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Port Stephens Council among first to consider AI in DAs

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Port Stephens Council is among the first group of councils to investigate how AI technologies could help enhance DA (development application) processes. 

The Hunter LGA was one of more than 30 metro and regional orgaisations to participate in recent workshops aimed at identifying existing AI products that can be easily implemented and used in the NSW planning system.  

The event forms part of the NSW Government’s $5.6 million investment in artificial intelligence (AI) to help reduce 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.

“Councils are responsible for determining approximately 85 percent of all new dwellings in NSW,” Minister for Planning and Public Spaces Paul Scully said. 

“Introducing more AI features into our planning system is about working smarter so that councils can assess DAs faster, which helps to build more homes where they are needed most. 

“AI won’t replace our highly-skilled planners at the core of the planning system, but it will free them up from repetitive daily tasks so that they can focus on more complex DAs. 

“The department is also trialling AI tools such as chatbots and automated document processing to support triage queries and enhance response times for the Planning Portal.” 

Housing

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. 

Port Stephens Council’s manager for development and compliance Evert Grobbelaar said council already saw 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. 

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