WARR facilities fast-tracked under NSW acceleration program

The West Nowra Landfill expansion and Visy’s Dry Recyclables Facility have been named in the first tranche of NSW Planning System Acceleration Program projects.

Earlier this month, the NSW Government announced it would fast-track planning processes for State Significant Developments – including waste management facilities – to keep the development sector moving through the COVID-19 crisis.

The first set of fast tracked projects were announced this week, with the $191 million West Nowra Landfill expansion set to see the construction of six additional landfill cells. Furthermore, Visy’s new $23.8 million facility will have the capacity to process up to 155,000 tonnes of dry kerbside recyclables a year.

Additional fast-tracked projects include the construction of a resource recovery facility facility in Penrith, waste management upgrades to Horsley Park’s Brickworks plant and Snowy 2.0 main works.

NSW Planning and Public Spaces Minister Rob Stokes also released the NSW Government’s Priority Projects Criteria – a set of guidelines that will determine which development projects are fast-tracked through the program.

To be considered for a fast-tracked assessment, the development application or rezoning must already be in the system, deliver a public benefit, demonstrate an ability to create jobs during construction and once complete, be able to commence construction within six months.

A total of 24 projects have been identified in the first round of fast-tracked assessments, which according to Mr Stokes, will inject $7.54 billion into the state’s economy.

“It’s important to note that this is not a greenlighting exercise, the same stringent checks, balances and community consultation that ensures transparency, public benefit and merit-based assessment of projects remain,” he said.

Despite general support for the program, Local Government NSW (LGNSW) has warned that failure to include environmentally sustainable waste and recycling measures in the criteria is a missed opportunity, particularly in light of the “rapidly approaching” national export ban.

LGNSW President Linda Scott said it was encouraging to see waste management and recycling facilities accounting for four of the 24 fast-tracked projects. However, she said the logical next step would have been to embed recycling principles in the actual fast-tracking criteria.

“Minister Stokes’ announcement is a missed opportunity to begin to create a state in which home-grown recycling and sustainable, smart waste management is built into everything we do,” Ms Scott said.

“It would have sent a very clear planning message: we’re going to do things better from now on, and we need to be working together to ensure some lasting and sustainable good comes out of these difficult times.”

Despite this, Ms Scott said local government supports the principled focus on the creation of jobs to address the economic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic in the short-to-medium-term.

“Councils certainly welcome a commitment of state government resources to help free up blockages in the planning approval pipeline,” she said.

“LGNSW has long argued that the NSW Government has a key role to play in addressing the ‘hidden’ approval delays which occur when other state agencies are required to sign off on a project.”

Ms Scott added that it is important to ensure that short-term responses and system reforms do not undermine transparency and good planning principles, or encourage poor quality development that would cost the communities dearly in future years.

“We are calling on the government to guarantee a stronger role for council-led Local Strategic Planning Statements, and guarantee they will play a key role in assessing overall strategic merit,” she said.

“There will need to be further consultation with councils to ensure this fast-track program really does deliver for the people of NSW and the public good, rather than simply pouring money into the pockets of developers.”

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