Great Results for Independent Audit of Development Application processes

An independent audit of The Hills Shire Council’s Development Application (DA) processes and procedures by the Audit Office of NSW has revealed outstanding results.

The Hills Shire Council (THSC) was one of three councils, along with Northern Beaches and Byron Shire, selected to participate in the audit by the NSW Auditor General, Margaret Crawford. The audit, Development applications: assessment and determinations stages, reviewed how effectively each council assessed and determined DAs and how they supported independent planning panels (local and regional) in their determination of DAs. The assessment also ensured councils carried out DA processes and assessments according to current legislation, regulations and government guidelines.

The performance audit, tabled in Parliament on Monday 12 December, provides independent assurance to the public and government, and also makes recommendations on how processes can be further improved.

General Manager of The Hills Shire Council, Michael Edgar said he was delighted by the results.

“The audit has put Council to the test and I’m very pleased by the outcome,” Mr Edgar said.

“I want to thank NSW Audit Office and their staff who carried out this independent review. I also want to thank our Council Officers who work very hard to provide the vast range of services our community relies on,” he added.

The Auditor General’s findings include:

  • Council has established a comprehensive governance and risk management framework for development assessment that sets out clear roles, responsibilities, and delegations.
  • Council is managing conflicts of interest in line with the Code of Conduct.
  • Council has established processes to deliver consistent, quality assessment of development applications.
  • Council has established processes to effectively support The Hills Shire Local Planning Panel.

Mr Edgar said the results of the audit are testimony to the focus, professionalism, systems and processes that Council has developed, refined and implemented over many years.

“Our values as an organisation are honesty, integrity, loyalty, leadership and safety. We commit to these values in everything we do, and this provides confidence to our stakeholders and The Hills community that our work is transparent, reliable and of best practice,” he said. “

Another area I’m proud of is our work to improve and streamline services, and this ensures they continue to be user-friendly, follow the latest legislation and use the newest technology. It’s also imperative that they are accessible and inclusive to everyone in our community,” Mr Edgar added.

Council was chosen to participate in the audit based on the number, value and types of applications determined between 2019 to 2021, as well as the appeals against determinations in the Land and Environment Court and local government area demographics.

Over 3,700 development applications were determined by Council between 1 July 2019 and 30 June 2021. The estimated total construction cost for these developments is around $7 billion.

“The Hills Shire is expected to be a key supplier of new homes and businesses to support Sydney’s growth, and assessment of development applications is key to that process,” Mr Edgar said.

“Residents, applicants, developers and government should all take comfort from these results and have every confidence in our organisation and the work we do for the betterment of The Hills Shire,” Mr Edgar added.