26 Nov 2021

The NSW Government is moving to fix a ‘broken contributions system’ which has been without holistic reform for decades.  

5 second summary:

  • NSW Government proposes to revise existing contributions through a 3-stream framework: Local Contributions, Regional Contributions and Land Use Planning
  • The exhibition package is open for submissions until 10 December 2021
  • Changes include optional rezoning uplift contributions and Regional Infrastructure Contributions (RICs) replacing SICs.

NSW’s infrastructure contributions system has long been labelled ‘broken’ with many in the industry calling for reform for some time. The NSW Government introduced a Bill to Parliament in June this year following recommendations made by the Productivity Commission. The Bill is currently awaiting ascent.

Through a new framework, now on public exhibition, the Government proposes to revise many existing contributions through a framework focused on three streams: Local Contributions, Regional Contributions and Land Use Planning.

These streams set out new requirements, considerations and levies to be charged for development in NSW.

Reform highlights

  • New concept of Land Value Contributions
  • New Section 7.12 plans will no longer be percentage based
  • Rezoning proposals require a contributions plan upfront
  • SICs are to be replaced with a broad-based Regional Infrastructure Contribution (RIC)
  • RICs may be accompanied by a Transport Contribution and/or Biodiversity Contribution

Land Value Contributions

The reforms introduce a mechanism to capture uplift at the time of rezoning. This is fundamental shift in the NSW contributions system.

This land value contribution is proposed to be placed on landowners who have gained uplift due to a change in planning controls that apply to their land.

This land value contribution is proposed to be placed on landowners who have gained uplift due to a change in planning controls that apply to their land. The contribution will be within a designated area nominated in a Contributions Plan that requires significant local infrastructure investment.

A contributions plan that introduces a requirement for a land value contribution will be site specific and must be developed concurrently with a planning proposal for the same land. The contribution applies to everyone who benefits from the rezoning of land and is payable upon either sale of land or development, whichever occurs first after rezoning.

This new mechanism is optional for Councils. They can choose to continue to exercise existing section 7.11 guidelines for land acquisition contributions.

Section 7.12 Contributions

Section 7.12 contributions are currently a percentage-based levy based on the cost of development. Historically, most section 7.12 contributions have been between 1-3%. The new framework proposes differential rates by development type and location, along with new maximum rates for contributions up to $15,000 per residential dwelling.

Rezoning Proposals with Contributions Plans

The reforms define a new approach to planning proposals whereby contributions plans (when needed) are exhibited at the same time as the rezoning proposal. This is supported through a new Ministerial Direction and Practice Note.

There is also a requirement for planning proposals to demonstrate the efficient use of land for public open space, drainage, or public facilities.

Introduction of Regional Infrastructure Contributions (RICs)

RICs with associated biodiversity and transport components are proposed to replace current Special Infrastructure Contributions (SICs). Funds collected through these contributions go into state revenue and will fund regionally significant infrastructure within four defined regions.

Funds collected through RICs go into state revenue and will fund regionally significant infrastructure.

The RIC will consist of a broad-based charge and apply to new development across each region. This is an important change as unlike the current SIC, the RIC will apply to all new development for which development consent, or a complying development certificate is required. This RIC rate will be determined by the property type and the region that the development occurs. Discounts apply for the initial three-year implementation period as the contributions are phased in.

In addition to a RIC, a transport component may be considered for new development within the service catchment of significant new transport investments. The contribution will apply in places where significant additional development potential is created from investment in new transport services. A great example of this is the draft SIC released in late November as part of the Pyrmont Peninsula ‘Special Infrastructure Contribution’ – at a rate of $15,000 per dwelling and $200/m2 for non-residential development, contribution $280 million for the new Metro Station in Pyrmont.

Similarly, the contribution rate for biodiversity will be determined on a case-by-case basis within areas where biodiversity certification has occurred. Initially, a biodiversity contribution is proposed to apply to land covered by the Cumberland Plain Conservation Plan with draft rates proposed.

What about Planning Agreements and Works-in-Kind Agreements?

Planning agreements (voluntary planning agreements) will continue to play a key role in providing funding for both local and regional infrastructure. New exhibition requirements for planning agreements will be introduced to improve transparency in the process. New guidelines are also on exhibition for the benefit and use of State Planning Agreements.

Under the new RIC framework, criteria for Infrastructure Delivery Agreements (works-in-kind agreements) are outlined. These agreements will continue to be essential in ensuring the timely delivery of infrastructure going forward.

Where to from here?

The reforms are a long-awaited step forward. We’re working closely with stakeholders, Councils and industry bodies to understand the proposed changes and advocate for reasonable outcomes.

We’re working closely with stakeholders, Councils and industry bodies to understand the proposed changes and advocate for reasonable outcomes.

It is important that the new framework is equitable and provides certainty. Through engagement with the reforms, opportunities exist to establish some early certainty on projects.

With the exhibition package open for submissions until 10 December and a planned rapid implementation roadmap, we are expecting to see the new framework advance over the next year. Our expert team will keep you informed of potential impacts before the changes take formal effect in mid-2022 and throughout the implementation phase up to 2024.

This is a one in thirty-year reform package that clearly has relevance to many projects. It’s important to understand, navigate through approvals processes and ultimately find ways to make contributions work for projects.

Any questions or wish to know more?  Have a chat to the Urbis specialist team below.

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