SA major digital planning reforms delayed, bureaucrats quit


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Most of the team in charge of leading the South Australian government’s new electronic planning system has quit, while the rollout of the scheme has been pushed back by at least three months over community concerns.

The Planning and Design Code and ePlanning framework was set to become the state’s single source of planning policy for assessing development applications from July 1. Once implemented, it would replace 72 council development plans and more than 23,000 pages of planning policy in the current planning system, with a simpler, digital format.

Last week the state government was reportedly “open to considering” delays to implementing the code after councils and industry had raised concerns, likening the system to the government’s “flawed” electronic patient administration system.

The government on Friday released a statement confirming it would delay the deadline by at least three months “in response to industry and community feedback”.

Despite the government arguing it was “ready to launch the new Code as scheduled”, rural and metropolitan areas would likely adopt the new framework in July and September, respectively.

The government said it would act on advice from the State Planning Commission based on stakeholder and community feedback, in order to give councils, industry and the community more time to understand and prepare for the new planning system.

Planning Minister Stephan Knoll said the bill, which had originally set out the July deadline, would be amended to provide more time for testing and potentially more enhancements to be made to the ePlanning system.

“This is a generational reform of our planning system so if industry and the community want more time to get it right, them we are open to granting them that time,” he said in a statement.

“It would be counterproductive to the planning system and developments across South Australia if we were to ignore the feedback from councils and the community and push ahead with the initial timelines.”

It comes as the public servant in charge of overseeing the ePlanning system left his role, along with most of the leadership team. Department of Planning, Transport and Infrastructure director of state planning reform, Marcus Bal, departed the job late last month, despite only being hired in February 2019.

Since then, four more team members have resigned, according to InDaily.

The departing public servants include program manager Kimberley Smyth, policy stream lead of the planning reform implementation program Fran Wharton, program management coordinator Madeleine MacMillan, and executive assistant to the planning reform program director Leanne Williams.

Ray Partridge has since taken on Bal’s role.

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