Mackay 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.

Mackay Regional Council

Interviewee: Aletta Nugent, Director of Development Services

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

  • Council still providing the full suite of services
  • Smooth transition, generally staff still in the office, some staggering of start times and splitting up of teams to maintain safety, and some arrangements for vulnerable staff.
  • Have been undertaking planning for various scenarios
  • Steady stream of applications being received
  • Further information available here

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

  • Smooth transition, aiming to maintain services even if there are more serious circumstances.

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

  • Council has put in place a response package e.g. 50 percent discount on DA fees. More detail here.
  • New council being settled in
  • Thinking about new options.

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

  • Open to ideas from the Institute and understand the importance of keeping construction jobs going.
  • Maintaining quarterly and more regular meetings with the industry to ensure we are in touch with industry needs.

Have you implemented any of these proposals?

Focussing resourcing on avoiding delays to plan sealing processes

No, currently working well, being monitored.

Investing more resourcing in avoiding delays to existing Development Applications (DAs)

No, currently working well with business as usual, being monitored.

Establishing a Low Risk Team to process

No, currently have geographical teams in place and this is working well.

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

No, but have recently restructured the engineering team to address bottlenecks and this is working well and is responsive.

Relaxing restrictions on on-site work work hours

No, but being monitored. Have been open to innovative/flexible proposals in other sectors.

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

Not at this stage, council did consider this issue in November with its incentives package but may reconsider as things go forward.

Providing immediate offset refunds for LGIP trunk infrastructure

Refund arrangements have recently been reviewed and allow quick turnaround on refunds and small scale plan sealing to allow charge payments as lot sales are to occur.