I will speak briefly to the Planning Legislation Amendment Bill 2019, which follows on from legislation passed by the Parliament in 2017 and makes a number of amendments to further clarify and streamline the functions of the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act 1979 and the Land and Environment Court Act 1979. These amendments include ensuring that the numbering and the structure of the Act is consistent with other legislation, allowing minor editorial changes without requiring a further order, clearing up inconsistencies with the public exhibition of environmental impact statements for government activities carried out without planning approval, making the assessment pathway time frame for State infrastructure assessment consistent with State significant development in relation to staged proposals, updating the Act to reflect the introduction of the Crown Land Management Act 2019 and amending environmental planning instruments in accordance with standard local environmental plans. The amendment that provides that an occupation certificate may be issued for a partially completed building is a particularly interesting provision, given the recent revelations in regard to the building industry and building standards within this State. It is important to note that in the past eight months no less than three major residential towers have been evacuated and effectively abandoned due to significant structural and other defects. Apartments at Gadigal Avenue in Zetland were abandoned eight months ago following extensive fire safety and water defects.
On 14 June 2019 Mascot Towers was evacuated following widespread cracking in the car park and in many apartments. Residents were left stranded. Some had to move to a makeshift shelter in Town Hall; others had to pay exorbitant prices for hotels or other accommodation to meet the needs of their families. Residents are concerned that each day the value of their property plummets further and further. Having forked out upwards of a million dollars to buy a home in the first place and looking down the barrel of extraordinary strata repayments to repair damage, can anyone feel safe in the knowledge that their investment will hold its value? This is an anxiety that is being felt in every new building across the city. On Christmas Eve last year owners and tenants of apartments in the $170 million Opal Tower were forced to flee the building due to safety concerns. Rather than celebrating Christmas with their families, residents were forced to sleep in their cars and were afraid for their belongings, their savings and their financial futures. In launching their multimillion-dollar class action lawsuit against the New South Wales Government in the Supreme Court, the residents' claim states that "Opal Tower was not reasonably fit for occupation". Understandably, a number of inner west residents in my community have contacted my office to raise concerns about their own buildings or to lament the lack of building standards as they see multistorey developments sprouting up around them, thanks to the Government allowing development to run rampant through our suburbs.
In fact a recent pilot study conducted by Deakin and Griffith universities revealed a staggering 95 per cent of new buildings in New South Wales had at least one defect, with every building having on average 16 defects. These are shocking figures revealed in this recent study. We must not forget that the current debate around building standards takes place against a backdrop of thousands of buildings potentially in need of redress due to fire-prone cladding. I note that the Victorian Government has announced a comprehensive $600 million package to deal with the combustible cladding issue. The New South Wales Government has not announced a similar type of package in response to this crisis. Dr Laura Crommelin at the University of New South Wales City Futures Research Centre notes that Sydney is likely to be the epicentre of a building crisis, given the strength of our recent real estate boom. She said: We've very much embraced this high-density development model without necessarily having both a workforce and the regulatory system in place that's equipped to manage it properly.
We have seen an unprecedented property boom in New South Wales. Communities across the State, including mine in the inner west, are seeing developers run roughshod over their suburbs. This Government has turned New South Wales into a developers' paradise. High-rise development is being forced on communities through poorly planned priority precincts, changes to strata laws have allowed apartments to be sold out from underneath unwilling owners and our local councils—which often are one of the last obstacles to developers who are planning a development that is not wanted by our communities—have been amalgamated. To make matters worse, we now know that the developments we see across our suburbs may pose a risk to the occupants within them. It is not good enough. The community is deeply concerned that the Government is not doing enough to protect their properties and our suburbs. In response to the recent evacuations the Premier offered $3 million in interest-free loans to the affected Mascot Towers residents and has announced a package she hopes will stem a looming crisis within the industry.
The package includes developing a new compliance regime, enforcing the standards set out in the Building Code of Australia; registering all building practitioners; introducing a new industry-wide principle of duty of care; and appointing a building commissioner to regulate all aspects of the New South Wales building industry. Sadly, the Government has not provided enough detail on the role of the commissioner, there is no clear time frame for the appointment of the commissioner and no associated funding was to be found in the budget handed down last month. Given the extent of this issue and the widespread media coverage of the Opal Tower evacuation eight months ago, clearly the Government has been caught out unprepared. The bill also represents a lost opportunity in relation to the critical issue of spot rezoning in the planning space. Spot rezoning, which was introduced in 2012, allows developers to override local environmental plans and get approval from the Minister, or one of the Minister's delegates, when a local council knocks back a proposal. Spot rezoning, also known as a pre-gateway or rezoning review, was introduced by the Liberal-Nationals Government as a developer-friendly backdoor for these processes. It has been a blight on our planning system ever since and is responsible for some of the worst development in my inner west community and across the State. Almost all of the contentious developments that have occurred in my part of Sydney over the past seven years have been a result of spot rezoning. Currently 10 significant spot rezonings are on the books with the Inner West Council. They include 2,600 apartments along Carrington Road, Marrickville—a proposal that has no community support and has generated widespread rallies and opposition.
Labor took a principled and ambitious policy plan to ban spot rezoning to the last election. I was heartened to hear that the Minister for Planning and Public Spaces, the Hon. Rob Stokes, was planning to junk the contentious provision. I am impressed that his ambition mirrors ours on this side of the House. He said, "My ambition, and it is a way off, but my ambition is a future where spot rezoning doesn't have a role." The good news for the Minister is that he does not have to wait—he has support from the Opposition to realise his ambition. There is clear support within the Parliament to end spot rezoning and to rebalance the relationship between development and communities in New South Wales. Obviously there has been a battle of wills within the Government but on this side of the House we are ready to see the Minister's ambition realised. The community wants it done. We must end spot rezoning, which is resulting in poorly designed and potentially dangerous buildings that will be there for 50, 60, 70 years. These types of development are diminishing our city. It must change. Overall, I commend the bill to the House.