Public participation in decision-making is invaluable to any democratic society. In relation to proposals for major projects and State Significant Development in New South Wales, we consider the restoration of rights to merits review to be the crucial reform required to facilitate meaningful public participation in the planning system. In the absence of restoring merits review rights, we consider the next best reforms would be to improve the public hearing processes of the New South Wales Independent Planning Commission (IPC), which acts as the consent authority for certain State significant and other development applications.

These reforms form the focus of this Briefing Note, jointly written by The Environmental Defenders Office and Centre for Public Integrity. This briefing note makes several recommendations aimed at improving clarity and robustness regarding the IPC’s conduct of public hearings and consideration of expert evidence.