Report highlights: NSW planning portal

What the report is about

The ePlanning program is an initiative of the Department of Planning and Environment (the department) to deliver a digital planning service for New South Wales through the NSW planning portal (the portal).

Using the portal, relevant planning activities can be carried out online, including all stages of development applications.

The portal has been developed under three separate business cases in 2013, 2014 and 2020.

In late 2019, the government mandated the use of the portal for all development applications. This decision took effect across 2020–21.

This audit assessed the effectiveness of the department's implementation, governance and stakeholder engagement in delivering the NSW planning portal.

What we found

Since implementation commenced in 2013, the NSW planning portal has progressively achieved its objectives to provide citizens with access to consolidated planning information, and allow them to prepare and submit development applications online.

Shortcomings in the department's initial planning and management of the program led to a significant time overrun. It has taken the department longer and cost significantly more to implement the portal than first anticipated. 

In recent years the department has improved the planning, implementation and governance of the ePlanning program, resulting in improved delivery of the portal’s core functions.

The department now has a clear view of the scope necessary to finalise the program, but has not yet published the services it plans to implement in 2022 and 2023.

Mandating the use of the portal for all development applications changed the program's strategic risk environment and required the department to work more closely with a cohort of stakeholders, many of whom did not want to adopt the portal.

Despite this change, the department kept its overall delivery approach the same.

While implementation of the portal has delivered financial benefits, the department has overestimated their value.

The Department has only reported benefits since 2019 and has not independently assured the calculation of benefits.

What we recommended

By December 2022, the department should:

  • publish a roadmap of the services it expects to release on the portal across 2022 and 2023
  • update its ePlanning program assumptions, benefits targets and change management approach to reflect the government's decision to mandate the use of the portal for all stages of a development application
  • independently assure and report publicly the correct calculation of ePlanning program benefits.

Fast facts

  • 10 years taken to implement the portal when completed
  • 3 years longer than initially planned to implement the portal
  • $146m capital expenditure on the portal when completed
  • $38.5m more spent than planned in the business cases.

Further information

Please contact Ian Goodwin, Deputy Auditor-General on 9275 7347 or by email.