Rob Stokes signals phasing out of controversial rezoning policy

Proposed spot rezoning site in Merton Street, Sutherland. Picture: John Veage
Proposed spot rezoning site in Merton Street, Sutherland. Picture: John Veage

State Labor has accused new Planning Minister Rob Stokes of "a dramatic about-face" by signalling the phasing out of the practice of spot rezoning.

Spot rezoning involves selected sites being approved for increased building heights and other concessions beyond what is allowed for that area in the local environmental plan (LEP).

Labor used a highly controversial development site at Sutherland as an example of the practice when it promised at the state election to end spot rezoning if it won government.

For several years, a developer has been seeking approval for an 36 metre high apartment block (11 storeys), overlooking the playgrounds of St Patrick's Primary School and Sutherland Public School.

Mr Stokes, who is having his second stint in the planning role following the election, said in an interview, published on Wednesday, "My ambition, and it is a way off, but my ambition is a future where spot rezoning doesn't have a role".

He said this could be achieved, not by changing legislation, but by more frequent updating of LEPs.

Opposition spokeswoman on planning Tania Mihailuk said, after the Coalition "trashed" Labor's policy during the election campaign, Mr Stokes was now adopting it.

"The backflip comes barely three months after the Treasurer Dominic Perrottet claimed scrapping spot rezoning would 'wind the clock back eight years and worsen congestion, house prices and planning delays'," Ms Mihailuk said

"Spot rezoning, also known as a Pre-Gateway or Rezoning review, was introduced by the Liberals and Nationals in 2012 as a developer-friendly backdoor.

"Under the Liberal Government's regime developers can appeal directly to the state government to override a ruling made on a development by the local council with which they disagree.

"Mr Stokes also flagged changes to Planned Precincts and the timeframes for updating Local Environmental Plans (LEP), both of which were proposed by Labor during the 2019 election campaign and ignored by the Government."

Ms Mihailuk said, while the backflip on spot rezoning was cautiously welcomed, "Mr Stokes had a history of hollow statements not backed up by action".

"Every reform that Rob Stokes has suggested today has been stolen from Labor's election platform," she said.