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State Government Regulations: Public Meeting and Hearing Restrictions

With restrictions on physical interaction during the COVID-19 pandemic, the State Government has implemented the Environmental Planning and Assessment Amendment (COVID-19 Planning Bodies) Regulation 2020 (COVID Regulation). The COVID Regulation which was put into action on 25 March 2020 requires the holding of public meetings and public hearings by planning bodies to be held through electronic means. These include:

  1. By way of audio link or audio visual link; and
  2. In a means that permits it to be heard or viewed electronically by members of the public whilst the meeting or hearing is being held.

The COVID Regulation applies to:

  • Local planning panels;
  • Regional planning panels;
  • District planning panels;
  • The Independent Planning Commission;
  • Any other panels established by the Planning Secretary or Minister under section 2.3 of the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act 1979 (EPA Act).

Such meetings or hearings must be held live and available to the public, and thus is not permitted to record the meeting or hearing and subsequently make the recording publicly available. Under clause 294(6) of the EPA Regulation, a person who is required to attend the public hearing or meeting satisfies the requirement by participating by way of audio or audio visual input, in contrast to attending in person.
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Introduction of Local Government COVID 19 Regulations – Financial Relief

 

The State Government on 17 April 2020 has made the Local Government (General) Amendment (COVID-19) Regulations 2020 (‘COVID-19 Regulation’) to amend the Local Government (General) Regulations 2006 (‘Local Government Regulations’). This amendment was sparked by the strict procedural and financial provisions within the Local Government Act 1993 (‘Local Government Act’), limiting councils in providing financial relief for ratepayers during the COVID-19 pandemic.

These changes to the Local Government Regulations has allowed councils to waiver or reduce fees in response to the pandemic and delay payment of an instalment of rates over the next month (from date amended). Additionally, the COVID-19 Regulation has permitted councils additional time to prepare the following documents over the next month (similar from date amended):

  • Budget review statement for the quarter ended 31 March 2020
  • Annual reports
  • Audited financial reports
  • Operational plan

It also allows council to notify and provide inspection of various documents through their website rather than in newspapers or at council’s officers.
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