Call to overhaul shire’s planning department

December 04, 2017

MURRAY River Council might have to have a ‘‘major re-think’’ when it comes to its planning department, according to councillor Tom Weyrich.

That’s because one town planner managing all development applications is ‘‘onerous’’.

‘‘I think there are some issues and I think as a council we need to sit down and have a re-think,’’ he said at the monthly meeting on Tuesday last week.

Mayor Chris Bilkey said it was the responsibility of the general manager but Cr Weyrich said councillors were wearing the brunt of the dissatisfaction.

MRC’s planning department recognised the huge task last week when it asked councillors to consider allocating more money at the quarterly budget review for consultants to help council assess development applications.

‘‘Council’s planning department has been utilising planning consultants in recent times to assist in assessment of development applications and to ensure a reasonable turnaround time is achieved,’’ the council report said.

‘‘This was deemed necessary based on the number of DAs being received by council and that council only has one active full-time town planner to manage these applications.’’

Council has received about 50 or 60 more applications this year.

Council’s director planning, environment and economic development Simon Arkinstall said numbers were on the rise and council was searching for another town planner.

Acting general manager Des Bilske said all councils were short of planners, not just MRC.

Cr Geoff Wise said council needed to give the department enough money to ‘‘get the job done’’.

He said he knew someone who had an application processed within 12 days in Hervey Bay, Queensland but it took four months in MRC.

‘‘We can’t just be behind all our lives ... we need to get off our asses and get it done,’’ he said.

Mr Arkinstall acknowledged council’s concerns but said solving it wasn’t only about money.

He said council might need to make some ‘‘hard decisions’’.

‘‘If we’re getting DAs that are sub-standard we should not be accepting them,’’ Mr Arkinstall said.

Cr Alan Mathers said if the council was dragging its feet, people would go somewhere else.

And Cr Weyrich agreed.

‘‘We’ve lost a few already,’’ he said.

Cr Neil Gorey welcomed the report and council recognising the issue.

‘‘There’s a lot of dissatisfaction out there,’’ he said.

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