Yesterday's decision by Planning Minister Anthony Roberts to abandon the Design and Place SEPP is an unequivocal step backwards for NSW, according to the state’s peak environment group.
"This is a bad day for the future of our towns and cities as the Perrottet government seeks to placate greedy developers rather than implement sustainable urban development," Nature Conservation Council Chief Executive Chris Gambian said.
"This comes on the day yet another IPCC report told us in no uncertain terms we need to act now to cut emissions. Experts are clear — the way we build is a key part of the equation.[i]
"NSW has experienced a month of catastrophic flooding. Climate impacts are here and now. The SEPP was an opportunity to both reduce emissions and provide resilience.
“Just a fortnight ago I had what I thought to be an incredibly constructive meeting with Minister Roberts, where I believed we had a lot of common ground.
"It is disappointing that this announcement was made without so much as a phone call from his office.
"The work started by previous Planning Minister Stokes was so important. A lot of meaningful cross-sector consultation went into the draft SEPP, and a lot of consensus and good-will was built.
"It is not lost on us that the new Minister made this announcement to an audience of property developers.
"We know where the planning experts, community and environment stakeholders stand in the queue for Minister Roberts' office, and it isn't at the front.
"Due to the influence of developer lobbyists, sustainability and resilience are no longer at the forefront of development in NSW, even while western Sydney growth areas see ever increasing extremes.
"This is a really bad look for a government that sees itself as a leader in taking action on climate.
"It is a relief that parts of the proposed reforms will be retained through a lift in BASIX standards.
"At the very least, new homes and large renovations should meet improved sustainability standards for energy, water use and thermal performance. But what about tree canopy for cooling hot streets and well-designed green spaces?
"It is clear the Minister must now take time to understand the value of the draft policy to the health and well-being of NSW residents and come back with something better than the status quo.
"We will keep campaigning for the government to live up to its responsibility to provide rules that will deliver liveable and sustainable housing in NSW."
NSW needs urban planning policies that ensure the following:
- maximising energy efficiency and renewable energy to achieve net zero emissions for all new buildings
- full electrification – no new fossil fuel gas connections
- recognising embodied carbon in building materials, with a pathway to regulation
- comprehensive electric vehicle charging and cycling infrastructure
- maximum mature tree and bushland retention, canopy cover and green space
- urban heat-ready buildings, which plan for future heat stress in a warming climate.