Red tape torpor strangling major developments
Exclusive: Sydney developments - including a luxury $500 million Ritz Carlton Tower at The Star - are being stalled by slow bureaucratic processes as tourism and development leaders warn the city is being hurt by delays.
Star Entertainment group has no decision from the Department of Planning Industry and Environment on the status of the tower which is now lagging 18 months behind its original timeline.
The Daily Telegraph can also reveal the NSW government has not yet lodged a development application for the new Sydney Fish Market despite being in a position to do so for the past 12 weeks.
Former Tourism Australia chief John O'Sullivan - who only resigned from the job two months ago - issued a missive saying Sydney must address the problem to make sure "it doesn't lose market share to Singapore, Hong Kong, London and New York."
Mr O'Sullivan revealed that in his time at the helm of the nation's peak tourism body, several investors complained to him about Sydney being difficult to build in.
The March state election is understood to have had a bureaucratic slow down effect and was privately blamed by some for the delays.
The journey to build the 61-storey Ritz Carlton hotel and residential tower on the highly sought after Pyrmont peninsula began in October 2015 and construction was originally hoped to be completed late next year.
But almost four years later the project remains in limbo with approval still pending from the NSW Department of Planning.
A department spokeswoman said "given the complexity and significant community interest of the proposed development, it's important to ensure the application adequately addresses all of the issues raised."
Star Entertainment group chief Matt Bekier said when the proposal process began, the Star was aiming have construction completed by late 2020.
"The detail and unique design of this tower will require a build time of around 36 months, so that timeline has long since been superseded," he said.
"We continue to work closely with the Department to secure all necessary approvals and are ready to start construction as soon as that achieved."
Regarding the Fish Markets development, sources believe the massive public sector reshuffle following the March NSW election may have caused the department to drag its feet.
The government's former planning agency UrbanGrowth NSW, which was handling the new Fish Markets development, was axed on July 1 with its functions transferred to Infrastructure NSW.
A spokeswoman for Sydney Fish Market said shareholders in April held an Extraordinary General Meeting at which they "resolved to endorse the Agreement for Lease that was executed by SFM and UrbanGrowth NSW (now the project is under Infrastructure NSW)".
"The effect of the resolutions that were passed means that the way is now cleared for the NSW Government to lodge the development application," she said.
An Infrastructure NSW spokeswoman said the department was finalising the design and development application for the new Fish Market.
"The DA will be lodged in the coming months," the spokeswoman said.
Urban Taskforce chief executive Chris Johnson said there was a "feeling the planning system through the government and councils is going a bit slow on big projects particularly," including the Ritz Carlton and the Fish Markets.
He said the slowdown could be partially due to the state election with new ministers and heads of department adjusting to their roles.
"The worry I think is these big projects, which are the ones that really impact the economy in a positive way, are ones that should get faster rather than slower approvals," he said.
"Others would argue because they're big they need to be much more carefully managed but I think governments and councils should put extra resources into the big ones to really get them moving quickly."
The City of Sydney has objected to the luxury Ritz Carlton with Lord Mayor Clover Moore previously slamming the proposal as a "scandalous abuse of the planning system" that would overshadow public areas.
But Liberal councillor Christine Forster disagreed, saying it will be a "huge asset to the city, a world-class tourist destination".
"It's not constructive when all you get is whingeing and moaning about these significant developments that are big legacy assets for the city and the state," she said.
Sydney Business Chamber executive director Katherine O'Regan said there have been "more delays than we would have liked" concerning major developments.
"That's not getting the certainty around investment and outcomes that the city deserves," she said.
"I think it's lost tourism, it's lost business, it's lost jobs that could start to benefit everybody."
Ms O'Regan said the Chamber had previously pushed for a "deemed approval process" so that investors and the community have "clear timelines and transparency" as to how the approval process is tracking.
There are also development delays in Sydney's northwest with billionaire property developer Harry Triguboff threatening to launch legal action over opposition to a 1270 unit development.
The Meriton founder wrote a personal letter to Premier Gladys Berejiklian last year saying Ryde MP Victor Dominello was being "completely unreasonable" by attacking his development proposal at Macquarie Park.
Meriton has claimed it is losing $50,000 a day from the halt in development.
Planning and Public Spaces Minister Rob Stokes defended the government's building pace.
"There is absolutely no delay or 'go slow' in the assessment of State Significant projects in NSW. In fact, the Government has more than halved the time taken to assess these projects since 2014 and we're currently looking at more ways that we can further reduce decision-making time frames," Mr Stokes said.
"At the same time, these projects can have lasting social and environmental impacts so it's important that we take the time necessary to get these decisions right."