New planning laws have been proposed by the Queensland government to make the state’s planning system the best in Australia.  The Deputy Premier and Minister for Infrastructure, Local Government and Planning, Jackie Trad, introduced the Planning Bill 2015, Planning and Environment Court Bill 2015 and Planning (Consequential) and Other Legislation Amendment Bill 2015 into Parliament on 12 November 2015.

The new Bills will repeal the Sustainable Planning Act 2009 and are intended to substantially streamline and simplify the state’s planning and development assessment system.   In particular, the reforms seek to provide greater transparency and certainty for the community and industry with a focus on sustainability while supporting jobs and investment through improved assessment processes.

The Bills introduced by the Palaszczuk government generally retain many of the reforms proposed by the former Newman government.  However, the new Bills have a stronger focus on transparency, accountability and community participation and there are a number of other significant changes proposed under the new Bills.

Key aspects of the new Bills include:

  • retaining ecological sustainability as a core purpose of the Planning Bill
  • setting minimum standards and timeframes for public consultation on making and amending planning instruments
  • restricting the ability to claim compensation for changes to planning instruments
  • simplifying the categories of development to prohibited, assessable or accepted development
  • reducing the number of instruments (known as categorising instruments) that can specify categories of assessment or set out the matters to be assessed (referred to as assessment benchmarks)
  • retaining the categories of assessment for assessable development as code and impact assessment
  • retaining public notification requirements for impact assessment
  • modifying the decision rules for code and impact assessment
  • including new requirements for reasons to be given for decisions on development applications
  • extending the default currency period for development approvals for material change of use to 6 years
  • significantly increasing maximum penalties for development offences
  • restoring appeal rights for objectors without fear of cost orders under the Court Bill.

The new Bills retain many of the elements of the current planning system such as integrated development assessment and the State Assessment and Referral Agency (SARA), state and local planning instruments, infrastructure charging and the Planning and Environment Court.  However, there are a host of proposed changes that will affect landowners, residents, industry, local governments and State agencies.

Next steps

The Bills have been referred to the Infrastructure, Planning and Natural Resources Committee of the Queensland Parliament for consideration. The Committee has called for public submissions by 18 January 2016 with the Committee required to report back to the Parliament by 21 March 2016.