Background

Further to our recent publication regarding the Economic Development Bill (“the Bill”), the government has now passed the Bill. After a public consultation process lasting only three weeks, the Parliament agreed on an amended version of the Bill in the early hours of 29 November 2012.  

Recommendations

A report by the State Development, Infrastructure and Industry Committee (“SDIIC”), which considered submissions made during the public consultation process, made 20 recommendations in regards to the Bill. These included:

  • “that the Minister provide additional briefings to local governments and other stakeholders, including all infrastructure providers, about the level of engagement they can expect throughout the priority development areas (“PDA”) and Provisional PDA application, decision-making and management process.”
  • “that the Deputy Premier and Minister for State Development, Infrastructure and Planning investigate and make any necessary legislative amendments to ensure that local governments are appropriately safeguarded against significant infrastructure costs resulting from infrastructure agreements.”
  • “that the Minister ensure a robust consultation process is held with all relevant stakeholders in the development of the guidelines to support decision-making around temporary emissions licences.”  

There were also a number of recommendations made in relation to specific clauses of the Bill.  

Amendments

In accordance with the recommendations made by the SDIIC, there were a number of amendments made to the Bill before it was passed.  

Amendments were made to clause 169 of the Bill to clarify that, where the Minister for Economic Development Queensland (the Minister) has delegated functions or powers to a local government, the local government may sub-delegate these functions to an appropriately qualified employee of the local government. The amendments also provided for circumstances where the Minister can identify powers and functions that may not be sub-delegated. The amendments are consistent with the existing practice of delegating powers to local governments under s 136 of the Urban Land Development Authority Act 2007 (which will be repealed once the new Act commences).  

There were also significant amendments made to the clauses in the Bill which sought to amend the State Development and Public Works Organisation Act 1971 (“SDPWO”). These included the introduction of a new clause which amends s 76L of the SDPWO to remove the restriction that a step-in notice may only be given after a progression notice and a notice to decided has been given. This allows the Coordinator-General to step in at any time after the Minister has approved the giving of a step-in notice. This amendment aims to ensure timely decision making by the Coordinator-General and applies to both existing and future prescribed projects.

Other revisions dealt with the new private infrastructure facility (“PIF”) provisions. These amendments allow a proponent to apply for approval of a project as a PIF if the Coordinator-General is satisfied that the project in question has been subject to an environmental assessment under an Act other than SDPWO and that the assessment process has been adequate. The purpose of this amendment is to provide that projects which may be suitable for approval as a PIF are not precluded from applying. A related amendment requires the proponent to negotiate with the landowners for a minimum of six months (an increase from the originally proposed four month negotiation period) and take reasonable steps to purchase the land before seeking approval as a PIF. This is to ensure further fairness to landowners and to encourage the earliest practical notification of intent to acquire land.  

Otherwise, the amendments to the Bill were relatively minor.  

These included a number of changes to the clauses in the Bill which sought to amend the Environmental Protection Ac 1994. These included the adoption of the term ‘applicable event’ instead of ‘emergent event’ to remove confusion in describing when a temporary emissions licence (“TEL”) may be approved, rewording a section to ensure that broader economic considerations (as opposed to financial impacts on an individual applicant) are taken into account when granting a TEL, and inserting new clauses to ensure that proper administrative records are kept.  

Two minor amendments were also made to the clauses in the Bill which sought to amend the South Bank Corporation Act 1989 (“SBCA”). The first of which removes “placing an advertising device on buildings” from the definition of “operational work” to ensure that the erection or affixing of advertising signage within South Bank will not require development approval under the SBCA. The second amendment empowers security guards, engaged by the Brisbane City Council, to issue 24-hour exclusion notices in the same way police officers are empowered by the SBCA.1 1 The Explanatory Notes for these amendments note, specifically in relation to this amendment, that the Council is empowered to make application to the Court for a long term exclusion, in accordance with s 86 of the SBCA.  

Conclusion

Overall, the Bill as passed retained most of the sweeping changes that were proposed when the Bill was first introduced to the Parliament. The true test will come when the Bill commences and the proposed changes begin to take practical effect. However, with a date of commencement still yet to be confirmed, it may be some time before we see any consequences of the government’s new economic development vision.