In this Alert, Partner James Ireland and Senior Associate Gemma Chadwick and Law Graduate Ruby Rayner discuss key changes proposed by the Draft Amendment to the State Planning Policy, which was released by the Deputy Premier for public comment this week.  

The State Planning Policy (SPP) is the paramount state planning instrument in Queensland which provides guidance to local governments in the administration of local planning instruments and in the assessment of development applications. The SPP enumerates 16 state interests which are important to foster Queensland’s continued development.  

This week, Deputy Premier the Honourable Jackie Trad announced the release of the Draft Amendment to the State Planning Policy June 2014 (Draft Amendment) for public consultation.

The Draft Amendment proposes 36 changes in total, many of which are administrative. However, of particular significance are the proposed changes to the guiding principles of the SPP, the “economic growth” State interests and the introduction of stronger provisions addressing climate change.

The primary intent behind the proposed changes is reflected in the amendment of the core aim of the SPP from “Producing a prosperous Queensland” (the previous Newman Government’s policy) to “Producing a liveable, sustainable and prosperous Queensland” (the Palaszczuk Government’s policy).

Economic Development

Part C of the SPP contains “Guiding Principles”, which are said to carry equal weight with the State Interests in the SPP and must be considered by local government as a part of the interpretation of State Interests.

A change is proposed to the first dot point of the ‘Outcome focused’ guiding principles as follows:

Queensland’s economic development is supported through Decision-making which integrates and balances the economic, environmental and social needs of future generations

In Part D, a change is proposed to the introduction to the four State interests in economic growth as follows:

“Planning plays a critical role in achieving economic growth. The government’s four pillar economic policy is about building on Queensland’s traditional strengths in resources, agriculture, construction and tourism.Encouraging growth in Queensland’s traditional strengths of resources, agriculture, construction and tourismthese sectors will provide benefits to the economy and to the people of Queensland.

While the four pillars form the backbone of the Queensland economy, there There are many other competitive, emerging and innovative sectors that also contribute to Queensland’s strong economy, for example research and development, education and manufacturing education, manufacturing, knowledge-intensive industries (research and development, biotechnology) and the services economyThese sectors and the four pillars all rely upon a strong economy for viability.”

The Draft Amendment also proposes a change to amend the introduction to the State Interest for “Planning for safety and resilience to hazards” as follows:

“Planning for safety and resilience to hazards will enable positive responses to challenges and change. By utilising an evidence-based, risk management approach which encourages innovation, planning can help insure the continued prosperity of Queensland, the wellbeing of people and the protection of property, the environment and infrastructure.”

While the change in language is subtle, it perhaps signals a slight shift away from a focus on economic development in planning decisions.

Climate Change

Also in Part D, a change is proposed to the introduction to the State Interest for “Natural hazards, risk and resilience” to include explicit reference to climate. The proposed amendment is:

“Why is are natural hazards, risk and resilience of interest to the state?

A natural hazard is a naturally occurring event that may cause harm to people and our social wellbeing, damage to property and/or infrastructure and impact our economy and the environment. The natural hazards that can be prepared for effectively avoided or mitigated through land use planning and development decisions are flood, bushfire, landslide, storm tide inundation and coastal erosion.

Planning for these natural hazards through land use planning can also significantly reduce the financial and other resource pressures placed on all levels of government, industry and the community, to respond to and recover from natural disasters. For this reason, there is a shared responsibility to manage the impact these natural hazards may have to people, social wellbeing, property, the economy, the environment and infrastructure.

The effects of climate change are projected to impact on the footprint, frequency and intensity of natural hazards. Projected sea level rise for example, will increase the risk from coastal hazards, progressively cause the permanent inundation of low lying land and extend the risk of storm tide inundation to new areas. Increased temperatures will increase the likelihood and extent of area affected by bushfires.

The state’s interest in natural hazards, risk and resilience seeks to ensure natural hazards are properly considered in all levels of the planning system, community resilience is increased, and where hazards are avoided or the risks are mitigated to an acceptable or tolerable level, increasing community resilience and minimising the burden for emergency management.

Key to achieving these outcomes is an integrated, evidence-based process that empowers local government and the community to plan for their local circumstances and contributes to achieving a safer and more resilient Queensland.”

A reference to climate change is also proposed to be inserted in Part D – the State Interest for “Coastal environment” as follows:

“As the coastal environment is highly dynamic and may be impacted by coastal erosion and storm-tide inundation, planning and development decision-making should employ risk-management approaches that take into account the projected impacts of a variable climate change.”

Again, while the change in language is subtle, it perhaps suggests a policy shift towards a stronger, more regulatory approach to coastal planning.  It follows on from the reintroduction of a 0.8m component for seal leave rise, which was reinstated to erosion prone mapping in July 2015. 

Have Your Say

The complete Draft Amendment can be viewed online here.  

Public consultation of the Draft Amendment commenced on 9 November 2015 and will be open for a period of 20 days to 5pm on Friday 4 December 2015.