The NSW Government has set a deadline of 1 July 2021 for regional councils across the State to digitise their planning processes. Under the Regional Digital Planning Program, the State government has invested $4.8 million to help regional councils across the State transition towards a streamlined digital platform to lodge and assess planning applications.
For 95 regional councils across the State, grants of up to $50,000 are available, with Tamworth Regional Council (TRC) Director of Planning and Compliance, Gina Vereker, stating “it’s quite likely that we [TRC] will apply”.
“We’re very interested in the grant, although, I have to say it’s unlikely that $50,000 will cover the cost, but certainly will go towards the transition”.
Gunnedah Shire Council’s Planning Department is expecting to apply for the grant to move to a digital lodgement process too.
Although much like Tamworth Regional Council, “Gunnedah Shire Council already undertakes much of its development process online or electronically, with final determinations, requests for information and exhibitions all undertaken electronically on Council’s website or via email”.
For councils which have already adopted an electronic approach to their planning processes, the mandatory streamlining towards the governments ePlanning portal is actually “a two edge sword”.
“The planning portal itself is a great thing for most country councils in the State who don’t have an online system and use paper-based transactions, however, in the case of Tamworth, we already have an online system. We have had our online system which we call the ‘Development Hub’ for the last five years. So, our community is already used to our online system”.
“We just have to explain that it is not council who has decided to change, it’s something we don’t have a choice in, we have to follow government and get involved with the new planning portal” said Ms Vereker.
The digital platform comes as a response from a larger government initiative, the ePlanning program, with its primary purpose to drive the digital transformation of the NSW planning system.
The new portal allows for developers and members of the community to access development lodgement services online, enabling a standardised lodgement service across the wider NSW area.