The State Assessment and Referral Agency provides applicants with a single lodgement point for development applications that trigger either assessment by, or referral to, the State.

Amendments to Queensland's Sustainable Planning Act 2009 (SPA) and the Sustainable Planning Regulation 2009 (SP Regulation) which establish the State Assessment and Referral Agency (SARA) commenced on 1 July 2013.

Under the amendments, the chief executive of the Department of State Development, Infrastructure and Planning (DSDIP), who administers SPA, is now the one-stop shop for the State for aspects of development requiring either assessment by, or referral to, the State.

On a practical level, SARA provides applicants with a single lodgement point for development applications that, under the SP Regulation, trigger either assessment by, or referral to, the State. It will also provide a single point of contact at the State level for applicants under the integrated development assessment process.

SARA applies only to State agency interests under SPA and does not remove or replace the assessment powers of a local government authority where it is prescribed as the assessment manager for an application under the SP Regulation. For most applicants, this will mean development applications will ordinarily continue to be lodged with, and assessed by, the local government authority, and referred under SARA for concurrence or advice agency assessment, as applicable.

State Assessment and Referral Agency

From 1 July, amended Schedule 6 of the SP Regulation prescribes when the chief executive of DSDIP is an assessment manager for certain development applications, and amended Schedule 7 prescribes when the chief executive is a referral agency for certain applications.

Government owned corporations such as ENERGEX, Ergon Energy Limited, and the water distributor-retailers, port authorities and airports are not included as part of SARA. Accordingly, these entities retain their relevant pre-SARA assessment and referral powers under the SP Regulation.

In addition, SARA does not apply to building work assessable against the Building Act 1975 or the Fire and Rescue Service Act 1990.

State Development Assessment Provisions

Amended Schedule 5 of the SP Regulation identifies the applicable codes, laws, policies and prescribed matters which the chief executive may apply in assessing a development application.

A "prescribed matter" includes the relevant provisions of the newly created State Development Assessment Provisions (SDAP).

The SDAP sets out those matters of interest to the State for development assessment. It includes matters the chief executive may have regard to when assessing an application, either as the assessment manager or as a referral agency.

The SDAP does this by identifying the following five themes (the same themes as the draft Single State Planning Policy):

  • Housing and liveable communities;
  • Economic Growth;
  • Environment and Heritage;
  • Hazards and Safety; and
  • Transport and Infrastructure,

which cover 19 different modules. For example, native vegetation clearing (module 8) and coastal protection (module 10) are included under Environment and Heritage, while strategic cropping land (module 6) and water resources (module 7) are included under Economic Growth. Each module is in turn supported by one or more State codes.

Tables B2 and B3 of the SDAP then identify which modules and codes (ie. the relevant State assessment criteria) an applicant must comply with, and the chief executive must consider where it is, respectively, either an assessment manager or a referral agency.

integrated development assessment process

Under the integrated development assessment process (IDAS) process, the chief executive of DSDIP will be the single point of contact for development applications requiring assessment by, or referral to, the State. This means that only one request for information will be issued by the State (in addition to any requests made by a local government authority or a prescribed referral agency that is not SARA) and only one decision (eg. one set of conditions encompassing all State interests) will be issued by the State. This will reduce the number of information requests and sets of conditions an applicant will receive.

In imposing conditions on an approval as either an assessment manager or concurrence agency, the chief executive may nominate a relevant government entity to be responsible for the administration and enforcement of a particular condition. This means applicants may still need to deal with specific State government departments, if it is the nominated entity for a particular condition.

The chief executive has also become the relevant entity for any appeal against conditions imposed by the chief executive as either assessment manager or as a concurrence agency. The chief executive will also necessarily be the relevant entity for infrastructure agreements made under SPA.

Transitional provisions

Under SPA, a development application that was made but not decided on 1 July must be dealt with as if SARA had not commenced.

From 1 July, the chief executive will be the relevant entity for any request to change, cancel or extend an approval to the extent a State agency was, prior to commencement, the assessment manager or a concurrence agency.

New IDAS Forms, and SDAP Response Templates are available from the DSDIP's website.