Evidence suggests the Labor governments high density planning agenda has reached the point of public mistrust.

Perth’s attractive and green low-density suburbs are coming under intense pressure by specialists that control Development Assessment Panels (DAPs).

DAPs have ultimate power in the planning and development decision-making process for large high-rise projects in suburban areas that have an estimated cost of $10 million or more.

The latest controversy is taking place at Karrinyup (see image above) with plans for three towers, one as high as 24 storeys (about the height of the CBD’s Westpac tower).

This has caused angst in the local community, 200 locals attended a special council meeting in protest. And 800 people signed a petition in opposition to the development in its current form.

Development Assessment Panels

Development Assessment Panels wield enormous power in WA’s planning system. They comprise three professionals picked by Planning Minister Saffioti, and two local government representatives.  

One of those three professionals is not required to have a planning or architecture qualification. The Presiding officer is required to have specialist-planning experience.

DAPs are able to make a quorum with the Minster’s three hand picked professionals in attendance. This means that elected local government officials do not have to be present at DAP decision making meetings.

In other words three individuals that have not been elected by Local or State government – can make a decision, which can significantly impact property owners and the amenity of their suburb.

Local Government (LG) employ tertiary qualified town planners. However, their roles are passive when it comes to large development proposals under the control of DAPs.

Under the DAP regulations, LG planners are required to provide a responsible authority report, and technical assistance with regard to a development application. But DAPs have the power to refuse any recommendations to that application (improvements or modifications) provided by LG planners.

One of the most alarming aspects is that the property developers have the right to appeal a DAP decision through the State Administrative Tribunals. But property owners have no right of appeal in projects adversely affecting their suburb.


To emphasise the controversy surrounding DAPs role in the planning system. It is worth looking at DAPs code of conduct:

  • Panel members are able to accept a gift worth more than $50 and less than $300.
  • The gift can be from the person undertaking development approved by the DAP.
  • Or is requiring approval.
  • Or is reasonable to believe is intending to undertake development requiring approval by the DAP.
  • A person may hold office as a specialist member of more than one DAP at the same time. Revealing how much planning /development influence DAP officials have.
  • Fees for the presiding member per DAP meeting is $700, any other member receives a fee of $425.

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