23 metropolitan councils have launched a campaign demanding the NSW Government abandon its plan to divert local government funds into State revenue.
The following open letter was published on 16 September 2021.
As you know, the NSW Government imposes housing targets onto local Councils to accommodate Sydney's population growth.
And in turn, our communities rely on our Councils to deliver the essential facilities and infrastructure needed to support this growth, and make people’s lives and local environments better.
This infrastructure includes everything from roads and footpaths, to sports fields, parks and netball courts, to playgrounds, pools and libraries.
We can only deliver these facilities because we are able to collect contributions from property developers to help fund them.
However, the changes now being planned by the NSW Government will diver t a large proportion of these developer contributions away from Councils and into a Treasury-controlled fund, with no clear accountability or transparency of how it will be spent.
And the Government is proposing Councils raise rates to make up the revenue we are losing.
This breaks the nexus between where contributions are made and where they are spent. This threatens the ability of every Council to deliver much-needed new community facilities, and transfers that burden onto our ratepayers.
Premier, you are forcing us to choose between cancelling projects and raising rates. And this is at a time of pandemic-induced financial hardship for many people in the state.
On behalf of our communities, we urge that you withdraw the changes currently before Parliament.
Further comment from local mayors
City of Sydney
The proposed amendment to the Infrastructure Contributions legislation is the greatest threat to local government since the failed forced amalgamation policy.
These changes will have far-reaching consequences, eroding local government autonomy and most importantly, eroding the living conditions and amenity of all our communities.
Contributions help us to deliver much-needed parks and open spaces, community facilities, roadways and footpaths that help our local residents and businesses function and prosper.
The Government is giving us an impossible choice – stop improving local amenity or raise rates to cover the cost.
This Bill is not good for local government, it is not good for our communities, and it is not good for the development industry. If the Government wants to establish a regional infrastructure fund, it should do it using government revenue sources, such as the lucrative stamp duty. Instead, the Minister is introducing a tax rise by stealth, using local government as its proxy.
North Sydney Council
We are seeing huge development in Crows Nest and St Leonards that will significantly increase our local population and the demand on our infrastructure and facilities.
Changes to this levy will see North Sydney lose out on millions of dollars every single year which will instead be diverted to the State Government.
Our infrastructure is already working overtime. We have one of the lowest rates of open space per person in Sydney. Cutting our entitlement to development levies will leave us struggling to manage the increased demand on our playgrounds, libraries, community gardens, walking trails, sports fields and parks, unless we raise rates by at least 10% to make up the shortfall.
Developer levies should be spent where they were raised to ensure new development is accompanied by appropriate investment in the surrounding area. This is a pure tax scrape by NSW Government who will increase their revenue while forcing cuts or rate hikes on to local Councils and their ratepayers.
Blacktown City Council
The proposed changes will have the greatest impact on Blacktown City Council because it shoulders the largest development burden in NSW.
The Government must allow Councils to levy developers to cater for the demands generated by their developments, particularly essential social infrastructure that is demanded by new communities such as libraries, community meeting halls and aquatic facilities.
The Government’s own planning department says that these are essential to make good places, but its policies do not allow Councils to levy for them. This is outrageous.
Under the proposed changes, the NSW Government could regulate to collect a contribution from a development in Marsden Park and spend it anywhere in NSW – this too is outrageous.
Developers profit from density and development and it is only right that they meet the cost of the demand that their developments create.
Local government needs an iron clad guarantee that no community will be worse off with this rushed legislation. This money grab by the state government threatens the foundations which sustain communities, not just now but for our future generations.
The system is not broken and on behalf of our community we call on the Premier and the Planning Minister to work with us so we can keep providing the libraries, swimming pools, parks and community centres our residents value so much.
Mosman residents trust us to deliver the facilities they need to live and work in Mosman and we have been doing just that for decades.
Our communities need the contributions, not the NSW Government, and this legislation, which will remove key funding from local areas and deliver it to the Government, should be withdrawn immediately.
Willoughby City Council
We join with our fellow metropolitan Councils to call on the NSW Government to withdraw the Environmental Planning and Assessment Amendment Bill 2021 from the NSW Parliament.
This Bill will result in a significant loss of revenue to councils to fund vital local infrastructure such as parks, community centres and libraries.
In addition, later payment of developer contributions will mean vital infrastructure won’t be available to communities when they need it.
Key Willoughby projects at risk include the Willoughby Leisure Centre upgrade and dozens of projects to increase the capacity of our parks, open spaces and active transport links. Further, reduced local infrastructure investment will be a handbrake on jobs and economic growth as our city grows.
For information or comment from mayors, please contact:
Suzannah Hills: Suzannah.Hills@northsydney.nsw.gov.au
Paul Mackay: firstname.lastname@example.org