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Requests pursuant to GIPA Act

A recent Civil and Administrative Tribunal decision has upheld a local council’s decision to refuse an individual’s request for documents pursuant to the Government Information (Public Access) Act 2009 (the GIPA Act).

A resident and ratepayer (“the applicant”) who resides in the local government area of the Sutherland Shire Council, made a request pursuant to the GIPA Act for documents relating to Council’s stormwater management investigation in respect of a stormwater issue on/near the applicant’s property, including information on who had directed Council’s officers, and who drafted responses on behalf of Council officers. In particular, the applicant sought the following records relevant to this decision:

  1. I request a record of the written report of the ‘visit’ by the relevant officer/s (ref:8/1/19), CR18-301708 Mr Barber’s email 5/12/18, para 3)
  2. Should no record exist for the ‘visit’ in Item 7, then I request the record supporting Mr Barber’s conclusion: there was no ‘problematic overland flow.’
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Part 6 of the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act is Finally Coming into Effect (Hopefully)!

On 30 August 2019, the NSW government introduced the Environmental Planning and Assessment Amendment (Building and Subdivision Certification) Regulation 2019 (NSW). With this, Part 6 of the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act 1979 (NSW) (the EPA Act) is likely to finally come into effect on 1 December 2019, bringing significant changes to the building approval and certification regimes in NSW.

Background

Part 6 of the EPA Act was inserted into the EPA Act as part of the major reform package introduced by the Environmental Planning and Assessment Amendment Act 2017 (NSW). With the exception of the sections relating to the Building Information Certificate, Part 6 did not immediately commence with most of the reform package. Instead, its commencement was delayed several times to enable industry to make the transition.

Introduced by the state government as a part of its response to the report on the building certification regime in NSW by former state treasury secretary Michael Lambert (the Lambert Report), Part 6 of the EPA consolidated all provisions relating to building certification – which was previously found at various parts of the EPA Act – into a one single part within the EPA Act. Further, Part 6 will make the following substantive changes:
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Amber Light Approach – Where to from Now?

The term ‘Amber Light Approach’ was first coined in Ali v Liverpool City Council [2009] NSWLEC 1327 to describe an approach that had been favoured by the Court at the time. Under this approach, the decision-maker in the Class 1 appeal jurisdiction of the Land and Environment Court would consider whether an otherwise unacceptable development proposal could be approved after making identifiable amendments. If the answer to this question is yes, then the Court may approve the development proposal after the requisite amendments have been made (Vigor Master Pty Ltd v Warringah Council [2011] NSWLEC 1096).

The types of amendments the Court has ordered under the Amber Light Approach are quite diverse. These amendments include reducing the number of apartments in a residential apartment development (Benevolent Society v Waverley Council [2010] NSWLEC 1082), incorporating a wild life management plan (Riordans Consulting Survey Pty Ltd v Lismore City Council [2010] NSWLEC 1333), and changing the length of the proposed trial period in a brothel development (Tl & Tl Tradings Pty Ltd v Parramatta City Council [2017] NSWLEC 142). However, what exactly constitutes the Amber Light Approach has never been clearly defined, which, as will be seen below, makes the approach problematic.
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No ‘Character of the Local Area’ in diverse neighbourhoods

Under clause 16A of the State Environmental Planning Policy (Affordable Rental Housing) 2009, a consent authority must not consent to a development if the design is incompatible with the character of the local area.

In the recent decision of Louden Pty Ltd v Canterbury-Bankstown Council [2018] NSWLEC 1285 (Louden), clause 16A played a prominent role in Commissioner Gray’s judgement. In that case, the Council had refused the development, inter alia, because the development’s design did not match the local aesthetic. The Council relied on the argument that the setbacks and design of the proposal were inconsistent with other residential flat buildings in the local area.

