Wagga’s Tolland Estate has been named as one of five locations across the state to be included in a controversial NSW Government pilot program to fast-track large developments that include substantial social and affordable housing.
Launched by the former Coalition government, the Rezoning Pathways Program enables developers who meet the criteria to effectively sidestep local councils and have their proposals directly assessed by the Department of Planning and Environment.
The pilot program opened to applicants in December and the DPIE revealed that it “received significant interest from industry”.
“We selected five projects that will have the opportunity to deliver quality homes, paving the way for new and vibrant communities to thrive,” it said, quietly revealing the list online with little fanfare.
Five projects, in western Sydney, the Central Coast, the Illawarra and Wagga, were named, adding as many as 5800 homes, with social and affordable housing accounting for almost 30 per cent.
With scant detail available, it is fair to presume that the 500-home development in Wagga is the long-promised Tolland Renewal Project.
The plan to upgrade the ageing Tolland housing estate with a new mix of modern housing has been on the cards since 2020 and was described as a “long-term project that will be delivered in stages over the next 10 years” in an update from the NSW Land and Housing Corporation (LAHC) in December last year.
“This is a real win for the people of Wagga Wagga,” said local Independent MP Dr McGirr as he welcomed the decision.
“The expansion of social and affordable housing is a core policy priority for me and was an election commitment by the Government.
“Housing is a basic and essential human right and so I look forward to seeing further growth in this area to address the housing needs of our community.”
But exactly how the inclusion of the Tolland Renewal Project in the trial will speed up housing delivery is unclear.
Advocacy group Local Government NSW (LGNSW) has been vocal in its concerns that the program sidesteps councils to give developers a free hand.
“This Government is quick to blame delays on councils,” said LGNSW president Darriea Turley when the program was announced.
“Yet it is well established that the overwhelming cause of delays stems from infrastructure delivery issues and other hold-ups from a multitude of government agencies.”
Given that planning for the Tolland project has been underway for some time with the NSW Land and Housing Corporation (LAHC), Aboriginal Housing Office (AHO), the Argyle Consortium and Wagga City Council all working together, it seems unlikely that rezoning is a key factor in getting things rolling.
A spokesperson for the NSW Land and Housing Corporation confirmed that they had been collaborating “for more than two years to undertake the necessary preliminary investigations and planning for the Tolland Renewal Project”.
In answer to Region’s questions on how the Rezoning Pathways Program would expedite the Tolland project and whether there would be a revised timeline, they said that “by being a State led and assessed planning proposal with the support of local council, this will help to fast track the delivery of new homes.”
Wagga City Council has declined to comment, instead referring Region to the NSW Government.