Planning System Reform

FuturePerth 2013 State Election Guide
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“Development Assessment Panels (DAPs) have improved the prominence of planning and not politics in decision making. FuturePerth believes the DAP system should be expanded.”

What did we ask?

Do you support the continued functioning of the Development Assessment Panels (DAPs)?

If yes, do you propose any changes, or if no, what is your alternate development assessment system?

Why did we ask it?

Development Assessment Panels (DAPs) were set up in 2011 to take away the determination powers of local governments for high value development applications.

About half a dozen panels cover the metro region, each comprised of three independent ‘experts’ and two councillors from the respective council in which the application is located.

These panels have been extremely effective in minimising risk to developers and improving the prominence of planning and not politics in decision making.

If anything, FuturePerth believes the DAP system should be expanded – giving them power, for example, to initiate scheme amendments and approve Activity Centre Structure Plans.

Naturally, a lot of the more conservative local governments hate the DAP system – which means they’re probably doing a good job!

Image source:
Brian Harris


Liberal Response

“Development Assessment Panels were introduced as part of the Barnett Government’s commitment to streamlining and improving the planning approvals process in WA. The DAP system, which commenced operation in July 2011, provides more transparency, consistency and certainty in decision making on complex development applications. The involvement of independent experts in DAPs, in addition to local government Councillors, helps to strike an appropriate balance between local representation and professional advice in decision making and ensuring that decisions made by the DAP are based on the planning merits of an application.

The current intent of Development Assessment Panels is to provide professional decision making on development applications. The Liberal Government is committed to the DAPs system, and further consideration will be given to the role of DAPs in the planning system in a second term.”

FuturePerth comment:

Sounds like the Planning Minister loves DAPs as much as we do – good to hear and it will be interesting to see what tinkering takes place if he gets to keep his job.

Labor Response

“DAPs constitute one of the Barnett Government’s changes to the development approvals process. Likewise, the disastrous changes to the Building Act by the Barnett Government has led to chaos and massive delays in the development sector. However, WA Labor supported the introduction of DAP’s in 2010 when they were introduced. We have listened to the community quite widely on this issue, and we will make further comment concerning our plans for DAPs at another time.

I [Mark McGowan] released a discussion paper in March 2012 with proposals to reform the planning and housing approvals system, details of which can be found at and a policy will be announced closer to the election.”

FuturePerth comment:

We haven’t heard anything specific on DAPs from Labor in this campaign yet, however given that they supported the legislation we’re expecting that their support will continue.

We’re not too sure what WA Labor means when they say they have been ‘listening to the community’ on this issue. We need to the keep the development and housing train rolling in this city and we would expect any major policy changes to be announced prior to March 9.

Greens Response

“In summary, the objectives of the proposed DAP model, as outlined by the State Government, were to streamline the determination process for particular types of development applications, improve transparency and achieve a balance between technical expertise and local representation in planning decision making.

The Greens do not consider that these objectives have been achieved and do not support DAPs. In summary our concerns with DAPs are:

  • There are no overarching guidelines (in relation, for instance, to conservation of heritage, protection of public open space, significant trees and wetlands, and general principles of sustainability and affordability) to guide decisions made by DAPs.
  • In a 2012 review of DAPs since their inception in 2010, 32% of the planning officers and DAP administrators surveyed thought that they did not achieve a balance between independent professional advice and local government representation, and 46% of elected members thought the same.
  • In the same review, 9% of the planning officers and DAP administrators surveyed thought that the community was “never” appropriately represented and taken into consideration in the DAP decision-making process, and 50% of elected members thought the community’s views were “never” or “rarely” taken into account.
  • While initial decisions are required to be transparent under the regulations, reviews or changes to proposals in SAT or mediation proceedings are not. There have been a number of recent cases where lack of transparency has been flagrant.
  • There is little evidence of cost savings or stream-lining in the new process.

The Greens would amend the existing DAP regime to ensure transparency at all stages of the process. In addition, we would raise the thresholds at which planning decisions are to be made by DAPs, and make DAPs optional in certain circumstances.”

FuturePerth comment:

We appreciate that the Greens do not support DAPs for a wide range of reasons.

We note, however, that a lot of these arguments are based on the DAP system not being sufficiently representative of the affected local government. This assumes two things:

1. That the interests of existing local governments are in line with the wider community, and

2. That current local governments are representative of their own community.

With respect to the first point – we all know that a lot of local governments are interested in protecting their patch of dirt, and are generally not considerate of the city’s wider housing issues. Regarding point number 2 – considering that most local governments received voter turnout of around 30% – it’s a long bow to draw to say that these Councils are actually acting in the interests of the communities they represent.

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