A leader in South Australia’s property sector has hit out at the planning regime in that state, saying that even as other states make substantial progress, the system in South Australia has become outdated and is holding back development.

Following the release of a final report into ways in which the planning system could be improved in December, Property Council of Australia (SA Division) executive director Daniel Gannon said development within the state was being held back by councils whose decisions reflected a vocal minority, and that the state needed to shift away from a system which held back development to one which fosters innovation, expansion and progress.

“The recent planning review in South Australia has demonstrated that it’s time to shift the planning power balance in the best interests of progress, development, economic growth and job creation,” he said. “South Australia has an opportunity to reform our planning system, and this means carving planning decision making off local councillors. Councillors often represent the vocal local minority, rather than what’s best for South Australia, our broader economy and job creation.”

Gannon’s comments follow the release in December of the Our Ideas for Reform report in which the South Australian Government’s Expert Panel on Planning Reform made 27 recommendations for change, including the consolidation of planning zones, the establishment of a state planning commission and the removal of councillors from planning decisions.

The comments also follow the formation of a coalition of 11 industry groups to push for change, which along with the Council includes  the Australian Hotels Association (SA Division), the Urban Development Institute of Australia (SA Division), the Housing Industry Association (SA Division), the Australian Property Institute (SA Division), the Motor Trade Association of South Australia, the Master Builders Association of South Australia, the Real Estate Institute of South Australia, the Civil Contractors Federation (SA Branch), the Australian Institute of Conveyancers (SA Division), and the Shop Distributive and Allied Employees’ Association (SA & NT Branch).

At its inaugural meeting last month, the coalition agreed to explore a number of areas for reform, including the promotion of better outcomes and more meaningful voter participation in local councils; addressing inconsistencies in council rates and reducing the burden in terms of land tax, council rates and other statutory charges; planning for sustainable population growth and bringing down the level of cost associated with the compliance aspects of doing business in the state.

Gannon said South Australia suffers from inconsistencies in council size and level of services provided as well as local level effectiveness, and boasts the highest level of taxation in terms of land taxes and statutory charges.

While other states have been modernising – Western Australia, for instance, is consolidating 31 metropolitan councils into 16 while New South Wales is mooting the idea of amalgamating 40 metropolitan councils into 10 –  he feels South Australia had been dragging its feet.

“Other states are talking council reform and, by doing so, are seizing the opportunity to modernise,” Gannon said. ““However, in South Australia over the years, there has been plenty of talk, an abundance of reports, but very little action.

“It’s time that changed.”