Forty-one (41) years ago the Environmental Planning Assessment Act 1979 (EPA Act) was gazetted. This Act sets out the legislative framework for all planning that is undertaken in NSW. The EPA Act was built upon the pillars that the local Council assessed and determined all local planning Development Applications (DAs). Furthermore, all residents of NSW had the opportunity to provide direct input into the decision-making process by forwarding a submission on any application and addressing the local council at a public forum.
Over the last 41 years the EPA Act has been amended on no less than two hundred and three (203) occasions.
Through an amendment of the EPA Act on 1 July 2009 the State Government introduced five (5) Sydney Planning Panels and four (4) Regional Planning Panels across NSW.
The local regional planning panel is titled the Hunter and Central Coast Regional Planning Panel (HCCRPP). The HCCRPP determine all regionally significant DAs as outlined in Schedule 7 of the State Environmental Planning Policy (State and Regional Development) 2011; any development with a Capital Investment Value (CIV) of over $30 million; or any DA over $5 million which is:
- Council related;
- Lodged by or on behalf of the Crown (State of NSW)
- private infrastructure and community facilities
- eco-tourist facilities
- extractive industries, waste facilities and marinas that are designated development,
- certain coastal subdivisions
- development with a CIV between $10 million and $30 million which is referred to the Planning Panel by the applicant after 120 days.
In addition to determining DAs the HCCRPP acts as the Planning Proposal Authority (PPA) when directed to; undertake rezoning reviews; provide advice on other planning and development matters when requested and determine site compatibility certificates under State Environmental Planning Policy (Housing for Seniors or People with a Disability) 2004.
Through a further amendment to the EPA Act on 1 March 2018, Independent Hearing and Assessment Panels (IHAP) were established for the Greater Sydney Region and Wollongong. IHAPs have recently received a name change and are now referred to as a Local Planning Panels (LPP). Although LPPs have been operating for 2 years the establishment of the Central Coast LPP did not occur until early 2020.
LPPs are made up of three (3) independent experts appointed by the State Government and one (1) community representative recommended for appointment of the local Council. LPPs determine all development applications on behalf of Council and provide advice on other planning matters, including planning proposals that are not determined under delegation.
The State Government’s justification for introducing LPP is to “… put in place so the process of assessment and determination of development applications (DAs) with a high corruption risk, sensitivity or strategic importance is transparent and accountable.”  This justification is confusing as the assessment is still undertaken by Council staff and only the determination is undertaken by the 3 non-elected panel experts that have been appointed by the State Government and 1 community representative
 Reference NSW Department of Planning, Industry and Environment website at URL https://www.planning.nsw.gov.au/Assess-and-Regulate/Development-Assessment/Local-Planning-Panels