Legislation Series: Updates to the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act 1979 – objects of the Act

This is the second in our series of posts analysing and providing comment upon the suite of updates to the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act 1979 (the Act) which commenced on 1 March 2018.

Part one is available on this blog.

In part two we consider the objects of the Act.

Background

As most readers will know, the objects of the Act were historically found in section 5. They are now located at section 1.3 of the Act.  The suite of changes to the objects fall under what we classified as the ‘Mission’ changes in our first blog.  That is, changes aimed at reinvigorating the strategic purpose of the Act and rebalancing the Act’s focus towards better strategic planning and decision making.  The changes to the objects of the Act commenced on 1 March 2018.

Summary of changes

The amendments retain the previous objects of the Act and add new objects encouraging sustainability, good design, increased community participation and the sharing of environmental responsibility.

The first table below compares the objects of the Act pre and post 1 March 2018,[1] the second table illustrates objects that have been added or removed by way of the recent amendments.

Table 1 – Objects retained

Section Objects Pre 1 March 2018 Section Objects Post 1 March 2018
5(a)(i) To encourage the proper management, development and conservation of natural and artificial resources, including agricultural land, natural areas, forests, minerals, water, cities, towns and villages for the purpose of promoting the social and economic welfare of the community and a better environment. 1.3 (a) To promote the social and economic welfare of the community and a better environment by the proper management, development and conservation of the State’s natural and other resources.
5(a)(ii) To encourage the promotion and co-ordination of the orderly and economic use and development of land. 1.3 (c) To promote the orderly and economic use and development of land.
5(a)(vi) To encourage the protection of the environment, including the protection and conservation of native animals and plants, including threatened species and ecological communities, and their habitats. 1.3 (e) To protect the environment, including the conservation of threatened and other species of native animals and plants, ecological communities and their habitats.
5(a)(vii) To encourage ecologically sustainable development. 1.3 (b) To facilitate ecologically sustainable development by integrating relevant economic, environmental and social considerations in decision-making about environmental planning and assessment.
5(a)(viii) To encourage the provision and maintenance of affordable housing. 1.3 (d) To promote the delivery and maintenance of affordable housing.
5(b) To promote the sharing of the responsibility for environmental planning between the different levels of government in the State. 1.3 (i) To promote the sharing of responsibility for environmental planning and assessment between the different levels of government in the State.
5(c) To provide increased opportunity for public involvement and participation in environmental planning and assessment. 1.3 (j) To provide increased opportunity for community participation in environmental planning and assessment.

Table 2: Objects added/deleted

Object Comment
To encourage the protection, provision and co-ordination of communication and utility services (previously s5(a)(iii)) Not retained by the amendments
To encourage the provision of land for public purposes (previously s5(a)(iv)) Not retained by the amendments
To encourage the provision and co-ordination of community services and facilities (previously s5(a) (v)) Not retained by the amendments
To promote good design and amenity of the built environment Introduced by the amendments
To promote the sustainable management of built and cultural heritage (including Aboriginal cultural heritage) Introduced by the amendments
To promote the proper construction and maintenance of buildings, including the protection of the health and safety of their occupants Introduced by the amendments

Effect of changes

The amendments to the objects (as with other changes to the Act) aim to build community confidence in the planning regime, improve decision making, encourage better strategic planning and encourage better design. The replacement of objects relating to communication and utility services, land for public purposes, and community services and facilities with objects relating to design and amenity of the built environment, built and cultural heritage, and construction and maintenance of buildings.

Consent authorities will have regard to the amended objects of the Act throughout the planning process.

The amendments will also affect the interpretation of other provisions in the Act.  For example, evaluation of development applications under s4.15 (formerly s79C) will now involve consideration of the new concepts of good design, and proper construction and maintenance of buildings under the public interest consideration.  These concepts did not formerly exist under the previous versions of the Act and were not expressly required to be considered.  The addition of these concepts into the objects of the Act means that consent authorities can now give them greater weight in evaluating development applications.

Check back in to our blog to see how the Court approaches interpretation of the new objects and concepts introduced by the new s4.13 as cases are decided.

[1] Where appropriate we have re-ordered the objects in the ‘Post 1 March 2018’ column to allow for direct comparison

This post was prepared by Melissa Mallos

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