A State law requiring the public disclosure of donations or gifts when lodging or commenting on development proposals applies from 1 October 2008. This law is designed to improve the transparency of the planning system.
The legislation relates to the disclosure of reportable political donations for State elections, elected members of NSW Parliament, Local Government elections and elected Council members. This will include the disclosure of gifts made to Councillors or Council employees.
What is a reportable donation?
A reportable political donation is a donation of $1000 or more, or donations that total $1000 or more within the same financial year. A gift includes money or the provision of any other valuable thing or service for no or inadequate consideration.
When is a disclosure made?
A disclosure of a political donation or gift will need to be made whenever a person or their associate lodges a planning application (including a rezoning or development application) or makes a public submission about a development application (DA).
In particular, a planning application comprises any of the following:
- A formal request to the Minister, a Council or the Director General to initiate the making of an environmental planning instrument (ie. a Local Environmental Plan) or Development Control Plan in relation to a particular site;
- A formal request to the Minister or Director General for development on a particular site to be made State Significant or declared a Part 3A development, under the Environmental Planning and Assessment (EP&A) Act;
- An application for approval of a concept plan or a project under Part 3A of the EP&A Act;
- An application for a development consent under Part 4 of the EP&A Act; or
- Any other application or request under or for the purpose of the EP&A Act that is prescribed by the Regulations as a relevant planning application.
Certain applications are not deemed to be planning applications, including:
- Applications for complying development certificates;
- An application made for or on behalf of a public authority;
- Any application excluded by the Regulations.
A public submission comprises a written submission made in response to the lodgment of a planning application, as described above.
Is there a time limit on disclosure?
Anyone (or their associate) who lodges a planning application will be required to disclose all reportable political donations made by any person with a financial interest in the planning application. A reportable political donation is a donation to any Councillor of North Sydney Council or any gifts made to a North Sydney Councillor or Council employee within the two years prior to the planning application being lodged or while the planning application is being determined.
Anyone (or their associate) who makes a public submission in response to a planning application before Council needs to disclose any reportable political donations or gifts made to a Councillor or Council employee that were made within the two years prior to the planning application being lodged or while the planning application is determined. This includes any donation or gift made when a person was a candidate for Council election.
When should the disclosure statement be lodged?
If the donation or gift was made before a planning application is lodged or a public submission is made, then the disclosure statement must be included with the application or submission. Where the gift or donation is made after the planning application or public submission is lodged, disclosure must be made within seven days of the gift or donation being made.
Disclosure statements should be made using the Political Donations & Gifts Disclosures form (available below).
Is there a penalty for not disclosing?
It is an offence not to make a disclosure of a political donation or gift in relation to a DA or submission. A person found guilty of this offence can be fined up to $22,000 and/or sentenced to 12 months in prison.
Can the public see disclosure statements?
Council keeps four registers of disclosure which may be viewed by members of the public. To make an appointment to see a register, please submit the Peruse a Public Register form, (available below).
The registers are:
- declaration of donations by councillors
- declaration of donations by a person or their agent who lodges a DA or makes a submission about a DA
- register of decisions relating to DAs
- register of disclosures relating to DAs made at Council meeting
Additional details are available from the Department of Planning and Department of Local Government as follows: Dept of Planning - Disclosure of Political Donations and Gifts.