Committee on Environment and Planning Report: Land Release and Housing Supply in NSW

15 November 2018

Mr ANOULACK CHANTHIVONG (Macquarie Fields) (15:41): I make a contribution to the take‑note debate on the report of the Committee on Environment and Planning on land release and housing supply in New South Wales.

First, I thank Mr David Hale, the committee staff and my fellow members for the production of the report, which received numerous submissions from stakeholders. It is the second report of the Committee on Environment and Planning in this term of Parliament. I am pleased with the way the hearings have been conducted and the contributions of everyone involved. The committee's findings and recommendations will no doubt be used for further debate and policy development.

But for me, the equation of supply and demand is never too far from the debate about development.

In New South Wales to date, there has been significant focus on the supply of housing through land release and planning policies that advocate increased height limits and densities as well as continual urban sprawl. That addresses the supply side of the equation, but we must look also at the demand side.

When I refer to "demand" I do not mean people buying houses or off-the-plan apartments; I mean the fundamental needs that residents in New South Wales demand from their government. They rightly demand adequate infrastructure as part of urban development. They expect schools to educate their children, fair train services to get them to and from work, road upgrades to alleviate congestion and expanded hospitals to care for them and their families.

During my time on the committee, it has become increasingly apparent that poor planning in development and land supply can deliver sub-par outcomes for residents. I am, of course, referring both to the residents who are moving in to growing areas and residents who already live there. Poor planning can leave people feeling like the area they grew up in no longer feels like home.

In the report, the committee found that the complexity of the New South Wales planning system impacts on land release, housing supply and infrastructure planning. Indeed, the planning system is complex. Perhaps the best way to simplify the system is to shift our attention from a sole focus on housing targets and planning instruments and think about how people live and where they live, because every decision made under the planning system can have significant impacts on people's quality of life and how they feel about urban growth. Finding No. 11 of the report states:

… the terms 'liveability' and 'character' are widely used, but not well understood.

I believe livability is intrinsically linked to quality of life. While character reflects an area's existing housing typology and its urban or suburban identity, those two factors must become formal primary considerations in the planning assessment system and our public policy framework, not just words in a parliamentary report.

Through my Stop the Squeeze survey, people in my local community have loudly and clearly said what they think about urban development. Emphatically, 98 per cent of people said they have had enough of development in their suburb, and 96 per cent think that developers have too much power.

Those results reflect a constituency that has lost faith in the current planning system.

The planning pendulum has emphatically swung way too far in favour of overdevelopment and supply without adequate consideration of community demands.

Overwhelmingly, 98 per cent of respondents said it was important to retain the suburban charm, or character, of our area. To better explain the character I will paint a verbal picture: large blocks with single dwellings, wide streets and backyards where kids can play.

Similarly, 98 per cent of respondents to the Stop the Squeeze survey said it was important to retain our green open space.

My survey highlights a fundamental shortcoming in the current planning system.

We need a planning system that guarantees the delivery of infrastructure to meet people's basic needs.

Anything less will result in sub-par outcomes for the very people the planning system is trying to house.

If we fail to listen to the demands of our residents about quality of life and purely focus on supply without realising the impact of overdevelopment the people we represent across New South Wales will be the losers of a planning system that is not in their favour.