Planning reforms to create Australia’s best planning system have taken an important step forward with new planning legislation introduced into Parliament. The reforms aim to turbocharge the Queensland economy by driving economic growth.
Planning and Development Bill
The Queensland Government’s planning reform agenda has passed a major milestone with the introduction of the Planning and Development Bill 2014 (Bill) into Parliament. The Bill together with the associated Planning and Environment Court Bill (Court Bill) and Planning and Development (Consequential) and Other Legislative Amendment Bill (Consequential Amendment Bill) aim to transform the State’s planning and development system.
The reforms have been described by the Deputy Premier and Minister for State Development, Infrastructure and Planning as biggest reform in planning in Queensland’s history. These reforms are intended to drive economic growth and promote prosperity.
The Bill will repeal the Sustainable Planning Act (SPA) and seeks to establish a new planning system that will simplify plan making arrangements, streamline the development assessment system and restructure planning legislation to remove superfluous procedures, detail and redundant procedures.
The legislative reforms have been developed through extensive consultation with stakeholders with the new framework intended to establish a climate of predictability and improved performance to facilitate development activity.
The new framework builds on the fundamental elements of the current system but introduces a range of initiatives to improve performance.
Planning and Environment Court Bill
As part of the package of planning reforms the Planning and Environment Court, which is currently established under the SPA, is to be given its own separate and stand alone Court Bill.
The Planning and Environment Court is continued by the Court Bill although there are a range of changes that are intended to ‘fine tune’ the operation of the Court.
This change is in part a recognition of the broad role of the Planning and Environment Court as being more than a planning appeals body (the Court currently has jurisdiction under 29 different Acts) and an opportunity to update and refine the Court’s operation, including enhanced alternative dispute resolution (ADR) processes.
Planning and Development (Consequential) and Other Legislation Amendment Bill
With the proposed repeal of the SPA, a range of state legislation needs to be amended to give effect to the new planning regime to be implemented under the Bill. The Consequential Amendment Bill accordingly contains amendments to a range of state legislation to support the operation of the Bill as well as providing for amendments to the State Development and Public Works Organisation Act and Environmental Protection Act to implement specific reforms.
Once commenced, the new legislation will transform the operation of the planning and development system in Queensland. This will have wide ranging implications for all stakeholders, including state and local government planning authorities and regulators, developers, property owners and the community.
The reforms are especially significant for development assessment with the creation of new assessment categories and processes, including assessment and decision making rules. Greater flexibility is also provided for local government plan making, including more pathways for making and amending planning schemes.
There are major changes to state planning powers to reduce complexity and simplify state regulatory provisions as well as provide enhanced processes for state planning (such as infrastructure designations) and development assessment (including ministerial powers).
The reforms also seek to provide enhanced processes for dispute resolution, including the newly proposed Development Tribunal.
Overall, the legislative reforms are being driven by a desire to simplify the planning system and remove unnecessary red tape and processes with a central focus on supporting economic growth by providing an efficient, effective, transparent, integrated and accountable system of planning and development assessment in Queensland.
The new Bills will now be reviewed by the Parliamentary State Development, Infrastructure and Industry Committee before being debated in the new year. The new planning legislation will also be supported by further regulations and host of guidelines and other supporting documents.
Present indications are that the Government is seeking to pass the legislation in first quarter of 2015, with commencement proposed in the second half of 2015.