The Regional Planning Interest Bill 2013 was introduced and released for public consultation by Deputy Premier and Minister for State Development Infrastructure and Planning, Jeff Seeney, in November 2013.
The State Development, Infrastructure and Industry Committee is currently considering some 74 written submissions to the Bill, along with submissions made at public hearings held in January and February. The Committee is due to report to Parliament on 17 March 2014.
The proposed legislation aims to ensure the impact of resource activities and other regulated activities in areas of “regional interest” is assessed and managed.
The Bill identifies the following areas of regional interest:
- Priority agricultural areas;
- Priority living areas;
- Strategic environmental areas; and
- Strategic cropping areas.
“New generation” regional plans, including maps, are progressively being released by the State Government identifying these priority areas. Areas of regional interest may also be identified under regulation.
Strategic cropping areas, which are areas of Strategic Cropping Land (SCL) or Potential SCL, will be identified on the electronic Trigger Map for Strategic Cropping Land in Queensland.
Strategic Cropping Land
The Bill will repeal the SCL Act. However, some provisions about SCL are proposed to be ‘migrated’ to the new legislation. The Bill contains specific provisions about SCL mitigation conditions for regional interests authorities, by payment to a mitigation fund or entering into a mitigation deed binding on subsequent landholders. Existing SCL protection applications and decisions would be transitioned under the Bill, and treated as an application or decision for a regional interests authority.
Priority Agricultural Areas
PAAs are areas used for highly productive agricultural land uses, including areas that contain sources of water or infrastructure for such uses. The definition in the Bill also proposes to include areas as PAAs if the carrying out of a resource activity in the area is likely to have a negative impact on a water source.
PAAs will be established by:
- a regulation to the proposed legislation; or
- shown on a map as such in a regional plan.
The Bill introduces a new assessment framework to manage the impact of resource activities and other regulated activities (yet to be specified) on areas of regional interest.
The Bill provides for the making of a regulation that can prescribe an area of regional interest, assessing agencies and their jurisdiction, fees, notification requirements including requirements for a properly made submission and assessment criteria.
The purpose of the Bill is to ensure that decisions about resource activities and regulated activities align with the regional interests expressed in regional plan policies and other government regional interest policies to be triggered through the Bill.
This cannot currently occur in relation to resource activities as regional plan policies are statutory instruments under the Sustainable Planning Act 2009 and they are not currently required to be considered in the assessment of resource activities.