Hawkesbury Council to join The Hills in opposing IHAP legislation

Independent Hearing and Assessment Panels are loathed by some and lauded by others. Picture: Geoff Jones
Independent Hearing and Assessment Panels are loathed by some and lauded by others. Picture: Geoff Jones

HAWKESBURY Council will officially join forces with The Hills and others to oppose the mandatory enforcement of Independent Hearing and Assessment Panels.

At the November 14 Council meeting, councillors voted 9-2 to adopt a Mayoral Minute calling for the Council to work with others to oppose IHAPs.

The Hills Shire Council recently voted to oppose the mandatory IHAPs, and Hawkesbury Mayor Mary Lyons-Buckett said she had attended a meeting hosted by The Hills, and attended by several western Sydney councils, to organise an opposition to the panels.

“The concerns other councils have basically comes to the core function of what councils do,” she said.

The Mayor added that councils were concerned about the cost of the IHAPs, a lack of consultation with councils and not enough time to adjust local planning legislation.

The Mayor also said she supported voluntary use of IHAPs by some councils.

The state government passed legislation earlier this year to make it mandatory for all councils in the Sydney metropolitan area to have IHAPs.

The panels are for DAs valued between $5 million and $30 million, and rather than being voted on by councillors, a small panel, appointed by the planning minister, votes on them.

Opponents of IHAPs believe they are undemocratic by centralising power in the hands of a bureaucratically appointed panel, while the state government believe it will make planning decisions faster and reduce the chance for corruption.

Deputy Mayor and Labor councillor Barry Calvert said he thought IHAP legislation was designed to sideline councils.

Liberal councillor Nathan Zamprogno said he was wary about any decision which concentrated power in the hands of a minister.

“Our society is constituted in a way where the professionalism of bureaucrats is balanced by elected representatives such as ourselves,” he said.

Fellow Liberal Tiffany Tree said she supported IHAPs and added that if councils did not like how their area was being developed, they should change their planning laws to reflect their views.

The mayoral Minute’s wording was: That Council work with other Council’s to pursue opporunities to address concerns about State Government IHAP legislation, including calls for possible repeal, exemption and extension mechanisms.

Mayor Lyons-Buckett, deputy Mayor Calvert, Cr Ross, Cr Rasmussen, Cr Garrow, Cr Reynolds, Cr Wheeler, Cr Kotlash and Cr Zamprogno voted in favour of the Mayoral Minute.

Cr Richards and Cr Tree voted against. Cr Conolly was absent from the meeting.

Hills Shire Mayor Michelle Byrne said councils needed to defend themselves from unnecessary bureaucracy.

“Local Government has been asleep for far too long while the Department of Planning and Environment has implanted nasty, costly and unnecessary reform,” she said.

“IHAPs have come at a time when Local Government has been heavily distracted by so-called reforms, council amalgamations and so on. 

“It’s time, as an industry, we push back, defend on record and save the community from this unnecessary bureaucracy that will only cost residents more.”