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New South Wales Accelerating AI Development

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Sixteen councils in New South Wales will trial new technologies aimed at accelerating development assessment timeframes, thanks to an AU$ 5.6 million investment by the NSW Government. This initiative is part of the State’s effort to incorporate artificial intelligence (AI) into the planning system through the Early Adopter Grant Program.

These councils, selected through a competitive grant application process, will use the funds to implement technologies designed to enhance the quality and accuracy of information submitted with development applications. The goal is to streamline the assessment process, which is often bogged down by administrative delays, duplications, mistakes, or incomplete site-specific requirements.

Currently, councils are responsible for assessing approximately 85% of all residential development applications in NSW. The assessment process can be lengthy and inefficient, with significant time lost to administrative burdens and requests for additional information. By integrating AI and other advanced technologies, the NSW Government aims to pre-emptively address these issues, ensuring that development applications are complete and accurate before they reach planners’ desks. This approach allows skilled planners to focus on approving applications more efficiently.

Improving the initial quality of development applications is expected to reduce the frequency of requests for additional information. For example, the Regional Housing Flying Squad Program, which processed nearly 500 applications last year, found that about 30% of proposals required additional information, causing an average delay of 42 days. Eliminating the need for these additional requests could save approximately 6,300 days – or the equivalent of 17 years – just within this small group. Extrapolated across the nearly 60,000 applications submitted annually in NSW, the potential savings could amount to hundreds of thousands of days.

The broader objective of this initiative is to support the delivery of more homes, addressing the housing crisis by preventing young people from being priced out of the market or leaving the state in search of more affordable housing options. Each council grant recipient will receive support to trial their chosen technology for a year.

This grant funding is part of the NSW Government’s broader AI in NSW Planning package, which seeks to explore how AI can enhance the planning system. The next phase of this project will investigate technologies that can integrate with the NSW Planning Portal, making AI benefits accessible to all applicants.

The Minister for Planning and Public Spaces highlighted the critical role of technology in improving the assessment of development applications. He emphasised that AI will reduce the administrative workload for planners, allowing them to focus on their core responsibilities. This reduction in administrative tasks will also benefit applicants by minimising delays and ensuring all necessary information is provided without repeated requests. Scully noted that after years of complex planning reforms and a challenging economic environment, development approvals have slowed. The government is committed to exploring all avenues to expedite the planning system and facilitate the construction of homes for young people, families, and workers.

The Minister for Local Government acknowledged the significant workload councils undertake in assessing new dwelling applications. He expressed confidence that AI would accelerate the planning process and enable councils to better serve their communities.

OpenGov Asia reported that The NSW Government has funded an AI-based health monitoring project aimed at suicide prevention in correctional centres, led by a University of Wollongong team under the Small Business Innovation & Research (SBIR) programme.

This interdisciplinary initiative, involving UOW’s Schools of Nursing and Computing and Information Technology, Western Sydney University, and 3Aim Solutions, will explore using radar-based AI technology to monitor the vital signs of at-risk individuals. Emphasising cross-disciplinary collaboration, the project aims to enhance current monitoring systems and improve health outcomes in prisons. If the feasibility study is successful, further funding for a proof-of-concept phase will be sought in 2024.


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