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The COVID-19 pandemic is obviously an extraordinary and challenging time for everyone. At present, the planning industry continues to operate which is something not being taken for granted. Many Councils have taken the leap to paperless offices, which has helped with their transition for staff working from home where possible, along with easier lodgement processes from the applicant side.
VPELA held a webinar this morning outlining how technology, specifically Zoom, could be utilised in this time of self distancing. This is particularly pertinent given VCAT and Planning Panels Victoria have adjourned a number of hearings and are looking to minimise any face-to-face contact. The collaborative approach by many from the legal fraternity resulted in a mock trial held over Zoom with expert evidence presented. The experience was positive and, subject to all parties becoming more au fait with the functionality of the program, could present an opportunity for hearings etc to continue to proceed Since ratio: encouraged staff to work from home, we’ve also been experimenting with different technologies, including Zoom, Microsoft Teams and Fuze. People seem to be adopting the new technology and perhaps a greater awareness of what’s in the background and which way the camera is pointing and the need to embrace the ‘mute’ button!
We understand that VCAT and PPV are looking at alternatives to ensure that significant backlogs do not occur at this time, but are being somewhat hampered by technology constraints. While there is much uncertainty about the economy, ensuring hearings and meetings occur enables planning permits to still issue. This will then hopefully assist in creation of jobs through the construction industry and reinvestment by property developers. As the Prime Minister pointed out, everyone with a job at present is an essential worker. We applaud those involved with the VPELA webinar in trying to come up with solutions to ensure our industry doesn’t grind to a halt.
Article by Alice Maloney, Senior Associate: Planning