FACT SHEET: INDEPENDENT HEARING AND ASSESSMENT PANELS
SCANT COPYING OF THE “PDF” DOCUMENT APPEARS BELOW!
Under recent changes to the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act 1979,
independent hearing and assessment panels (IHAPs), will become mandatory for
councils in the Greater Sydney Region and for Wollongong City Council from 1 March
This fact sheet provides guidance on the new requirements.
What are IHAPs?
IHAPs are panels of independent experts that determine development applications on
behalf of a council, and provide other advice to council on planning matters.
When designed and implemented in the right way, these panels bring a range of
benefits to the planning system, including:
• reducing the risk of conflict of interest and corruption, by ensuring that development
decisions are made by people who are independent of developers
• better planning outcomes as development applications are determined on their
technical merit by qualified experts, in line with the planning controls that applyin
the local area
• elevating the role of the council to focus on strategic planning that delivers on the
community’s goals and priorities.
Strategic role of councils
A key benefit of the panel model is that it frees local councils to focus its efforts on
strategic leadership in the planning system.
This includes delivering great strategic planning that involves the community in
establishing the vision, goals and priorities for land use in the local area.
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It also includes the critical task of ensuring that local development controls – governing
what types of development are permissible in the local area – are up-to-date and in line
with the strategic plan. These controls are found in the local environmental plan and
the development control plans prepared by council.
When these strategic functions are performed well, the task of assessing and
determining individual development applications becomes a technical matter of
assessing the application’s merits against the rules that the council has set. It is
appropriate that technical experts – on panels or the council’s planning staff – perform
The new role of IHAPs
Under the new provisions of the Act, councillors in Sydney and Wollongong will no
longer be able to determine development applications. This function will be performed
by either the IHAP, council staff, or the relevant regional panel (the joint regional
planning panel or Sydney planning panel).
The Minister for Planning will make directions that set out the types of development
applications to be determined by IHAPs. These applications are proposed to include:
• development applications with a value of over $5 million (but less than $30 million,
as these will be determined by regional planning panels)
• development applications for which the applicant or owner is the council, a
councillor, a member of the councillor’s family, a member of council staff, or a state
or federal member of parliament
• development applications that receive 10 or more objections from different
• development applications accompanied by a voluntary planning agreement
• development applications seeking to depart by more than 10% from a development
• applications for development that is associated with a higher risk of corruption:
– residential flat buildings assessed under SEPP 65
– demolition of heritage items
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– licensed premises of public entertainment and sex industry premises
– designated development, as set out in the Environmental Planning and
Assessment Regulation 2000
• modification applications that meet the above criteria.
All other development applications will be determined by council staff, or by the
regional planning panel. The vast majority of applications will be determined by council
staff, as is currently the case for most councils in NSW. This remains the most efficient
and appropriate pathway for most applications.
The triggers for regional planning panels becoming the consent authority are currently
set out in a schedule to the Act, but will move to the State Environmental Planning
Policy (State and Regional Development) 2011. The key trigger is that regional
planning panels determine development applications valued at more than $20 million.
From 1 March 2018, this threshold will increase to $30 million, so that more
development will be determined at the local level, either by IHAPs or council staff.
IHAPs will also provide advice to council on planning proposals (proposals to change
the local environmental plan), such as rezonings. The final decision about whether to
proceed with a rezoning will remain with the council, consistent with the council’s
strategic planning role. The IHAP will help the council make this decision by providing
independent, expert advice on the merit of the proposal.
Who will sit on panels?
Each IHAP will consist of a chair, two other expert members and a community
The chair and the other expert members must be qualified in at least one of the
following areas: planning, architecture, heritage, the environment, urban design,
economics, traffic and transport, law, engineering, tourism, or government and public
The chair must at least have expertise in law or government and public administration.
The Department of Planning and Environment is establishing a pool of independent,
suitably qualified persons from which the chair and expert members must be drawn.
The Minister for Planning will approve the persons in this pool
The Minister will choose the chair of each panel, and the council will choose the two
other expert members.
