If there is one thing that the ICAC hearings into the relationships between a small number of property developers and politicians suggests to me, it is that the people in NSW need a right to third party merit appeals against development approvals.
Most development consents have no third party merit appeal rights, only judicial review for legal error. So long as the consent authority follows procedure in the decision-making process, then there are no appeal rights, even if they make a bad decision on merit considerations.
Yet it is the merit considerations where the impacts on a community lie.
Also, it must be kept in mind that unless a development consent is time limited, and very few are, then the consent lasts forever.
The primary argument against third party merit appeals is that it adds time and cost to the development process. For mine, I would rather see the best decision reached.
Given what we are currently hearing out of ICAC, I am not sure that as a community we can be confident that we are getting the best decisions where politicians are the decision makers and they are receiving tens of thousands of dollars from developers.
For mine, I think the time has come for third party merit appeal rights.