It’s not about economics. It’s about power

For anyone who doubts the influence the housing industry has on government, an article in The Fifth Estate spells it out clearly. The article is in the context of the dumping a new planning policy that would have delivered many benefits to the people of New South Wales. It also indicates why NSW has refused to adopt the access features in the National Construction Code. It’s not about economic arguments, it’s about who has the last word.

A calculator and a bank statement are sitting on a desk. Economics

An independent economic cost benefit analysis concluded benefits to society would be $1.40 for every dollar spent.

The NSW Greens eventually forced the NSW Government to release documents related to their dumping of their long awaited planning policy. It was during a lunch meeting with developers that the Minister for Planning agreed not to progress the new planning policy. And unlike other ministerial speeches, this speech was kept secret. The eventual release of this speech brought forth many other documents.

…it was apparent that the Benefit Cost analysis concluded benefits derived by the society and community to be $1.40 for every dollar spent by the developer! But the dollar is being spent by the developer!! What benefit do they get for expenditure of this money?”

Urban Taskforce CEO Tom Forrest in The Fifth Estate
Three piles of gold coins at different heights with the tallest having a little gold house on top.

The documents

The Fifth Estate has published the letters and emails between the Minister and developers. It makes for interesting reading. The developers’ argument is that they get nothing for these changes while the community gains. This, of course, is debatable. Regardless, any additional developer costs are passed on to consumers so it is difficult to understand this argument.

The documents reveal the close relationship between industry and NSW Government and help explain other decisions. The NSW Government has flatly refused to adopt recent changes to the National Construction Code for housing. These changes are based on the Silver level of the Livable Housing Design Guidelines. They are basic access features that would benefit everyone especially people with reduced mobility. However, other states and territories are ready to adopt these changes. Where will that leave developers in NSW? More importantly, where will it leave householders?

If you are interested in the whole story The Fifth Estate has laid it out in a simple story. The title is, “When people notice what we have done” – documents expose how developers killed the NSW Design and Place SEPP.

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