Recent legislative changes in New South Wales require councils to make available to the public the disclosures of donations or gifts when lodging or commenting on development proposals, and also the disclosures of political donations, gifts and electoral expenditure by councillors.

These legislative changes are designed to improve openness and transparency of the system.

Relevant planning applications and submissions - obligations of members of the public

The legislative changes introduce new disclosure requirements for members of the public relating to political donations and gifts. A disclosure of a reportable political donation or gift (see below for definition) will need to be made whenever a relevant planning application, or relevant public submission on such an application is made.It is the responsibility of every person to ensure that they comply with any obligations under the new disclosure requirements.

All Disclosure Statements of Political Donations and Gifts are public documents and all information contained in them will be available to the public and government agencies.

Importantly, please note that a person will be guilty of an offence under s125 of the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act 1979 if the person fails to make a disclosure of a reportable political donation or gift. The penalties for the offence may be significant so it is critical that you ensure you understand and meet your disclosure obligations.

Below are links to information and resources which may assist understanding and meeting these obligations.

Reportable political donations and gifts

Political donations of $1,000 or more are known as reportable political donations. The terms reportable political donations and gifts are defined in Part 6 of the Election Funding and Disclosures Act 1981.

  • A political donation is a gift (monetary or otherwise) made to or for the benefit of a councillor. Political donations include:
  • monetary donations,
  • the purchase of tickets and other items for a fund raising event,
  • the giving of a gift or the provision of a service at no charge (or at a discounted charge) also known as a gift 'in kind', and
  • annual subscriptions or membership payments to political parties.

Reportable political donations also include multiple donations that are less than $1,000 made by the same person to the same councillor in the same financial year where the donations in aggregate are $1,000 or more.

Councillor disclosures of political donations and electoral expenditure

All Local Government Councillors have obligations under the Election Funding and Disclosures Act 1981.

Councillors can only accept $1,000 or more in political donations or gifts if:

  • they have an official agent, and
  • political donations are made to the official agent.

Each Councillor, or their official agent, is required to lodge a Declaration of Political Donations Received and Electoral Expenditure Incurred during the disclosure period.

There is an ongoing six monthly disclosure obligation for all Councillors. Declarations for the period ending 30 June are due by 25 August each year. Declarations for the period ending 31 December are due by 25 February each year.

Visit the Electoral Funding Authority website to access the Declarations of Political Donations and Electoral Expenditure by Councillors.