Media Release: Local Government Rejects Ransom Claim

7 November 2016

The local government sector supports greater transparency in all government dealings, including those with property developers, Local Government NSW (LGNSW) said today.

LGNSW President Keith Rhoades was speaking after a media release issued by NSW Planning Minister Rob Stokes accused councils of holding big property developers to ransom.

The accusation relates to voluntary planning agreements – a negotiated process in which developers of large apartment blocks and commercial developments may contribute funding for parks, libraries and other infrastructure and services.

LGNSW President Keith Rhoades said moves to increase the transparency of the negotiation process such as those contained within a Draft Practice Note issued by the Department of Planning and Environment today - were welcomed by the sector.

But he said it was disappointing to see the Planning Minister’s media release adopt the hysterical rhetoric of the wealthy development lobby.

“Voluntary Planning Agreements are, by very definition, voluntary. The hint is in the name,” Clr Rhoades said.

“Property developers only enter into them when they want to change the planning rules to go above existing limits  – by increasing building height, for example – to further boost their profits.

“So it’s pretty rich to then turn around and claim developers are being ‘held to ransom’ by the process.

“Councils work on behalf of communities – they’re not profit-taking operations like development companies – and the funding contribution negotiated with the developer is used to benefit the community.

“Is the Minister really suggesting that these big development companies are getting a raw deal or being bullied by local councils?

“If so, it’s disappointing that such concerns have not been fully canvassed with the local government sector and yet a response to them was announced at a property developers lunch.

 “I’m surprised such an irrational and misleading media release, which repeats the self-interested ‘poor me’ cries of these big developers, has been issued in the Minister’s name.

“The other deeply concerning claim in the Minister’s media release is that VPAs negotiated between councils and developers are responsible for “pushing up new apartment prices”.

“Either that claim is empty rhetoric, or it demonstrates a worrying ignorance of the drivers behind housing affordability in Sydney.”

Clr Rhoades said the sector looked forward to hearing more about these concerns for the property development industry during the consultation period around the Draft Practice Note. 


Media Enquiries

LGNSW President, Cr Keith Rhoades AFSM: 0408 256 405

Media Toni Allan: 0412 774 441