The fourth panel member will be a community representative, to enhance the panel’s
knowledge of local matters. This person will be chosen by the council and does not
have to be an expert in one of the fields listed above.
Where a local government area is divided into wards, the community representative
must represent the interests of the ward in which the proposed development would
The diagram below illustrates how the IHAP is appointed.
LOCAL PLANNING PANELS HOW PEOPLE ARE APPOINTED – CANNOT COPY!
PAGES 10, 11
How do I apply to become a member of an IHAP?
Councillors, property developers and real estate agents cannot be IHAP members. If a
panel member becomes a councillor, property developer or real estate agent, he or she
will cease to be a panel member.
Chairs and other experts can sit on more than one IHAP, as long as they have been
selected from the expert pool and there is no conflict of interest.
Councils will be able to appoint alternate expert members, as members will not always
be available to participate in the determination process for a variety of reasons, such
as a conflict of interest or availability.
Councils are encouraged to have a pool of community representatives for the IHAP, to
ensure ward representation and that there is always a quorum for each meeting.
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What are the terms of appointment for panel members?
Panel members are appointed for up to three years, and can sit on a single panel for a
maximum of six years.
Membership of a panel is a part-time role. Remuneration and allowance will be set by
the Minister for Planning. Rates are likely to be based on the current rates for chairs
and members of regional planning panels.
The council may remove a panel member at any time. However, a written statement of
reasons must be made publicly available.
The Act sets out some key requirements for how panels must operate. For example,
the panel must conduct its meetings in public and give written reasons for its decisions.
A notice must be published detailing the time and location of meetings.
The Minister will also set more detailed directions about how panels must operate,
drawing on the procedures for regional planning panels and existing IHAPs. These will
relate to matters such as how meetings and site visits should be conducted, voting
procedures and reporting requirements.
There should be four panel members making each decision: the chair, two expert
members and the community representative. The quorum for a panel meeting is three
The Act requires that IHAP members must disclose any pecuniary interests that arise
in relation to a matter referred to the panel, and cannot take part in that decision.
The Minister for Planning will approve a code of conduct for IHAPs. The code will set
out the expected standard of behaviour required of panel members, including
managing conflicts of interest and reporting any approaches from developers.
Operating costs for IHAPs
The council will be responsible for meeting the operating costs of the panel. This
includes sitting fees for members.
The Act requires that the council is to provide staff and facilities to enable the panel to
exercise its functions.
The Department estimates the annual costs of operating an IHAP to be around
$100,000 a year for each council. Costs will depend on how often a panel is required to
meet, which will differ depending on the number of development applications.
Two or more councils can share a panel if they consider this would be cheaper or more
What happens to council’s existing panels?
Several councils in Sydney and Wollongong already have IHAPs.
These panels must remain in place until 1 March 2018, operating generally under their
A key difference affects councils whose existing IHAPs are advisory rather than
determinative (that is, the panel provides recommendations to council on development
applications, but council retains the role of making final decisions). From 1 September
2017, these councils will no longer be able to determine development applications.
Their IHAPs must take on this role, or else decisions must be delegated to council
From 1 March 2018, councils with existing IHAPs must ensure that the membership
and operations of their panels are consistent with the new provisions in the Act. This
includes ensuring that panels determine the types of development set out in the
Councils with well-functioning IHAPs are encouraged to have the current members of
their IHAPs apply for inclusion in the pool of experts being established by the
Department. If approved, those members will then be available for the council to select
for its new IHAP.
Role Statement: Chairs and members for the Independent Hearing and Assessment
The scope of this Statement of Appointment is for the appointment of Chairs and
members to Independent Hearing and Assessment Panels (IHAP) for each council in the
Greater Sydney Region and Wollongong. The creation of these IHAPs is empowered
through the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act 1979 (the Act).
Description of Entity
The IHAPs are constituted under the Act and are independent bodies and are not subject
to the direction of the Council, or Minister, except on matters relating to IHAP
procedures. The Chairs and members are required to be experts in at least one area of
planning, architecture, heritage, the environment, urban design, economics, traffic and
transport, law, engineering, tourism, or government and public administration. The
Chairs must have expertise in at least law or government and public administration.
