20 May 2020

Building Victoria’s Recovery Taskforce to shovel away COVID-19 gloom

This article was written by Amy Munro, Chris Dynon and Andrew Chong.

As part of its plan to stimulate the Victorian economy through the building and development industry following the devastating effect of COVID-19 on the Victorian economy, the Victorian government has established the Building Victoria’s Recovery Taskforce. This Taskforce is currently identifying shovel-ready projects that will deliver short- to medium-term benefits to the community through the creation of thousands of Victorian jobs.

In this short update, we examine the Taskforce’s criteria for identifying projects that will be fast-tracked through the planning approval process.

On 24 April 2020, the Victorian government established the Building Victoria’s Recovery Taskforce.[1] The purpose of the Taskforce is to examine planning and investment options in order to stimulate the Victorian economy through the building and development industry in response to the COVID-19 crisis.

The announcement coincided with the Victorian Planning Minister’s approval of four new projects – 118 City Road, Southbank; 555 Collins Street; 52-60 Collins Street; and 550 Epsom Road, Flemington.

The Taskforce sits alongside the government’s 18 May 2020 announcement of its Building Works programme, providing $2.7 billion towards building and repairing state-owned assets, including schools, social housing units, roads, and train stations.[2]

The Taskforce’s key initial objective is to oversee the fast tracking of planning approvals where decisions have been delayed due to the effects of COVID-19 on the Victorian planning system.

The Taskforce will also advise and make recommendations to the government on key industry issues. 

In order to identify projects suitable for fast tracking, the Taskforce is inviting submissions for projects that meet the priority projects eligibility criteria.[3] There are two stages to the assessment process.

In stage 1, the Taskforce determines whether, on its face, the project warrants Ministerial intervention. Whether the project merits such intervention involves a consideration of fairness and public interest, state or regional significance, public value, major policy issues, and whether the approval process has been unreasonably delayed. A preliminary review of the stage 2 criteria is also undertaken.

In stage 2, the Taskforce considers 7 key areas:

  • whether the project will have a significant short- to medium-term economic impact;
  • whether the project contributes to social and environmental goals, including social and affordable housing and the delivery of reduced greenhouse gas emissions;
  • whether the project aligns with government priorities, including government-funded projects, supporting essential services, public and social housing, supporting vulnerable sectors of the community, and priority precincts or sectors;
  • whether stakeholder views are known or can be sought;
  • the complexity of the project, including how quickly the benefits of the project can be realised;
  • the feasibility of the project, including whether the project is ‘shovel ready’, evidence of demand for the project in the context of COVID-19, security of financial capital in the context of COVID-19, and whether the project will commence within 12 months with the assistance of fast-tracking; and
  • the probity of the application, for example declarations and undertakings by directors and statements of solvency.

The Taskforce will convene for an initial period of 3 months. The co-chairs of the Taskforce are Roger Teale (former President of the Victorian Property Council and Senior Executive at LendLease), Jade Munro AO (chair of the Victorian Planning Authority), and Stan Krpan (a Victorian Public Service CEO).

Further information is available on the DELWP website.[4]

[1] https://www.premier.vic.gov.au/new-taskforce-to-bolster-building-and-development-industry/

[2] https://www.premier.vic.gov.au/building-works-more-jobs-for-victorians/

[3] https://www.planning.vic.gov.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0035/463787/Priority-Projects-Eligiblity-Criteria.pdf

[4] https://www.planning.vic.gov.au/policy-and-strategy/building-victorias-recovery-taskforce

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