Personal comment by East Ward Greens Councillor Murray Matson on the new Independent Hearing and Assessment Panel (IHAP) system forced on NSW Council’s by the New South Wales Liberal Government.
Well, the local independent IHAP panel met for the first time last week. I am still trying to adjust to the removal of democratically elected Councillors from the approval process for development applications. I say that while stating that I have complete confidence in the quality of the people chosen to be on the panel. The Council did have a lot of input into who would be chosen to serve on the panel.
I am sure the independent panel members will perform their roles diligently but it still remains that the State Government has broken the time honoured link between residents and their choice of who will be part of the body of people to decide on how a property will be developed in their local community.
There are some specific complications with the new system in how residents play a role in the assessment of proposals.
For example as I understand the “call up” process for the new IHAP is much more complicated than the previous system that I worked within for 23 years as a Councillor. Previously any three Councillors could simply co-author a request via email to the Council’s Director of Planning that a particular DA not be decided by the planning staff under delegated authority, but that it go to a meeting of the elected Councillors for determination. It was quite simple.
But as I now understand it the new IHAP panel requires 10 “unique” submissions from the actual public before it is called up to be decided by the new panel members at a meeting of the local IHAP. And a signed petition will not count. The submissions have to each be unique.
Hopefully the IHAPs will evolve overtime to allow for a more direct input from the public.