Chris Johnson, chief executive of the Urban Taskforce. Photo: David QuickCouncillors opposing new property developments should not be able to vote on development applications, the lobby group for big property developers says.
Local Government Minister Paul Toole last week said the government would amend legislation that allowed councillors to determine development conditions around projects in which they had a pecuniary interest.
The amendments would come just three years after the Coalition government introduced laws allowing councillors to vote on planning controls that could affect their developments.
They follow a call by Labor leader Luke Foley for developers and estate agents to be banned from acting as councillors, made after the furore over Auburn deputy mayor Salim Mehajer’s wedding.
The chief executive of the Urban Taskforce, Chris Johnson, said he agreed that councillors should not be able to vote on matters in which they had an interest. But Mr Johnson went further, saying councillors opposed to property development also had an interest and should be barred from voting.
“Quite a lot of councillors have been elected by action groups that are against development,” Mr Johnson said.
“My position is that they have therefore been elected on a particular platform which makes them not independent about assessing the project, but which gives them a fairly strong bias.”
Asked if under his proposal all Greens councillors would not be able to vote on projects, Mr Johnson said: “I think it would.
“I think this is the issue, those councillors that have a negative attitude to growth and change and greater densities cannot assess a project with absolute independence.”
Mr Johnson said that rather than councillors approving projects, projects should be assessed by independent panels.
Leichhardt Greens mayor Rochelle Porteous said the party’s mayors and councillors had supported many developments across the city.
“Urban consolidation is an important part of development generally,” Cr Porteous said. “We are certainly supportive of appropriate development in appropriate locations in urban areas,” she said.
Marrickville Greens councillor Max Phillips said Mr Johnson’s proposal was “ridiculous.”
“Standing up for the community and enforcing development controls against developers always trying to squeeze more and more in is not anti-growth but acting in the public interest,” Cr Phillips said.