Mary Lyons-Buckett supports voluntary use of Independent Hearing and Assessment Panels, says they lack accountability

Hawkesbury Mayor Mary Lyons-Buckett. Picture: Geoff Jones
Hawkesbury Mayor Mary Lyons-Buckett. Picture: Geoff Jones

HAWKESBURY Mayor Mary Lyons-Buckett has backed the government’s new planning laws shake-up, but warned independent planning panels are not accountable to the community and believes their use should be voluntary, not permanent.

The state government passed legislation, which will see councils lose the power to determine development applications between the value of $5 million and $30 million.

The panels - called Independent Hearing and Assessment Panels (IHAPs) – will be used for DAs that are “high value, corruption risk, sensitivity or strategic importance is transparent and accountable” according to the NSW Department of Planning and Environment.

Member for Hawkesbury and state treasurer Dominic Perrottet said the panels would provide transparency for people.

The Mayor also said she backed them, however, was not as enthused as Mr Perrottet.

“I support the voluntary use of IHAPs, which has allowed the councils that use them to have independent assessment of certain development proposals,” she said.

“The mandating of these however is essentially taking the power away from elected councillors who are accountable to the communities who elect them.”

The Mayor said she did not want to see panels which simply endorsed development for the sake of development.

“There is a misunderstanding by some people that allowing unfettered housing development is what equates to investment,” she said.

“Our area has multiple limitations on how much housing development it can deliver, including its natural constraints due to flood and bushfire, major traffic congestion, and areas which do not have reticulated water or sewer.

“What we need is balanced growth which enhances our community and opens up opportunities.”

The Mayor added that Hawkesbury Council did not receive many DAs in the value range IHAPs would handle.