DA delays overshadow region’s progress

Shoalhaven City Council is lagging in its processing of development applications for reasons, it says, are beyond its control. It is having difficulty recruiting staff while facing challenges it says are unique to the region. 

The region is in the midst of building boom, with developers and renovators keen to construct. However, they are being held up by lengthening delays at council level.

The Register has been told of delays of up to 12 months, of bushfire and other environmental reports being required. We’ve heard of growing frustration at the complexity and length of time required to get plans across the line.

Some of this is beyond council’s control. Much of the region is comprised of bushfire prone land, which comes with a host regulatory red tape. Environmental issues are also significant, requiring additional reports in 70 per cent of DAs submitted.

According to council, Shoalhaven has become a DA hotspot, with the highest number of housing approvals in regional NSW the past financial year. It says it has received 1134 DAs so far this calendar year and has processed 1034. Unfortunately a percentage of those processed had been on the books from the previous year and the year before that. No wonder people are fuming. 

Some of the delay can also be explained by a shortage of planning staff that has dogged council since its “transformation” some years ago, when staff numbers were reduced across the board.

The organisation argues retaining the appropriate number of staff to match activity levels is a challenge, saying development activity is cyclical.

This is cold comfort for builders sweating on approvals in a reasonable amount of time, who could be forgiven for suspecting the axe was wielded too liberally and too soon when staff numbers were cut. It would also be reasonable to expect an organisation to anticipate the building activity cycles in its own environment. Forecasting is central to good management.

Delaying the processing of DAs has a flow-on effect. Builders who can’t rely on prompt approvals are going to be reluctant to hire employees. With youth unemployment topping 28 per cent, the region cannot afford anything that hampers jobs growth.

Home builders with vast sums of money invested cannot afford the cost of waiting. The region cannot afford the reputational damage. The DA delay must be fixed.