NSW Finance Minister Victor Dominello has put the state’s 128 local councils on notice that they will in future be required to provide real time updates about property developments in their areas.
Councils meanwhile have signaled to Mr Dominello that they expect financial support from state government in order to fund the necessary changes.
Speaking at CeBIT Australia tech event in Sydney, Mr Dominello – who is also services and property minister in NSW, said the states were flying blind with regard to where to put schools, roads, and hospitals – relying on demographic data that could be years out of date.
“Planning is at the centre of all good governments, but most wouldn’t have a clue with regard to demographic movement,” said Mr Dominello.
It’s a bold admission for a state Government already under fire for a $700 million cost blowout on the WestConnex roads project, and for flip-flopping on its $2 billion sports stadium upgrade plans.
At present Mr Dominello acknowledged that state government was challenged to understand; “Where is the pulse? Where can we see in real time where the herd is moving so that we can make sure we are planning for that massive population?”
The NSW ePlanning portal already provides users with search capability about development applications (DA), but Mr Dominello said that it was imperative that the State Government gets better access to accurate and up to date development information.
He said that the next important reform for NSW would be in ePlanning.
“We are digitising the whole planning process – that will require councils to report in real time which DAs are going on, which certifiers are certifying where, which developers,” he said.
“We need to see this information in real time so that we can make informed decisions not based on what took place two years ago or a year ago.
“This will make us agile in adapting to population pressures, to ensure that NSW caters for population growth but not at the expense of livability,” said Mr Dominello.
Sydney Lord Mayor Clover Moore who also spoke at CeBIT delivered an early thumbs up to the proposal saying “the city will be pleased to work on all of those initiatives.”
But Mr Dominello still has a further 127 councils to win over – many of which may need to update their IT systems to cope with the new requirement.
A Local Government NSW (LGNSW) spokesperson said that some of the data Mr Dominello wanted access to might not be easily accessible to councils – for example, she said most certifiers and developers are private entities. Councils might not have ready access to that information in real time.
LGNSW president Linda Scott said that local government supports a more transparent planning system.
“E-planning tools, when implemented well, allow our communities to track where proposals are within the whole planning system – including the status of necessary approvals by government agencies – making the planning process much more transparent from start to finish.
“We’re committed to working with the NSW Government to ensure changes are affordable for all 128 NSW Councils.
“Communities understandably won’t accept council service cuts or rate increases to facilitate backroom changes to IT to facilitate e-planning, so Local Government NSW looks forward to discussing financial options for implementation with the NSW Government.”
Mr Dominello also announced a revamp of the State’s online procurement with the launch of Buy.NSW, which is being demonstrated at CeBIT ahead of the first phase going live on May 31.
“One of the things we need to work on is procurement. Selling to government is definitely not easy.” He said that at present around 10,000 suppliers used a “plethora of portals” across agencies.
“As a result there is no one single way for Government to engage suppliers… resulting in inefficiencies on both sides.”
The Buy.NSW procurement platform was, he said, the first single Government platform to handle all procurement.
“It will make it easier for government to find and compare suppliers and for suppliers to market their services.”
The first release of Buy.NSW will be a marketplace for buying and selling cloud software, cloud hosting and infrastructure, and cloud support services. Additional products and services will be added over time.
According to a spokesperson for the Department of Finance, Services and Property the vision is for Buy.NSW to become a single place for all Government procurement.
It does not however replace ProcurePoint, although that portal is undergoing a revamp to create a consistent user experience for all buyers and sellers according to the spokesperson.
Mr Dominello has been a champion of digital transformation across the public sector throughout his parliamentary career and at CeBIT brandished his digital drivers licence on his smartphone.
Originally trialled in Dubbo, the government this week signaled that it would, in the next fortnight, introduce legislation for the phased roll out of the digital drivers licence across the State.