Local govt takes a standard look at DAs

Any one who has ever applied to a local council for a development application will welcome moves that cut the paperwork, delays and bureaucratic bafflement. So will councils, which stand to save around $16 million a day in a new project under way across the country.

Local councils across Australia are participating in the project to standardize the DA process and eliminate duplication. As part of a bid for funds from the $50 million Regulation Reduction Incentive Fund set up by the federal government to slash red tape for small business, local government associations and councils collaborated in 2005 on the National Electronic Development Assessment Fund.

Close to 100 councils have signed up for the project, 31 projects are on the way and 13 IT suppliers have been shortlisted for the work. Streamlining DA processes is expected to cut permit processing times and save up to $16 million a day.

Cairns City Council has been selected to lead the way with a $7.1 million grant to implement a 'role model' solution that will set the standard for other implementations.

The Cairns project starts in November and is set for completion in March, 2007.

Other role model councils, which are responsible for piloting and testing the new eDA software, include Redlands Shire Council (Qld), Hunters Hill and Baulkham Hills in Sydney's suburbs.

According to the NeDA project summary, which was released in March 2006, the proposal includes replacing existing council electronic planning software and systems, with a national format to be introduced to establish a standard DA lodgement process.

"Once the council system has been adapted, and council's internal processes aligned to the change (which the NeDA project will fund) there will be no ongoing demands on council staff time to maintain and support the process," the project document states.

"Existing vendors are paid for the work involved in adapting their system, but at a lower cost than would normally be the case, because of the large number of councils involved and the leverage involved in national negotiations with vendors.

"The NeDA project will ensure that the vendor's system complies with a standard that will allow lodgment of development applications from any system, not just through their custom interface."

The next collaboration meeting has been scheduled for later this month in Canberra.

AusIndustry, the federal government body overseeing the project, was unavailable for comment but the new eDA software is expected to be ready for testing in November.

Cairns City Council was also unavailable for comment.

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