In brief

What’s Happened?

On 13 September 2012 the government took a significant step to improve Queensland’s planning and development system by introducing the Sustainable Planning and Other legislation Amendment Bill 2012 (Qld) into Parliament.

Who should read this?

Everyone carrying out, or planning to carry out, development requiring approval under the Sustainable Planning Act 2009 (Qld), or involved in a planning and development dispute.

What do they need to do?

Prepare for the commencement of these new laws by familiarising yourself with the changes to the development application process and the planning and development dispute resolution process. Seek specific advice regarding how these changes will affect your business.  

Details

On 13 September 2012 the government took a significant step to improve Queensland’s planning and development system by introducing the Sustainable Planning and Other Legislation Amendment Bill 2012 (Qld) (SPA Amendment Bill) into Parliament. The SPA Amendment Bill aims to address local government and industry feedback that various processes within the Sustainable Planning Act 2009 (Qld) (SPA) do not function as effectively as intended.

The SPA Amendment Bill includes seven proposals to streamline and simplify Queensland’s planning and development framework:

1. Improve the coordination and responsiveness of the state government in dealing with development applications proposing development within or partially within state jurisdiction.

Currently, there are multiple state agencies with jurisdiction under SPA as concurrence agencies or assessment managers. It is possible that one development application may trigger multiple jurisdictions requiring responses from a number of state agencies.

The SPA Amendment Bill seeks to improve the coordination and responsiveness of state government in dealing with these particular development applications (excluding building matters) by enabling the Department of State Development, Infrastructure and Planning to be the single state assessment manager and referral agency.

2. Remove ineffective master planning and structure planning arrangements.

The existing master planning and structure planning arrangements in the SPA are inefficient and have not added value to planning partnership arrangements. Consequently, the SPA Amendment Bill removes these provisions, but preserves the use and development rights established by existing structure plans and master plans through transitional provisions.

3. Reduce regulatory ‘red tape’ for development applications involving a state resource.

Currently, where a development application involves a state resource, evidence of an allocation or an entitlement to the resource is required when the development application is lodged. Without a resource allocation, the development application is determined to have been not properly made and the application cannot proceed until the allocation is obtained, potentially delaying the development’s approval process.

The SPA Amendment Bill streamlines the development application process for applications involving a state resource by decoupling the development application process under the SPA from the allocation or entitlement process under other legislation. This will allow the application to be assessed without evidence of an allocation or entitlement to the state resource, and enable the applicant to apply for a state resource allocation or entitlement prior to, concurrent with, or following the development application and assessment process.

4. Provide some flexibility in the requirements for supporting information accompanying a development application.

For a development application to be considered properly made it must be accompanied by all the information required under the mandatory requirements of the Integrated Development Assessment System development application forms. This obligation often acts as a barrier to the efficiency of the development assessment process.

The  mandatory requirements of a development application (for example, consent of the land owner) must still be included in every application. However, mandatory supporting information does not always add value to the assessment of every development application and may be unnecessary for some applications. The SPA Amendment Bill provides the assessment manager the discretion to accept development applications that have sufficient information for assessment as being properly made, even if some unnecessary mandatory supporting information is not provided.

5. Provide that certain provisions within the Queensland Planning Provisions also apply to local government planning schemes made under the Integrated Planning Act 1997 (Qld) (IPA) (repealed).

Currently, the level of assessment required for development applications involving low-risk operational works is unnecessarily high, creating an unnecessary burden for local governments and development applicants. The SPA Amendment Bill provides powers to ensure that certain provisions within the Queensland Planning Provisions (QPP) also apply to local government planning schemes made under the IPA (repealed), as well as SPA. Therefore, the maximum limits of assessment and codes prescribed under the QPP will to apply to all local governments.

6. Give the Planning and Environment Court general discretion in relation to costs.

At present the Planning and Environment Court is essentially a cost free jurisdiction in that ordinarily each party pays their own costs except in certain specific circumstances. The exception which is most often relied on is where the court considers a party has been frivolous or vexatious. This term has been  interpreted in such a way that it is now rare for cost orders to be made under this exception even where the opponent is a commercial competitor.

The SPA Amendment Bill introduces the concept that costs are to follow the event, subject to the discretion of the Planning and Environment Court. This is in line with the Uniform Civil Procedure Rules which apply in the Supreme and District courts. In addition, the Planning and Environment Court Rules may provide for how the court exercises the discretion.

7. Introduce an alternative dispute resolution process in the Planning and Environment Court for minor disputes.

To inexpensively and effectively resolve simple development disputes, the SPA Amendment Bill provides the Chief Judge of the District Court with the discretion to direct that certain Court powers may be exercised by the Alternative Dispute Resolution registrar. In addition, the court may direct that specific matters may be adjudicated and decided by the Alternative Dispute Resolution registrar on the basis each party pay their own costs. It is intended that this will: •add to the efficiency of the Planning and Environment Court,

  • improve access to justice for the public,
  • allow disputes to be resolved sooner without costs, and 
  • reduce judicial time in determining relatively minor matters dealing with routine applications.