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The Department of Planning and Environment has received hundreds of applications following a call for experts to register their interest in becoming a chair or panel member for the recently introduced Independent Hearing Assessment Panels (IHAPs).
After a four-week recruitment campaign that ended on 17 September, 490 applications were received. 
Minister for Planning and Housing, Anthony Roberts, said that the response to applications to join an IHAP further supports the need for legislative reforms that strengthen confidence in the planning system. 
“It is great to see such a strong response following the call for applications. This means the pool that councils will draw upon to build their IHAPs will include some excellent candidates,” Mr Roberts said. 
“As we move closer to the introduction of IHAPs next March, we will see how this necessary amendment to the EP&A Act will allow councils to focus on the larger, strategic issues for their area.” 
Mr Roberts said mandatory IHAPs were introduced as a measure against corruption and would bring expertise, transparency and integrity to the assessment of DAs at the local level.  

“It is essential the Government has a transparent and accountable process in place when assessing DAs of significant value, when there is a conflict of interest for the council or developer, or when they are of a sensitive nature,” Mr Roberts said. 

“By making IHAPs mandatory, local councils will be able to focus on providing community services, strategic plans and development controls for their local area.”

The IHAPs will maintain a standard model comprising three independent expert members and a local community member. 
IHAP members must be an expert in one or more of the following fields: planning, architecture, heritage, the environment, urban design, economics, traffic and transport, law, engineering, tourism, or government and public administration.
The chair must also have expertise in law or government and public administration.
Applicants were eligible to apply to be a member of a panel, a chair or both a member and chair. 
Of the 490 applications, 330 were to become a member only, 25 a chair only and 135 applications to become both a chair and a member.
“The NSW Government is committed to creating great places and communities for the state and the introduction of mandatory IHAPs for all Sydney councils and Wollongong City Council will allow us to do just that,” Mr Roberts said.
Legislation for IHAPs was introduced by Parliament in August 2017. IHAPs will become mandatory for all councils in Sydney and Wollongong City Council from March next year. 

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