NSW Planning wants AI product solutions to make faster development assessments


The NSW Government is investing $5.6 million in artificial intelligence (AI) to help reduce development application (DA) timeframes and deliver more housing.

The Department of Planning, Housing and Infrastructure (DPHI) is calling on industry to submit innovative existing and mature AI technology solutions to help reduce manual workloads for councils and to streamline the pre-lodgement phase.

Industry is invited to submit proposals from today until 11 March 2024.

Applications will be evaluated on how they address one or more priority focus areas, demonstrate low impact implementation, and align with the NSW AI Assurance Framework and AI Ethics Policy.

Successful suppliers will be asked to showcase products and share ideas with councils following the evaluation of applications.

DPHI will then confirm a list of suitable AI products and provide guidance for councils on how to engage with suppliers and select the best AI tools for the task.

Applicants have four weeks to prepare their responses, focusing on four priority areas to assist councils during the pre-lodgement DA phase.

These include:

  • A pathways and requirements finder: To help prospective applicants identify site-specific development requirements to speed up their development process.
  • Document self-assessment health check: To help applicants self-assess before lodging their DA. This aims to address any potential barriers or gaps in their documentation before they lodge.
  • Risk-based triage: To help council staff quickly identify non-compliant elements within a submission so that the triage process is efficient and improves council’s productivity.
  • Document assurance: To help council staff verify an applicant’s documentation to provide increased confidence in the quality of the material submitted.

The project is guided by six overarching principles including trust, transparency, customer benefit, fairness, privacy, and accountability.

DPHI has already worked with NSW councils to define the key challenges experienced during the pre-DA lodgement process.

More than 30 metro and regional councils have participated in workshops to date, with a focus on identifying existing AI products that can be easily implemented and used in the NSW planning system to reduce DA timeframes and deliver on the government’s priority of more housing faster.

Councils noted applicants need a simple and streamlined application process to access important information and what documentation is required for their site-specific DA.

Port Stephens Council and Wagga Wagga City Council are among the first group of enthusiastic councils to investigate how AI technologies could help enhance council DA processes.

Wagga Wagga Council Manager for Development Assessment & Building Certification Paul O’Brien said the introduction of AI will help get applications in the correct format so council isn’t going back and forth trying to clarify critical project information.

“For most of the regular clients they understand what needs to happen, however for occasional developers who might do it once or twice in their lifetime it’s very confusing and having an AI presence can help step them through it,” Mr O’Brien said.

Port Stephens Council Manager for Development and Compliance Evert Grobbelaar echoed the AI optimism, saying Council sees potential benefits to using AI in the pre-DA lodgement process, for improved application quality, reduced DA processing timeframes, and education opportunities for the community and landowners on the lodgement process.

/Public Release. View in full here.