However, Commissioner Gray rejected this argument in favour of the Applicant’s reliance on Project Venture Developments v Pittwater Council [2005] NSWLEC 191 (Project Venture). There, Roseth SC stated [at 22]: Compatibility is thus different from sameness. It is generally accepted that buildings can exist together in harmony without having the same density, scale or appearance, though as the difference in these attributes increases, harmony is harder to achieve.
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3 Tree-Lessons from the Land & Environment Court

Trees can mean many things to many people, for the ancient Norse people Yggrasil “the giant tree of life” connected the heavens and the earth, for real estate agents in metropolitan Sydney it delivers a mystical extra $40K to the selling price, and for the ancient welsh druids – stationary lovers. This varied appreciation of trees also extends to the many and various Class 2 applications in the Land & Environment Court. One person’s tree delights, is another’s waking terror.

  1. Annoyance or Discomfort of the Third Kind

If your neighbour’s trees or hedges continue to deposit leaves and other detritus all over your property, the best solution maybe to forgo the Class 2 Application and pick up a rake instead – as the Court has found that Gaia’s garbage will not be enough to engage an application by an affected land owner pursuant to section 7 (Disputes Between Neighbours) Act 2006 (NSW) (Trees Act):
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Section 34 Conciliation Conferences – Requirement for Reasons

A recent development consented to by a Commissioner of the Land and Environment Court during a Court mandated section 34 conference has been set aside by the Court of Appeal due to the fact that the Commissioner failed to give proper and adequate reasons for their decision. The Commissioner further failed to give proper reasons with respect to her satisfaction as to the legal perquisites to their power to grant the consent.

Huajun Investments Pty Ltd filed a class 1 appeal against City of Canada Bay Council’s deemed refusal of their DA which sough to demolish pre-existing structures on the DA site and replace it with an 8 storey-residential flat building.

After being sat down for a section 34 conference pursuant to section 34 of the Land and Environment Court Act 1979 (“the Act”) , The Commissioner overseeing the matter granted development consent in accordance with the agreed terms under section 34(3) of the Act. Section 34(3) states that once an agreement is reached, the Commissioner must:
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Protection of the Environment Operations Amendment (Asbestos Waste) Bill 2018

On 24 October 2018, the New South Wales upper house introduced the Protection of the Environment Operations Amendment (Asbestos Waste) Bill 2018 (the Bill) with the stated aim of ‘[making] clearer the Government is serious about protecting the environment of New South Wales and the health of its citizen’, as well as ‘provide greater deterrence against illegal dumping of asbestos waste’.

The current laws on illegal dumping, transporting, and recycling of asbestos waste

The current version of the Protection of the Environment Operations Act 1997 (NSW) (the Act) provides for prohibitions against unauthorised dumping and receiving of waste in general [Ss 143 & 144, of the Act]. This general prohibition is complimented by asbestos-related provisions within the Protection of the Environment Operations (Waste) Regulations 2014 (NSW) (Waste Regulations), which detail the requirements for handling of asbestos waste. For example, the Waste Regulations requires the person delivering the asbestos waste to notify the owner of the landfill that will be receiving the asbestos waste [Clause 80(2), Waste Regulations], the occupier of the landfill site to cover up the disposed asbestos waste in certain manners [Clause 80(4), Ibid], the transportation of asbestos waste to follow certain regulatory requirements, including securing the asbestos materials securely during transport [Clause 78, Ibid] and wetting down the waste if the asbestos materials are contained soil [Clause 78(d), Ibid]. The Waste Regulations also expressly bans recycling and reusing asbestos materials [Clause 81, Ibid].
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Is the need for a neutral or better outcome a requirement for success with respect to clause 4.6?

In a recent decision in the Land and Environment Court (LEC), the Court has given further clarification to the type of consideration that needs to be given to clause 4.6 of the standard instrument LEP.

The significant decision was given in the case Initial Action Pty Ltd v Woollahra Municipal Council [2018] NSWLEC 118 where Preston CJ clarified the appropriate approach to the consideration of clause 4.6. The importance of this judgment is that a clause 4.6 submission does not require developments which do not comply with the applicable development standard to have a neutral or better environmental planning outcome than a development that does not.

By way of background – a “Clause 4.6” in the standard instrument LEP which permits a consent authority to grant development consent for a development that would contravene a development standard, where the consent authority is satisfied of the following two standards:

  1. a written request from the applicant adequately demonstrating that the compliance with the development standard is unreasonable or unnecessary and that there is sufficient environmental planning grounds to justify the contravention; and
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