Summary of facts and timeline.
The City of Nedlands had been working responsibly on the development of the new planning scheme since 2014 with great care and diligence. The original new dwellings target being at that time 2540 units. This target was subsequently extended to 4400 units.
After extensive consultations with the WAPC, the Nedlands community and other stakeholders, the CoN prepared a fully compliant planning scheme. The all important new home target of 4400, previously negotiated with the WAPC was met. LPS 3 achieved all major planning objectives. This, the CoN approved LPS 3, was adopted by the CoN in December 2016, it was then forwarded to the WAPC for approval to advertise.
On 17 March 2017 the Western Australian Government changed and new Ministers were appointed. Ms Rita Saffioti became Planning Minister. It is also relevant that a new Chairman of the WAPC was appointed on 16 April 2018, for the purpose of ‘...driving change in the WAPC and implementing the Government’s planning reform…’.
Then in October 2017, unexpectedly and without explanation, the WAPC advised the CoN of modifications to LPS 3 (I refer to this as the ‘WAPC modified LPS 3’). This new version was fundamentally different, it had significantly higher density and according to the CoN calculations the new zonings would yield 8985 new dwellings.
In commenting on the WAPC modified LPS 3, the Minister announced that she was not satisfied (with the CoN approved LPS 3) and advised that the Government would only sign off on a new version of LPS 3 using ‘well-designed higher densities’.
The Minister also advised that ‘The aim of increasing density and updating old local planning schemes is clear - to plan for increased population near existing infrastructure such as public transport, healthcare and schools’. But this was not reflected in the WAPC modified LPS 3 presented to the CoN.
Throughout the first few months of 2018 the CoN negotiated in good faith with the WAPC relative to the WAPC modified LPS 3, in particular trying to clarify the calculation methodology for the new residences under the rezonings vs the targets. There was a significant discrepancy that needed to be reconciled (4400 new dwellings vs 9000 new dwellings). The CoN also engaged the local community and received over 1000 submissions, 90% of which were opposed to the WAPC modified LPS 3.
On 31 July 2018, the Council debated LPS 3 and voted to not support the WAPC modified LPS 3. For the balance of 2018, the CoN tried in vain to discuss or negotiate with the WAPC a better outcome for the resident of the CoN. They were met with a ‘brick wall’, the WAPC under the new leadership of Mr Caddy refused to discuss or negotiate the WAPC revised LPS 3.
Then out of the blue, with a few days notice, the Mayor (and staff) of the CoN were summoned to a meeting with the Minister on 29th January 2019. No agenda was provided for the meeting and the Mayor had no idea what the meeting would be about.
At the meeting on 29 January 2019 the Minister clearly showed frustration and impatience. The language used by the Minister and echoed by the Chair of the WAPC at this meeting had a tone of authoritarianism and created an environment of threat and intimidation. The stage was being set for an unprecedented intervention by the Minister. Notes from the meeting do not capture the full extent of the conversations but it is clear from the notes that the Minister was frustrated and had unilaterally decided that the WAPC modified LPS 3 would be imposed on the City and that no further discussion would be tolerated.
A day or two after this 29 January 2019 meeting, the CoN received notice from the WAPC that the Minister had again revised LPS 3 zonings on 4 February 2019 (the Minister’s LPS 3).
The Minister’s LPS 3, without going through a process of public consultations or indeed feedback from CoN or public advertising was gazetted on 16 April 2019.