Political Donations

Political Donations

Disclosure of Political Donations or Gifts

Amendments to Local Government and planning legislation requiring the public disclosure of donations or gifts when lodging or commenting on development proposals commenced on 1 October 2008. The amendments require the disclosure of relevant political donations or gifts when planning instrument proposals or development applications are made.

Who do the amendments apply to?
The amendments apply to council officers, elected councillors, applicants for development and development related matters which include EPIs, DCPs, concept plans and applications for declaration as State Significant Development, as well as Part 3A projects and modifications. There are also obligations for disclosure on persons who make written submissions supporting or opposing development applications or planning proposals.

These provisions do not relate to complying development certificates or applications or requests made by public authorities on their own behalf, or on behalf of applications that are excluded by the Regulations.

A disclosure must be made by any person who has a financial interest in a planning application and who has made a reportable political donation in the 2 years before the application is made or determined. The guidelines contain an example of a disclosure statement.

Council's Obligations
In addition, Council's General Manager is required to keep a public register containing each planning decision made by council, and the names of the councillors who supported or opposed the decision.

The guidelines also state that a General Manager must refer any matter to the Director General of the Department of Local Government where they reasonably suspect that a Councillor has not complied with provisions of the Council's Code of Conduct relating to the disclosure of political donations. These provisions are currently the subject of discussion between the Department and the Associations.

Penalties for Non-Disclosure
Most importantly, a person will be guilty of an offense by way of Section 125 of the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act 1979 if the person fails to make a disclosure of a reportable political donation or gift if it is reasonable for that person to have known that such a disclosure should have been made. The maximum penalty will be $22,000 or 12 months imprisonment, or both.

More Information
For more information visit the Election Funding Authority web site or contact the Electoral Commission of NSW.  The Electoral Commission of NSW has established a dedicated enquiry line to assist councillors, candidates for election and members of the public.  Any enquiries regarding disclosure of political donations returns and electoral legislation generally should be made to Elections Enquiries on 1300 135 736 or (02) 9290 5999.
How to Make A Disclosure
Complete the following form and return to Council for registration with the General Manager.