Reform of the Queensland planning system has been announced by the Palaszczuk government, which released its directions paper entitled ‘Better Planning for Queensland: Next Steps in Planning Reform’ on 25 May 2015. 

That discussion paper tells us that there are issues with the current legislation that need to be fixed and that draft legislation (which, it is hoped, will commence in the second half of 2016), will be introduced by October 2015.  In one of the media statements that accompanied the discussion paper, we are told that what we can expect will be a “new, clear, logical and consistent Planning Act”. After the debate that raged over the title of the lapsed Planning and Development Bill, it will be interesting to learn whether the simple ‘Planning Act’ will stick.

The discussion paper, which is available to view here seems to resonate much of what the Planning and Development Bill touted, albeit that some of its elements might again be up for re-wording, in particular - the levels of assessment (i.e. should these remain as compliance, code and impact – or be changed to something else).

There are only two distinct shifts away from where we got to under the draft legislation introduced by the previous government, at least according to the discussion paper, namely:

  • The Palaszczuk government seems intent on regressing back to the former cost arrangements under the Sustainable Planning Act 2009 – via the restoration  of ‘the rights of resident and community group submitters to appeal decisions to the Planning and Environment Court without fear of having costs awarded against them’; and
  • There is an indication that enforcement notices (as opposed to simply enforcement notices) might be in the government’s eye as something befitting of being notified on title.

In concluding, it is noted that the discussion paper also tells us that one of its reform priorities is to fix ‘the problems that are blocking better performance and better development outcomes’. It is indeed an admirable goal, but we would say, not something that can necessarily be achieved through statutory reform. 

For the legal practitioners in this space, it is once again time to get excited by the prospect of a new statutory regime.  We will watch this space with interest, as should the development industry and local governments.