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NSW: Stimulus package projects to be fast tracked in NSW

By Nick Ralston, State Political Reporter
18 Feb 2009 6:23 PM

SYDNEY, Feb 18 AAP - Infrastructure built in NSW from federal government's $42 billion stimulus package will bypass the usual planning and local government approval.

Instead, Premier Nathan Rees says the projects, including public housing and schools, will be approved by the newly appointed Infrastructure Coordinator General.

Former Olympic Authority deputy director general Bob Leece has been appointed to that role.

Mr Rees said fast tracking the approval process was necessary to meet Prime Minister Kevin Rudd's demand on the states that the first projects start to be built in June.

"When exempting works from the usual approvals legislation, the Infrastructure Coordinator General will have regard to certain planning and environmental principles," Mr Rees told an economic forum in Sydney on Wednesday.

"But he will determine that no approvals are required for the works, or be subject to, a streamlined process set up under the Act.

"What this means in principle is that the projects under the stimulus package will be approved immediately by the Infrastructure Coordinator General."

The NSW government will also change its Infrastructure State Environmental Planning Policy to make it easier for providers of public and social housing to build new homes.

Provisions introduced last year to allow public schools 10-day approvals for infrastructure projects such as halls and libraries will be expanded to all schools.

The changes will also allow the Housing Department to self asses and determine their own developments of up to 20 dwellings in residential zones.

The Urban Taskforce has welcomed the streamlined town planning rules for public housing projects, but said it should also do the same for the private sector.

The NSW Business Chamber welcomed the appointment of Mr Leece to ensure the federal government funds meant projects were built and not "hindered by bureaucratic roadblocks.

"A quick start on construction and delivery of these projects will assist businesses in creating jobs and will have a flow on effect through the economy, especially in regional NSW," NSW Business Chamber chief executive Kevin MacDonald said.

The state opposition said the appointment of Mr Leece showed Mr Rees' incompetency, having only axed the position of coordinator-general for infrastructure three months ago.

"This is confirmation of another wrong decision by an incompetent and inexperienced premier," Mr O'Farrell said.