Uncovering efficiency – Sutherland Shire Council

DA's per annum

1.5 Billion
total value

64 avg. days per application


2015 was a big year for Sutherland Shire Council as they transitioned to a new corporate document management system as well as a new way of processing development applications. 

Despite recent council amalgamations in NSW, Sutherland Shire Council remains one of the largest councils in NSW, providing local services to a population of approximately 226,000. Sutherland Shire is located on the southern coastal border of the Sydney metropolitan region and covers 370km2 and is currently going through a large up-zoning period wherein traditionally single dwelling lots are being redeveloped for dual occupancy and/or larger developments.

In 2014, the development application boom was showing no signs of slowing down and the Certification & Development Assessment team was having trouble coping with the tsunami of work. Sutherland Shire Council’s upzoning was starting to accelerate and with the announcement of NSW Government’s new online planning portal, Sutherland Shire Council understood that they needed to transition digitally.

With a plan to implement eApprovals in line with the new EDMS system, the planning team worked with Redman Solutions to map out the desired outcomes. One of the inputs to get to the digitally focused outcome was the implementation of eApprovals processes and technology such as Objective Trapeze.

Drivers for the shift to eApprovals and Objective Trapeze aligned with Sutherland’s tree and bushland policy, where due to increased upzoning in the region, a positive move was made to retain existing trees throughout development application consent.

Key outcomes achieved

The timing for the implementation of eApprovals was “just in time” according to Simone Plummer, the Manager of Development Assessment and Certification. With the upzoning of traditional suburban blocks seeing development applications rising over 41% within 12 months.

With the complexity of these newly rezoned applications, the overall value of applications more than tripled and the resulting processing time rose by 12 days per application on average purely due to the newfound complexity.

Sutherland Case Study Comparison Table - 1200 development applications prior to eApprovals. 1700 development applications after eapprovals. Annual development application worth prior to eApprovals $450Mil. Annual development application worth after eApprovals $1.5bil.

How did Sutherland Shire digitise their planning application approval processes?


Calculations and measurements

Sutherland Shire was able to use Objective Trapeze to speed up their GFA (gross floor area) measurements with a specific value placed on the fact that applicants often negated to put key measurements onto their plans.

The ability to quickly scale a document in Objective Trapeze and then measure the GFA precisely saves additional RFI’s and possible refusal of applications.


Objective Trapeze Light Table Tool

The Light Table tool allows the Sutherland team a quick analysis of apartment design plans for Deep Soil Area calculations. With NSW’s Residential Flat Design Code (RFDC) updating to the newer ‘Apartment Design Code’ (ADG), the required Deep Soil Area changed to 7% of a site’s area in contrast to the previous rule of thumb of 25% of the ‘open space’. The planning was able to use Trapeze Desktop’s Light Table functionality to quickly establish the Deep Soil ratios of any set of plans, speeding up the application process alignment to the new ADG.

Stamping of plans.PNG

Stamping and Annotation

Stamps are setup as frequently used information for repeated use on document processing. Stamps can be defined organisationally and categorised for easy access from the toolbar.

Stamp usage is for common annotations of items like amendments, drainage, pools and fencing, animal/vegetation protection, parking, consent and accounting.

With the use of features like a pre-configured consent stamp, Sutherland’s workflow was sped up by automatically stamping each and every page of the approved application once consent was granted.


Communicating with Applicants – TPZ Calculations

Sutherland’s communication with applicants regarding variable items like Tree Protection Zones (TPZ) aligned with the Shire’s core value during applications taking advantage of upzoning, Trapeze allowed quick markups and annotations to share with applicants when existing trees and new developments were to co-exist. The way Sutherland used existing Objective Trapeze tooling to measure hypothetical estimations of a tree’s root mass negated the need to investigate by excavation, speeding up application consent.

In the image attached, the council was able to communicate with effective measurements and annotation to recommend an alternative dwelling configuration to the applicant, saving the longer process of assessment while sticking their core value of protecting existing trees within the Shire.


Communicating with applicants – relaying ideas

Through the use of measuring and annotations, Martin from Sutherland was able to efficiently mark-up proposed changes to the dwelling that would see a larger GFA while retaining the gum tree in question. This digitally annotated plan was shared electronically with the applicant with the whole process receiving timely approval – a win for the applicant, the Shire’s core values and the tree.