State assessment and referral agency

In an effort to streamline and better integrate development assessment by state agencies, major reforms have commenced to the Sustainable Planning Act 2009 (SPA) with the SARA going live on 1 July 2013.

Previously state agencies were individually responsible for administering state approvals. There were seven different state referral agencies, including the Department of Transport and Main Roads and the Department of Environment and Heritage Protection, and 17 separate assessment manager roles.

Department of State Development, Infrastructure and Planning

With the commencement of the SARA, all of the state agency roles and powers have been transferred to the Department of State Development, Infrastructure and Planning (DSDIP). The DSDIP will be the single state assessment manager and referral agency for all development applications requiring state assessment[1] and will also be responsible for managing appeals and legal proceedings relating to decisions made under the SARA. The former state referral agencies will continue to provide advice to the DSDIP as technical agencies.

Under the SARA the chief executive administering the SPA (currently the Director-General of the DSDIP) is formally vested with all the assessment and decision making powers previously exercised by different state agencies.

A more transparent approval process

The new reforms are intended to deliver a fairer and more transparent state approval process.

The SARA process will also apply to any new requests for changes to existing approvals made after 1 July and new IDAS forms now apply for development applications under the SPA.

To support the commencement of the SARA, a new workflow and records system known as ‘MyDAS’ has been established, which is a recognised e-IDAS solution under the SPA. The MyDAS system also provides GIS mapping linkages, interactive checklists and IDAS forms.

State Development Assessment Provisions

The SARA reforms have also included the preparation of new State Development Assessment Provisions (SDAP), which lists all of the State’s criteria for development assessment in one document. The SDAP run to almost 400 pages and are organised around the key themes of:

  • housing and liveable communities
  • economic growth
  • environment and heritage
  • hazards and safety; and
  • transport infrastructure.

The SDAP is a statutory instrument and has effect throughout Queensland for development applications where the chief executive is the assessment manager or a referral agency.

The chief executive will have the same jurisdictions as previously applied to the former state referral agencies so the commencement of the SARA reforms does not initially change the scope of state approvals applying under the SPA.

Effect on property owners and developers

The SARA reforms should simplify the development approval process for development applicants who now have a single state agency as the contact point for all state assessments.

The new MyDAS system also offers the ability to streamline the preparation, lodgement and referral of development applications thus saving time and costs for proponents.

The key challenge in the implementation of the SARA is likely to be how effectively and efficiently the DSDIP can coordinate and integrate the input of the former referral agencies who will continue to be involved as technical agencies and how conflicts between state issues will be resolved.

It is also important to note that the commencement of the SARA is the start of a continuing reform and improvement process with a series of on-going actions to be taken by the DSDIP to further reform state assessment triggers and requirements.