Ipswich 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.

Ipswich City Council

Interviewee: Peter Tabulo, General Manager Planning and Regulatory Services

What changes have you made to your department to ensure business continuity?

  • Working remotely, virtually 100% of development staff with full access to portfolio of applications
  • Initially asked staff to make contact with applicant or lead consultant on remote arrangements and offered to continue to work through existing applications.

What has been the greatest challenge or obstacle you have run into?

  • Lack of face to face meetings has provided a challenge, particularly the logistics of organising round tables with multidisciplinary teams.

What is the next change you think you will need to put in place to respond?

  • If the industry contracts in a significant way – what does that mean for resourcing from council’s perspective?
  • Need to ensure staffing levels respond to customer needs.

How can the Institute be included in the development of your recovery plan?

  • Conduit between all stakeholders so that there is a consistent view being provided to council
  • Opportunity to understand potential initiatives which may aid industry recovery – information sharing.

Have you implemented any of these proposals?

Focussing resourcing on avoiding delays to plan sealing processes

Yes. Contacting applicants with plans in the system. Review the need for bonds on some items.

Investing more resourcing in avoiding delays to existing Development Applications

No plans to increase resourcing currently, however there is the opportunity for greater focus with remote arrangements.

Establishing a Low Risk Team to process

No plans at this stage but some elements being considered and worked through e.g. bonds.

Pre-emptively establishing outsourcing arrangements or a pre-qualified suppliers panel for planning, engineering and other relevant professions

Not at this stage, not required.

Relaxing restrictions on on-site work work hours

EP Act change required.

Providing a new home builder’s grant (like Rockhampton Regional Council)

Not at this stage – would require a decision of council. Waiting for council to be sworn in.

Providing immediate offset refunds for LGIP trunk infrastructure

Would need council decision.