Yesterday, the NSW Planning and Public Spaces Minister, Rob Stokes, announced new rules to support the construction industry during the COVID-19 pandemic:

  • The Environmental Planning and Assessment (COVID-19 Development – Construction Work Days) Order 2020 has been framed to allow more construction industry workers to abide by social distancing requirements, by permitting construction sites to operate on weekends and public holidays in the same fashion as they are allowed to operate during the regular week, in order to spread the work across more days of the week.
  • The Minister’s powers to issue orders overriding normal planning regulations was increased on 24 March 2020 by way of amendments to the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act 1979 (NSW). Orders can now be issued by the Minister to ensure the health, safety and welfare of communities.
  • The Minister advised the move was made pursuant to current medical advice, and would help minimise any lost productivity in the industry during the pandemic.
  • However, strict community impact guidelines are required to be observed on sites operating outside the regular working week, such that work must not involve rock breaking, rock hammering, sheet piling and pile driving, and workers must take all reasonable steps to minimise noise broadly.
  • The order is expected to remain in place until the pandemic is over, or until such time that NSW Health revises the current guidelines.