Our industry resilience will power the NSW economy – President’s Speech

Presented by Michael Sheargold, President UDIA NSW, at the UDIA TV Signature Series event, 6 August 2020.


In the spirit of reconciliation, UDIA NSW acknowledges the Traditional Custodians of country throughout Australia and their connections to land, sea and community. We pay our respect to their elders past and present and extend that respect to all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples today.’

Over the past six months one key feature of the development industry has shone through and that is resilience.

I think it’s fair to say, we are now in the eye of the storm of this global pandemic, and here at UDIA we are more determined than ever to make the development industry into the driving force behind the economic recovery from COVID-19.

We want to acknowledge the extensive efforts of DPIE to keep delivering through the last 4 to 5 months. The weekly meeting between DPIE and the peak industry bodies has set a pace of change like we have never seen before. We are very conscious this close collaboration has contributed to the broader planning reform agenda, for which we still see a lot of need to deliver change, but welcome not only the opportunity but the work ahead to see these critical reforms brought into play.

Uncertainty, it would seem is the only certainty ahead, and we believe government have decided that development and construction can be a major sector to drive recovery. However, in our view the industry has not yet seen the policies needed to underwrite a sustained recovery in NSW.

In NSW, we have largely missed out on the Federal HomeBuilder stimulus package which was introduced in June. UDIA NSW has been strongly advocating for adequate stimulus to get this industry moving again. So far, we have not seen it in NSW and whilst we welcome the most recent stamp duty concessions for first home buyers and build-to-rent tax reform we have serious doubts as to whether these initiatives will be bold enough to provide the kind of sector-wide stimulus that is required to revitalise our economy, sustain jobs  and deliver new housing supply.

UDIA has been in overdrive since the pandemic hit our shores, looking to provide strong leadership through solid research and evidence-based policy work for the development industry and collaborating closely with the DPIE team. I want to take a moment to highlight and thank the UDIA NSW team and the Councillors who have worked tirelessly and generously to provide their years of experience, insights and guidance over the past months.

UDIA’s work has been dedicated to the economic development of the Sydney megaregion: from Wollongong in the south, through the Central Coast, to the Hunter region in our North. Across Greater Sydney, we have been dedicated to the creation of liveable, affordable and connected cities from the Eastern Harbour City to our Western Parklands City. We are also acutely aware of the importance of sustaining and creating jobs and employing workers throughout this crisis and beyond.

You will all be familiar with some of UDIA NSW’s recent initiatives and our COVID-19 response namely Project Bounce Back a road map to recovery.

Some of the outcomes we are very proud to have achieved working collaboratively with government, include:

  • the six-month extension to the s7.11 contributions cap now at $50,000 per lot for Blacktown and The Hills by leveraging the Accelerated Infrastructure Fund into a double dividend of infrastructure and housing. The AIF is a useful stop-gap which we think could support the development of around 2,00 homes; however, we need a long term solution for infrastructure contributions funding.
  • we were also happy to see the NSW Planning Delivery Unit commenced last month, which has a mandated focus on resolving complex DAs and unblocking the planning system. The Planning Delivery Unit will be critical to enabling the next round of project management and issues resolution for planning to get projects moving and to get more jobs on the ground.

Lastly, UDIA NSW has been working with the Department to re-birth an Urban Development Program (UDP) for Greater Sydney through our collaborative pilot with DPIE in the South West which is currently underway. The purpose of the UDP is to generate a ‘one source of truth’ of the forward 5-year supply pipeline which acts as a guide to efficient infrastructure planning and service delivery that will support new housing development. We are also pleased to be centrally involved in the UDPs in the Hunter and the Illawarra, which are helping to navigate regional market challenges and opportunities.

I would implore you to get involved when we request forecasts or information to inform these UDP’s as the quality of the output of this work to co ordinate the timely delivery of infrastructure in major release areas will only be as good as the inputs we receive from you.

At the start of the year, UDIA set out a key theme for our advocacy in 2020, to make planning work. And in doing so, I called for a revolution in planning, not an evolution.

We must act to make planning responsive, fast, simple and predictable. Despite all that has happened this year, we still believe the best way forward is to make our planning system work. The only way we can have a housing-led recovery in NSW is to focus on changing our planning system for the better.

So, we look forward today, to hearing from Department Secretary Jim Betts who will be giving us an update on the Department’s outlook for 2020 and how to navigate a recovery from COVID-19. We thank you for the significant ramp up from you and your team during COVID-19 and we look forward to working with you towards lasting reform of the planning system in NSW and delivering a housing led recovery beyond COVID-19.