Mayors hammer Sartor claim
LOCAL mayors have hit back at State Planning Minister Frank Sartor's claims 'mum-and-dad' renovations are being dealt with too slowly by councils. Mr Sartor wants to halve the number of development applications handled by councils within two years. This will involve extending the role of controversial private certifiers, paid for by the person lodging the application. But Byron Shire Mayor Jan Barham said extending the role of private certifiers could actually hurt mum-and-dad renovators, especially if the rules were relaxed. "If the assessment isn't done properly all you've got is a flawed investment," she said. Ballina Mayor Phil Silver said it was complex State legislation, not councils, slowing the process down. One example was the State's bushfire policy, where a large number of applications had to be referred to the Rural Fire Service a process which could take up to 100 days, Cr Silver said. Mr Sartors' proposed changes to local government planning will go before cabinet at the end of the year and could be passed as law by mid-2008. It comes as the Planning Department prepares to release a report on local government showing 12 councils took an average of more than 100 days to process DAs. The Department yesterday declined to comment on whether any North Coast councils will be named in the report, which is not finalised. But both Ballina and Byron mayors said their councils were unlikely to be targeted. Cr Barham said her council had done a lot of work to speed up its development application process. Their median time for fast-track development was 25 days, and 52 days for more complex applications. Cr Silver said in May 2007 Ballina council dealt with 95 per cent of applications in just 40 days.