TAMWORTH Regional Council staff have admitted the development applications (DA) process can be “tedious” and slow, but they’re working hard to improve that in the future.
At the Tamworth Business Chamber’s monthly lunch event on Thursday, staff members and the mayor asked about 90 attending business community members and residents to candidly discuss all things DA with them.
Chamber president and Tamworth councillor Tim Coates chaired the event at the Westpac Rescue Helicopter hangar.
Mayor Col Murray, council general manager Paul Bennett and planning and community services director Jackie Kruger were ready for some heated discussion.
“Nothing is off-limits,” Mr Bennett said.
In the past year, the council has approved more than 500 DAs, with a combined value of more than $1 million, proving the process can get pretty busy.
The council acknowledged the process was difficult but that without proper community engagement it couldn’t be improved.
Mrs Kruger noted some decisions that held up approvals could be of a very petty nature, and the council was aware of the costs and time involved to developers on the other side of legislation.
“We know there’s always going to be some form of frustration between developers and council, but council has to make sure the quality of infrastructure left behind is built to last,” she said.
The question-and-answer-style portion of the luncheon at times got a little heated when residents brought up some of their DA experiences.
Julian Smith said when he sought help at the Tamworth council building, it was sometimes like an imaginary sign was hung over the counters saying, “How can I hinder you?”
Mr Smith said he had submitted a preliminary DA and it had so far taken nine weeks.
Mrs Kruger said that wasn’t good enough.
“I can only change things I know about, and I hope in six months’ time your experience won’t be anyone else’s,” she said.
Mr Bennett said the council hoped to start pre-DA lodgment meetings to prevent experiences like Mr Smith’s.
The panellists said they understood time was money and the council would look for common ground to see where common sense could apply in the future.
Cr Murray, a former businessman, said he could empathise with business people when they were going through the process.