One of NSW’s most influential property development lobby groups is set for a new leader after Chris Johnson has stepped down after eight years in the role.

Urban Taskforce chairperson Peter Daly has announced that Tom Forrest would step into the role of chief executive officer.

Forrest will join the Urban Taskforce in November in what will initially be an overlap role with Johnson lasting until the end of the year.

Daly welcomed the appointment.

“Our incoming CEO, Tom Forrest has a long experience with government and politics in New South Wales having been a Chief of Staff to a Premier and a number of NSW Ministers,” Daly said.

He was also an Executive General Manager of Rail Corp and Director of Infrastructure and Strategy within the Department of Premier and Cabinet and over more recent years he has run his own planning and strategy advisory business.

Daly replaces Chris Johnson, who has led the organisation for the past eight years.

Daly paid tribute to Johnson’s contribution.

“Chris Johnson has been an inspirational leader of the Urban Taskforce over the last 8 years.” Daly said.

“Chris has repositioned the Taskforce as a leader in presenting visions for the growth of cities like Sydney. He has run campaigns on the swing to apartment living, on the integration of transport infrastructure with future growth and on the need to simplify the NSW planning system. He has developed a strong media profile on behalf of our development industry that has often upset NIMBY groups but his strong messaging has always been about the reality of accommodating future generations in a sustainable and affordable manner.”

Johnson says he has enjoyed his role at the organisation.

 “I have thoroughly enjoyed my role at the Urban Taskforce,” he said.

“My previous roles as NSW Government Architect and as Executive Director in the NSW Department of Planning were very much on the side of government and regulation. But I now see that the real drivers of change are the risk-taking private sector developers who want to produce a good product that communities respect.

“I quickly learnt that being a developer of property is not easy and I heard war stories after war stories of the endless battles developers go through to make a project happen.

“I don’t think most people in the community realise that half the cost of a new home or apartment goes into a raft of levies, taxes, excessive reports, long delays and contributions. There is almost a community expectation that the more the developer gives back the better but of course this just drives home prices higher.”

Johnson says he will remain active as a judge in competitions, as an expert witness or as an adviser, but at a ‘less frenetic pace’.