Councils creating confusion
‘‘ The key argument is that Sydney has far too many small councils not necessarily different from the neighbouring area, yet the plans are wildly different,’’ Wheeler says. ‘‘ Half of Bondi Junction is with Waverley Council and half is with Woollahra.
‘‘ No wonder Bondi Junction is a complete and utter mess,’’ says Wheeler. ‘‘ One half of King Street, Newtown, can have one set of activities and on the other side you can have another set of activities because part of it is in Leichhardt and part of it is in Marrickville — all in one street.’’
It’s a frustrating, long- recognised problem and — to cut a long story short — despite a sweeping local government reform program initiated in late 2003 by the NSW Government, things have somehow conspired to become ‘‘ more complicated’’, Heenan says.
In Queensland, meanwhile, the situation is more streamlined. ‘‘ There are four or five councils between the NSW border and Noosa and they’ve got very, very clear plans about what they want,’’ says Wheeler. ‘‘ If you can conform to those plans, you can get very quick approval and the process is much better.
‘‘ In Melbourne there is one plan, the Good Design Guide, which covers everything 7km from the city. It doesn’t mean there aren’t delays or that there aren’t frustrations with councils, but it’s much clearer about what’s going on,’’ he says.
‘‘ In Adelaide and Perth it’s much easier, much more transparent. In Sydney the problem is that you’ve got very small, parochial councils that have a BANANA mentality.’’
Ironically, though, such an a obstructionist approach doesn’t necessarily lead to less being built so much as to a situation where some people ‘‘ have just given up’’ and choose to circumvent the system entirely, Wheeler says.
‘‘ Six or seven years ago I was in a meeting in Leichhardt and I suggested that about 20 per cent of the work done in Leichhardt was illegal and everybody in the room protested,’’ Wheeler says.
‘‘ It was a meeting of architects and developers, and so on. The councillors said it was nowhere near as high as that and everybody else in the room — people involved in the building industry — were saying 20 per cent is way underestimated.’’ Little has changed, Wheeler says. ‘‘ They just get a draftsman to draw it up and get a builder to build it and wait and see if council tells them to knock it down,’’ he says. ‘‘ If they do, they just keep fighting because it’s built, and they fight to get a building certificate.’’
Planning approval after the fact. ‘‘ It’s outrageous,’’ Wheeler says, ‘‘ but I know it happens.’’