Queanbeyan council has secured a new type of grant from the NSW Government specifically designed to help clear a raft of pending Development Applications (DAs).
The number of DAs submitted to the Queanbeyan-Palerang Regional Council (QPRC) has increased by 20 per cent over the past two years as the region grows. To make matters worse, the assessment team has been operating with only half of its full quota of staff.
Recently appointed QPRC CEO Rebecca Ryan addressed the backlog last month, acknowledging the frustration delays are causing applicants.
“So far this financial year, QPRC has received more than 670 DAs ranging from simple residential additions such as sheds, pools and pergolas; new and secondary residential dwellings; to large-scale commercial, industrial and multi-residential developments,” she said.
Applications are now approaching 1000 a year with increased complexity on the back of various changes to legislation relating to biodiversity, bushfire and heritage.
At the same time, Ms Ryan said the council had faced “significant turnover” of staff in town planning, building surveying and development engineering.
“Vacancies in these fields have proved difficult to fill all across NSW with many councils currently reporting skills shortages in these areas and delays with DAs.”
QPRC is now one of 14 councils across the state to receive $350,000 from the NSW Government’s Faster Local Assessment grant.
The new $4.9 million program is designed so councils can allocate extra resources and improve processes to reduce assessment timeframes. It’s hoped the grants will also help address housing shortages.
The Eurobodalla Shire Council and Shoalhaven City Council were also among the Faster Local Assessment Grant recipients.
Along with 128 other NSW councils, QPRC has also received the NSW Planning Portal Application Programming Interfaces Grant. This is designed to streamline the IT connection between the NSW Planning Portal and the council’s systems and save staff from manually transferring data between the two.
“This funding will help put more efficient processes in place to ease pressure on staff and reduce the timeframe from DA lodgement to determination,” Ms Ryan said.
“While we have made some headway into getting approvals completed in the past few weeks, there are another 70 DAs in that same timeframe lodged on the NSW Planning Portal, which is testament to the housing growth in our region.”
Development applications can be tracked on the QPRC website.