City of Gold Coast Planning Director survey reveals COVID-19 “state of play”
COVID-19 had resulted in rapid change in planning departments across the State.
Early analysis of interviews conducted by the Institute on 7 and 8 April 2020 with Planning Directors in both metropolitan and regional locations throughout the State shows planning teams are quickly moving to remote working and are cognisant of their critical role in saving industry jobs by getting on with core business on their side of the fence.
City of Gold Coast
Interviewee: Alisha Swain, Director Economy, Planning and Environment
What changes have you made to your department to ensure business continuity?
We are working through a range of measures to maintain our level of service while protecting our staff and community. The majority of our teams within our directorate are working from home but services have not closed (meetings and face to face contact at customer service counter for planning queries has been discontinued for now). Our City Development Branch is continuing with assessment of applications, sealing of survey plans, contributed assets inspections and development compliance matters.
We are temporarily changing the way we interact with our customers. We will no longer be holding face-to-face meetings for pre-lodgements or other meetings associated with development applications. Instead, our assessment officers will be available by teleconferencing, email and phone.
For on-site inspections, the following procedures are now in place to ensure the health and safety of officers:
- City Officers will call prior to attending a site inspection
- City Officers will undertake site inspections alone. Once the site inspection is complete, the Officer will call you to discuss
- If a customer believes it is essential to be on-site during an inspection, they are able to request this through a City Officer
- This will not be guaranteed and will be assessed on an individual basis
- If a site representative is permitted to be on-site, it will be limited to one site representative only.
What has been the greatest challenge or obstacle you have run into?
In the first few weeks our challenges were IT related to working from home provisions but we have now resolved these. We will would sincerely appreciate feedback from industry as to how this is working as we proceed through the next few weeks and months.
What is the next change you think you will need to put in place to respond?
A first round of business stimulus on 24 March 2020. We are currently working on the next round to be released in the near future and we will also be assessing submissions from the industry groups to form part of this.
How can the Institute be included in the development of your recovery plan?
I would appreciate the continued dialogue and ideas from industry throughout this situation as none of us will have all of the answers and it is a time where we need to all work together. It would be good to arrange a meeting in a few weeks to go through where we are at.
Have you implemented any of these proposals?
Focussing resourcing on avoiding delays to plan sealing processes
Investing more resourcing in avoiding delays to existing Development Applications (DAs)
Establishing a Low Risk Team to process
Pre-emptively establishing outsourcing arrangements or a pre-qualified suppliers panel for planning, engineering and other relevant professions
Relaxing restrictions on on-site work work hours
Providing a new home builder’s grant (like Rockhampton Regional Council)
Providing immediate offset refunds for LGIP trunk infrastructure