Taylor Burrell Barnett

2021 – Reflections on ‘Another Year Like No Other’


Lex Barnett
Practice Fellow

14 Dec 2021

In 2020 the term ‘a year like no other’ was perhaps the most quoted phrase on the planet. So what do you say when the following year is equally unusual? ‘Another year like no other’?

When I started to list some interesting, unusual or significant events that impacted our world or just our own lives, to highlight in an end-of-year reflection, I had to stop after about page 20, such has been the year full of bizarre and notable things. So, I have grabbed a small selection of elements that I feel reflect why it is indeed possible to have two years like no other in succession.


Globally the spectacular fall of the ‘Leader of the Free World’ (Trump) and the outrageously violent response of his supporters sent shivers around the world, especially the manic and violent response of his supporters.

Closer to home our very own State Leader, Emperor McGowan enjoyed a rock-star-like endorsement at the state election with the most decisive result of any Australian state or federal election since Federation in terms of percentage of lower house seats controlled by the governing party (89.8%) and two-party preferred margin (69.7%–30.3%) and reducing the opposition to the point of almost total irrelevance. A well earned result by Emperor Sneakers, but not good in terms of having a robust government with a credible opposition to keep them honest.

Best of Planning Reform – The State Development Assessment Unit

In 2020 the State Government embarked on some major (and minor) reforms to the planning system as both response to, and recovery from, the predicted economic consequences of the Covid crisis, lockdowns, border controls etc. One of the most significant measures was the introduction of the State Development Assessment Unit (SDAU) to help facilitate large-scale, ‘shovel-ready’ projects. This has been a widely utilised process which has seen almost $1.5 billion worth of projects approved over the last 12 months, with another $1.3 billion worth currently in the system. Projects range in value between $20 mill and $1.09 bill – overall a huge amount of potential investment.

And for those who think this is just a way to fast-track an approval, anyone who has been involved in an SDAU proposal is painfully aware of how rigorous and lengthy the process is. Of the approvals granted so far, the average determination timeframe is 159 days and that only counts the time taken during the 17B phase and not the extensive work undertaken during the 17A phase. Our advice to clients considering this pathway is generally, if you can get it approved under the normal JDAP approval process, then do so.

Planning Academia – What the Hell Happened?

2021 has been big year of highs and lows for planning academia .

End of an era for Curtin – This year students, past and present, of Curtin University (formerly WAIT) School of Design and the Built Environment said farewell to ‘old faithful’ Building 201 – the home of the School since the building was first opened in 1967. The distinctive – some would say dysfunctional – building holds many memories for those of us who had the pleasure of gracing its brutalist corridors, and it is with a tinge of melancholy that we bid her farewell.

As another is born – while it was rich in sentimental value, Building 201 had long ago become unfit for the Schools needs, so it is very exciting to see the School now moving into a stunning new building – imaginatively named Building 418 – which I am sure will see a quantum leap in the standard of education for our next generations of planning professionals. (see image ) This is part of a major investment by Curtin to create an innovative mixed use precinct design to provide opportunities to learn, live, work and play in a sustainable village environment. It is fitting that the new home of planning and allied professions in WA is situated in the very heart of such an exciting and impressive precinct. Great accolades to Curtin University.

November 2021 - Construction progress on Curtin University’s School of Design and the Built Environment

Meanwhile, at UWA, the Master of Urban & Regional Planning Design has been shut down altogether…. End of story. In spite of the considerable pleading and urging from the Planning Profession, the decision by the University to shut this widely respected course down was seen as a great loss. WA has been blessed with a great breadth of tertiary education options, spearheaded by the Curtin and UWA schools which each produced a different learning experience and skill set, and UWAs action will certainly diminish our learning options.

The Bubble is about to burst

And finally, we can’t conclude the 2021 wrap without acknowledging how blessed we in WA have been to have lived a relatively normal existence in our Covid-free bubble - free to travel our vast state, move without masks and work in a pretty buoyant economy. Working from home is done for convenience and not necessity.

Now is the right time to reflect on how good we have had it, because the bubble is about to burst – we are about to re-join the world, warts (or Covid) and all. Clearly it had to happen eventually, and there is no point in delaying any longer – it was just nice while it lasted. If we can thank Covid for anything it is a new-found appreciation for the simple freedoms we enjoy in our everyday lives, and what an amazing offering of experiences we have in this wonderful state of ours.

And that concludes my random pick of things that impacted the world, or just our back yards, in 2021. I would like to extend my warmest wishes to all clients, colleagues and friends of TBB. If you celebrate Christmas then have a merry Christmas; if you don’t then I hope you enjoy the holiday period in whatever way your faith or persuasion permits. Here’s to a healthy, happy and prosperous 2022.

Lex Barnett

Challenges are what make life interesting and overcoming them is what makes life meaningful. — Joshua J. Marine



Lex Barnett
Practice Fellow