The Environmental Planning and Assessment Amendment Bill 2017 amends the Act that underpins planning regulations in New South Wales. These measures aim to tidy and to streamline planning processes across the State. I will briefly address some of the elements of the bill that may have the greatest impact. I will also put on the record the strong objections of inner west residents to this Government's greedy and developer-driven approach to planning.
It is clear that this Government is interested only in lining the pockets of developers and the big end of town at the expense of local residents and the future of our communities. By 2036, our city will be home to six million people, and by 2056 that number will reach eight million. That growth—fuelled by immigration, interstate relocations and births—will spur its fair share of economic progress, jobs and opportunity. The growth of our city is exciting, and it is welcome. However, it also presents challenges that we cannot afford to ignore. Our growth will also put immense pressure on our infrastructure; in fact, it already has. As any resident of New South Wales knows, our schools are creaking under the pressure of enrolments; patients are queuing at our hospitals, with waitlists for elective surgeries stretching for months to years; our urban environment is rapidly degrading; and entire generations are being locked out of secure and affordable housing. I also recall recent community discussions about the need for a larger urban green canopy in our city. We must focus on these issues now; we are facing an immediate crisis.
It is crystal clear that we must account for growth in our suburbs, but we must also invest in the services and infrastructure that make them livable. Clearly, we need a planning system that acts in the interests of future generations. I am sure that the Government's approach is not working. Unfortunately, this bill is a far cry from the sweeping reforms promised by the former Minister for Planning, the Hon. Rob Stokes. Instead, we have anaemic reforms focused more on cleaning up the mess this Government has made than on cleaning out the rot that threatens the future of our great city. Many of the measures outlined in this bill are uncontroversial and make minor technical changes to planning processes in the State, but that is simply tinkering at the edges.
Other aspects of the bill require greater scrutiny and, unfortunately, the bill represents a missed opportunity. For example, I question whether the steps designed to protect the community from developments approved by private certifiers are sufficient. In the inner west, where houses closely abut their neighbours' houses, conflict about renovations is all too common. I regularly hear from residents concerned about a neighbour's renovations approved by private certifiers. One constituent has complained about a neighbour working on renovations until well past midnight. Another complained about concrete splashed all over the front of his home when a neighbour stuccoed their home. Another raised concerns with me about non-compliant work that has left their backyard half in the dark because of overshadowing. Often these issues cannot be investigated by council officers, and impacted residents are left to their own devices and bounced between private certifiers. This is clearly unfair and inappropriate, and much more can and should be done to protect neighbours in these circumstances. The new safeguards proposed in this bill cannot simply play lip-service to this problem. They must in practice protect residents from non-compliant and disruptive development approved by private certifiers.
Measures like those spelled out in schedule 3, which require an authority to develop a community participation plan, are very welcome. The bill proposes that authorities be required to detail how they will engage with the community on decisions shaping their community. Statutory minimum public exhibition periods will be applied to community participation plans, regional and district strategic plans, planning proposals to modify existing local environment plans, applications for development consent and environmental impact statements for State significant infrastructure projects. Inner west residents know just how substandard community engagement has been to date. Residents have been appalled by the disingenuous nature of the consultation on projects such as WestConnex, the Sydney Metro conversion and, in particular, the Sydenham to Bankstown Urban Renewal Corridor. Similarly, they are appalled about the way strong community objections to proposals, such as those voiced about the Victoria Road Precinct in Marrickville, have been ignored.
The Ashbury Community Group in my electorate has fought tooth and nail to have a say in developments that would forever change the face of their heritage suburb. In the face of high-rise developments on the Tyres 4U and Chubb sites—developments that would have brought thousands of extra residents to a suburb with no main street and only one bus route—the group petitioned almost every household in the community. It held community forums, met with the council, reached out to the developers and sought every opportunity to have constructive dialogue about the future of the suburb. Unfortunately, it was foiled at every turn by a failed planning process. Developers were effectively shielded from meeting or engaging with affected community groups. That is a story familiar to communities across this State.
I welcome any move to empower residents and communities that want to play a constructive and positive role in shaping their suburbs, as did the Ashbury Community Group. These measures must genuinely empower local communities in the planning process, not merely download responsibility for consultation to local councils. That is not sufficient. Communities want to know that the Government is acting in their interests, not in the interests of developers. This bill does not go far enough to provide that reassurance. Time and again inner west communities are bearing the brunt of overdevelopment. The Greater Sydney Commission housing target is 5,900 for the inner west, 3,600 for Strathfield and 13,250 for Bankstown. In contrast, the target is 1,250 for Waverly, 300 for Woollahra, and 300 for Mosman. It is clear that the inner west is being asked to take more than its fair share of density.
The Government's Parramatta Road revitalisation is dead on arrival thanks to the Transport Minister's decision to junk plans for light rail or rapid transit along the centre of the road. Buses, no matter how fast they travel, must use the outside lanes, making it impossible for shops and communities to thrive. It will create a polluted funnel.
Unsurprisingly, in that plan there is scant detail on schools, healthcare services or open space. The Government has put overdevelopment before the infrastructure that is needed to support it. There is a similar story for the Sydenham to Bankstown corridor, where tens of thousands of extra residents are set to be crammed into heritage suburbs, including 2,000 in Dulwich Hill and 6,000 in Marrickville in my electorate alone. Again the Government has provided absolutely no detail on schools, childcare centres, hospitals and open spaces that are desperately needed. It has failed to explain that its plans rapidly threaten disappearing industrial space, particularly in areas such the Carrington Road precinct and along Victoria Road, while the Greater Sydney Commission is at the same time demanding that no industrial land be lost. Even the Sydney Metro conversion the Government has used to predicate the development in the first place raises more questions than it answers.
In summary, it is entirely understandable that when inner west residents consider the laundry list of failures by the planning Minister they are wary of any changes the Government is putting forward. It is with scepticism that they look at this bill. On this side of the House, however, we will be supporting it. It is, however, unfortunately not sufficient when it comes to the protections for the planning future of our great city of Sydney and indeed our State of New South Wales.