Public disclosure of donations or gifts in relation to development proposals.
Amendments to the Local Government and Planning legislation requiring the public disclosure of donations or gifts when lodging or commenting on development proposal commenced on 1 October 2008.
Disclosure of Political Donations and Gifts
The State Government has passed a law that requires the public disclosure of donations or gifts when lodging or commenting on a development proposal. The new law applies from 1 October 2008 and is designed to improve the transparency of the planning system. A disclosure statement of a reportable donation or gift must accompany a planning application or submission if the reportable donation or gift is made within two years before the application or submission is made. If a donation or gift is made after the lodgement of an application or submission, a disclosure statement must be sent to the relevant consent or approval authority within seven days after the donation or gift is made.
What donations have to be reported?
A reportable 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 consideration or inadequate consideration.
When must a disclosure be 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.
A planning application comprises the following types of proposals:
- Development applications,
- Formal requests to the Minister, a Council or the Director General of the Department of Planning to initiate the making of an environmental planning instrument or development control plan,
- Formal requests to the Minister or Director General for a development of a particular site to be made State Significant or a declared Part 3A project under the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act,
- An application for approval of a concept plan or project (or a modification) under Part 3A of the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act,
- Any other application or a request under or for the purpose of the Environmental Planning and Assessment 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 lodgement of a planning application, as described above.
Is there a time limit on a 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 the Muswellbrook Shire Council or any gifts made to a Councillor or staff member of the Council 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 made? 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 donation or gift is made after the planning application or public submission is lodged, the disclosure must be made within 7 days of the donation or gift being made.
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 development application 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 a register of disclosures of political donations and gifts which may be viewed by any member of the public. To make an appointment to see the register, please contact Council's Public Officer, by calling 02 6549 3700.