A new planning system in South Australia has sparked concerns about the ability of members of the public to challenge development decisions. 

The Planning, Development and Infrastructure Act 2016 (PDI Act) came into full effect on March 19 2021, with the completion of a unified planning code to apply to all South Australian planning decisions. 

While the new system makes it easier for people to access some information and lodge and track development applications online, the Environmental Defenders Office has concerns about reduced opportunities for the community to challenge decision making. 

Essentially the new system strips away almost all third-party appeal rights, focussing on community engagement at the policy-making stage. 

However, people tend to engage more in the planning system and decision making after a development has been proposed in their local area. 

Performance planning is another feature of the system where for some applications developers only have to meet vague performance outcomes to have projects approved. 

The EDO’s Managing Lawyer in SA Melissa Ballantyne says there are concerns projects with the potential for significant impact will be readily approved with no opportunity to challenge decisions in court.  

“The new system strips away community rights, while making it easier for developers to push projects through. Third party appeals have long been part of planning systems around the country. They allow a range of views to be heard and ensure accountability and transparency in the system. 

“We have heard that some developers have cancelled proposals lodged before the 19 March, and resubmitted them after that date because conditions are more favourable given a significant project risk namely third- party appeal rights have been removed.” 

Read EDO’s submission on the planning changes.