Following 18 months of selective consultation with various industry representatives, the Department of State Development, Infrastructure and Planning (DSDIP) has finally released a consultation version of the draft Planning and Development Bill 2014 (the Draft Bill) for open discussion until 26 September 2014.

If ultimately enacted, the Draft Bill (together with the Planning and Environment Court Bill 2014 – which has also been released in a consultation form for the same period of time) will replace the Sustainable Planning Act 2009.

An information paper on the Draft Bill has been made available by the DSDIP, which neatly summarizes the issues and drivers behind it, and makes the policy position known regarding some of its key deviations from the Sustainable Planning Act 2009. The information paper is an excellent starting point for those interested in the Draft Bill – as it also contains a glossary of terms used in the Draft Bill, and in Appendix 2, reveals the ‘working draft’ version of the principles for the regulation which will ultimately stand together with the Draft Bill.

For those who have not been privy to the 18 months of selective consultation going into the Draft Bill, the following features are worth exploring further in the consultation material:

  • The reduction in number of State planning instruments – to only the State Planning Policy and Regional Plans (the information paper is informative in terms of the one feature of the Queensland Planning Provisions likely to be retained via regulation (i.e. standard definitions))
  • Removal of the ‘proposed call-in’ process
  • Changes to the owners consent provisions – to effectively enable its later provision in certain instances
  • Changes to the categories of development, and also of assessment
  • The introduction of development assessment rules (which are given the head of power in the Draft Bill, but are not yet available for consultation)
  • The removal of any Planning and Environment Court provisions, to its own draft bill
  • An overhaul of the ‘changing a development approval’ process

The information papers tells us that the Draft Bill ‘recasts many aspects of current arrangements to:

  • Remove process that are better attended to other places, such as in the regulation or subsidiary instruments or guidance. This frees the legislation of unnecessary detail, which assists its clarity and enables these processes to be more easily adapted to changing circumstances when the need arises;
  • Rearrange provisions so the structure of the legislation is more easily understood and can be used more intuitively. An example of this is locating the compensation arrangements relating to planning instrument changes in the planning chapter;
  • Consolidate the development related definitions to a single dictionary to avoid the time consuming process of searching different parts of the legislation;
  • Remove instructional provisions from the legislation and include simplified chapter outlines to overcome some of the impediments to easy navigation.’

In our opinion, the Draft Bill absolutely satisfies these statements. 

For the cynics who wonder whether the 680+ pages of the Sustainable Planning Act 2009, and the 210+ pages of the Sustainable Planning Regulation 2009, will as a result of the Draft Bills reduction to circa 230 pages (albeit that the transitional provisions are still yet to be properly attended to), simply mean a supporting regulation and guideline material in the order of 700+ pages, the information paper tells us that ‘more concise legislation will not come at the expense of an expanded suite of statutory instruments’. This is comforting – and in our opinion, having now read the materials mentioned herein, will be achieved by the DSDIP.

The public consultation period for the Draft Bill, and the Planning and Environment Court Bill 2014 opened on Friday 1 August 2014, and will run until 26 September 2014. The draft bills, together with the information paper and the feedback portal can be accessed here