The Urban Development Institute of Australia (UDIA) NSW today said the State Government's decision to disallow those with a pecuniary interest to vote on council matters is a good first step but more needs to be done to depoliticise council planning decisions.
UDIA NSW Chief Executive Stephen Albin said any number of councillors could be considered to have 'pecuniary interests'.
"In reality, who doesn't have a pecuniary interest in decisions about development approvals in a local area?" he said.
"What about the Councillors that are keen to stop growth and reduce the supply of housing and see their own property values rise on the back of this - is this not a pecuniary interest in a decision?"Mr Albin said to support the reversal of the Act amendment; Independent Hearing and Assessment Panels, made up of experts that are truly independent, should be engaged to review the decisions of planners within Councils.
"The whole planning system needs to be depoliticised and quickly. Identifying pecuniary interest is so fraught we should consider leaving it to the experts," he said.
Mr Albin said Councils spend hundreds of millions of dollars annually to employ urban planners to process approvals and prepare strategic development controls, and too often the decisions of these staff are overturned by Councils that have a political agenda.
"The good thing about this debate is it could lead to sensible policy approaches.
"The most sensible approach is to let anyone that is a fit and proper person become a local councillor - including those with an understanding of real estate and planning controls - and take the politics out of planning by introducing independent panels to property consider development applications.
"Only then will we get a fair system that looks after the communities' long term interests and takes the politics out of planning."