BY CAROLINE WAGNER
This month, the Greater Sydney Commission Bill passed through NSW Parliament, with the aim to improve strategic planning in Sydney.
Labor and The Coalition both voted in favour of the bill on November 12, with the hope that the current disorganised system of planning will be replaced with a more holistic approach.
But Greens MLC David Shoebridge said his party voted against the bill because it meant “the death of democratic planning across the greater Sydney region”.
He said the replacement of democratically elected local councils with executive boards, chosen by the Planning Minister of the day, will remove communities from the equation.
“In 1979, NSW led the country [with] the most democratic planning regime. Not just in Australia but the western world. Now, less than four decades later, we have entirely removed democratic input into strategic planning,” Mr Shoebridge said.
“It puts in place a board, wholly appointed by the Planning Minister, who is not referable to local communities or councils, which will make all of the key strategic planning decisions for Sydney in the coming decades,” he said.
Labor made amendments to the bill before it was passed, which Shadow Minister for Planning Penny Sharpe said made “public involvement and participation one of the principal objectives of the Commission”.
“The creation of a Greater Sydney Commission was one of the Labor’s key policies in the lead up to the 2015 election, in order to provide a coordinated approach to planning, policy and infrastructure delivery across the city,” Ms Sharpe said.
Independent Sydney MP Alex Greenwich voted in favour of the bill.
In a speech in parliament, he said he hoped the bill would translate to “a new holistic and integrated approach to planning”.
He said it could end the public’s perception that Sydney planning is “about opportunities for developers to make money” at the expense of “long term public outcomes”.
But Mr Shoebridge said that the Commission “will give even greater avenues for developers to sidestep the community, who will be irrelevant, and directly approach the
Greater Sydney Commission for spot re-zonings and fundamental planning changes”.
He said the NSW Greens will attempt to repeal the bill.
“[The commission is] not elected by residents, they’re not accountable to residents…the Greater Sydney Commission can only be improved by being repealed,” Mr Shoebridge said.