The principal functions of the IHAPs are to determine local development applications
(DAs) and provide advice on planning proposals.
2. Capability Areas
IHAP Chairs and members must be able to demonstrate the following:
a. An ability to communicate complex and sensitive information in a tactful manner
to all planning panel stakeholders;
b. A sound understanding of:
i. Accountability measures;
ii. The planning and environmental framework of NSW, and legislative
iii. The business and environment in which the panel will operate; and
iv. Risk management principles.
c. Extensive senior level experience in a designated area of expertise relevant to
d. A professional and ethical approach to the exercise of duties;
e. Qualification, related industry experience and subject matter expertise in a
Chairs should additionally be able to demonstrate:
f. Leadership qualities and the ability to promote effective working relationships in
g. Extensive knowledge in areas such as: risk management, management control
frameworks, and governance and business operations;
h. A capacity to form independent judgements and willingness to constructively
challenge suggested approach, with a view to tact and inclusion of all relevant
opinions of the panel.
3. Competencies – Role Related
The following competencies are required to be successful in the role:
Knowledge and Specialist Expertise – to be viewed as the authority in one or
more of the following disciplines: planning, architecture, heritage, the
environment, urban design, economics, traffic and transport, law, engineering,
tourism, or government and public administration.
Chairs must have expertise in at least law or government and public
Communication – ability to communicate technical matters and decisions with a
diverse range of stakeholders.
Chairs must also be able to:
Facilitate Leadership – the ability to inform and debrief fellow panel members
and relevant stakeholders on current matters and strategies, and the ability to
lead constructive and timely discussion and debate, drawing on the expertise of
the panel to review strategies.
Influence, Negotiate and Drive – the demonstrated ability to influence a variety
of stakeholders, negotiate suggested approach with the business and drive
contentious strategies against organisational resistance.
Management of Risk– experience in managing areas of major risk to the
4. Competencies – Personal
The following are personal competencies which will form part of an effective individual in either of these roles, however Chair candidates would be expected to show these at a
Integrity – fulfilling a Panel member’s duties and responsibilities, acting
ethically, not disclosing commercial in confidence information, having
appropriate independence, putting the panel’s interest before personal interests.
Collegial Communicator – the ability to engage and communicate with all
Emotional Intelligence – as well as self-awareness and self-management.
Commercial Astuteness – demonstrated good business instinct and acumen,
and be able to use this in a variety of situations.
Commercial Judgement and Instinct – all Panel members need to
demonstrate good business instinct and acumen to be able to assimilate and
synthesise complex information.
Be an active contributor with genuine interest in the panel and its business.
To be set by the Minister.
6. Term of Appointment
The maximum term for a single appointment to a panel is up to three (3) years.
To apply and for a copy of the Role Statement and further information about the Independent Hearing and
Assessment Panels, please refer to the Derwent Executive website:
search for reference 22751. Applications should include a cover letter addressing the
Capability Areas in
the Role Statement and your current resume.
• For more information please refer to the Department of Planning and Environment website at
http://www.planning.nsw.gov.au or contact Andrew McEncroe at Derwent Executive, on (02) 9223 1855
for any queries about the positions.
Value Development applications with a value of between more than $5 million but
less than $30 million.
Conflict of interest Development applications for which the applicant or owner is the council, a councillor, a member of a councillor’s family, a member of council staff, or a
state or federal member of Parliament.
Contentiousness Development applications that receive 10 or more objections from different households.
Development applications accompanied by a proposed voluntary planning agreement.
Departure from development standards
Development applications seeking to depart by more than 10% from a development standard.
High-risk development types
Development applications associated with a higher risk of corruption:
residential flat buildings assessed under SEPP 65 demolition of heritage items
licensed places of public entertainment and sex industry premises
designated development, as set out in the Environmental Planning and
Assessment Regulation 2000.
Modifications Modification applications that meet the above criteria.