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Thursday, February 14, 2008

NSW Development Crisis

A property developers' lobby group says "radical" changes to the state's planning laws are needed to save New South Wales from a social and economic crisis.

In a submission to the State Government's planning review, the Urban Task Force says the system needs to better integrate the development of housing, workplaces, shopping and recreation areas. It says Sydney's population is expected to grow by more than 1 million people by 2031, meaning more homes, industrial land, and commercial and retail space will be needed.
The task force's chief executive, Aaron Gadiel, says these demands cannot be met under the existing planning laws.

Mr Gadiel says NSW will fall further behind other states without "far-reaching reform" to streamline the process.

"The Urban Task Force would like to see quicker planning approvals," he said. "If the government agency doesn't deal with them or doesn't respond in 90 days, they should be deemed approved.

"We want State Government agencies coming back to councils quicker with their concurrences or approvals, or if they've got a problem, they need to say what those problems are so developers can address them. New developments can take easily 12 to 14 months to be approved or even longer," he said.

"Frankly, the development industry has been voting with its feet. It's been developing in Queensland and Victoria instead of NSW because it's just not profitable to do so here."

Straight Talk: Economic Round-Up Blow By Blow

The Reserve Bank says inflation will be worse than almost everyone expected.

Equity prices plummet. The Aussie dollar rises. Respected economists run round like headless chooks squawking "more rate hikes to come!"

Financial markets dramatically mark up the chances that the next rate hike will be in March. Businesses plan their price hikes. Unions think harder about how to protect the bruvvers and sisters.

Ordinary people - whose inflation expectations were already elevated - grimly recalibrate their household budgets.

The government says all this was the Liberal Party's fault. John Howard hits the international speaking circuit. Peter Costello leaves for a supposedly lucrative overseas job. Malcolm Turnbull flips between saying "look what Labor has already delivered" and "there is no problem, inflation is still in the target band".

What about the blame that should be sheeted home to the Reserve itself? It is the agency with formal responsibility for controlling inflation, a responsibility that, after initial scepticism by its then leader, it embraced warmly.It is the organisation that after a long intellectual struggle was given by financial deregulation, including the flexible exchange rate, the technical ability to control inflation. It is the mob that was given salaries sufficient to attract and retain what it saw as the "best and brightest" of Australia's economists.

To read more from Henry Thornton, simply click on the link.

Buy One House, Give One Free!

Donating money to charitable causes is all very well and good, but there's usually an abstractness about it that makes one wonder if the funds are really helping those who need it. A new project by California eco-urban design firm LJ Urban aims to make giving more concrete—quite literally—by matching its sales of homes domestically with funds to build homes in the impoverished African nation of Burkina Faso.

LJ Urban has designed a new eco-urban community of 35 LEED ND Certified homes in the urban core of Sacramento, its home town. The community is suggestively named Good, and for each home within it that gets sold, LJ Urban has committed to funding the complete training of a West African mason to build sustainable homes for families in Burkina Faso.

By partnering with the Association La Voƻte Nubienne (AVN), which has already trained about 60 local masons to build durable homes out of earth bricks and mortar, LJ Urban aims to go beyond just providing homes to impart enduring skills and jobs to the local community. Taking the notion a step further, LJ Urban has also opted to skip the expensive marketing campaign to promote its Good community, and to use that money to train more African masons instead.

So, for every 100,000 people who visit LJ Urban's new, dedicated website by July 1st, the company will fund the complete training of another local Burkina Faso mason—up to 20 in all through this viral approach.

The Good project was inspired by Toms Shoes, a project that donates a pair of shoes for every one it sells. "[That] approach captivated us because it broke through the 'charity fatigue' all of us have felt at one time or another," LJ Urban's team explains. "The question then became: 'What if we could do something like that with our houses?'…" The project is also reminiscent of One Laptop Per Child's (OLPC's) "Give One Get One" campaign last year through which consumers could donate a laptop and get one for their own use at the same time. A model of giving to bring to your neck of the woods...?

Simon Turner