning Minister

Following his re-election at the end of March, New South Wales Premier Mike Baird last week announced a reshuffled Cabinet to deliver on the Coalition’s mandate to provide an extra $20 billion for infrastructure in the state’s cities and regions.

The Property Council of Australia and Urban Taskforce welcomed the appointment of former Environment Minister Rob Stokes to the position of Planning Minister and said they looked forward to working with the Minister to progress a number of unfinished reforms.

Mr Stokes takes over the planning portfolio from Pru Goward, whose responsibilities now include the areas of Mental Health, Medical Research, Women, and the new portfolio of Prevention of Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault.

“Mr Stokes showed a great appetite for reform in the environment portfolio and served as a Shadow Parliament Secretary for Planning,” said NSW Executive Director of the Property Council, Glenn Byres.

“He has a great opportunity to fix the State’s broken planning system, which remains the biggest piece of unfinished business from the Government’s first term.

“The Government needs to revisit efforts to transform the planning system through new legislation that cuts red tape, creates clear rules and reduces time and costs for projects.

“The other big imperative is to see the proposal for a Greater Sydney Commission converted into a meaningful agency that can cut through bureaucratic barriers and inertia,” Mr Byres said, adding that the new Commission needs to be truly independent and empowered to drive change.

Urban Taskforce CEO, Chris Johnson, said he looked forward to a fruitful relationship with the new Minister, having worked effectively with Mr Stokes in his previous portfolio.

“There are a number of reform areas in planning that did not reach a satisfactory solution during the last term of the government and Minister Stokes will need to get hold of this unfinished business quickly to bed down the governance structure and the legislative framework,” Mr Johnson said.

“The previous White Paper on Planning Reform raised the need to rethink zoning, strategic planning, to extend complying development and generally simplify our complex planning system. A crucial issue will be how communities are constructively involved in the planning process without frustrating potential investment in much needed new housing.

“The new minister will also need to work with the Minister for Local Government on the potential reforms of local government so that an effective system evolves. This will include the urgent establishment of the Greater Sydney Commission and how this body is able to ensure the delivery of housing and jobs targets while involving reformed local governments.”

In other areas, Andrew Constance is now the Minister for Transport and Infrastructure, with previous Transport Minister Gladys Berejiklian taking over the role of Treasurer; Mark Speakman becomes Minister for the Environment, Minister for Heritage and Assistant Minister for Planning; Paule Toole remains as Minister for Local Government; and Duncan Gay remains as the renamed Minister for Roads, Maritime and Freight.

Source: News Release, Urbanalyst, 7 April, 2015

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