In Queensland, the State has long had the ability to make policies regarding matters of ‘State significance’/’State interest’.

As a legacy of the former Labour government, although many more were introduced, thirteen State planning policies are still effective today.  The current government plans to replace these with one single State planning policy (‘SPP’).

In recognition of this goal, a temporary SPP entitled Planning for Prosperity (‘SPP 2/12’), commenced on 24 August 2012.  SPP 2/12 advised that it articulated the State’s position on economic growth, which it did with reference to what have subsequently been identified as the four pillars of the Queensland economy (i.e. agriculture, tourism, mining and construction).

SPP 2/12 then went on to identify sixteen policies on matters of State interest.  Three of those concern regulatory reform.  The remaining thirteen were divided again under the four pillars, and commenced with the verbs ‘identify’, ‘provide’, ‘facilitate’, ‘protect’ or ‘seek to avoid’.  The policies identified in SPP 2/12 therefore read as a wish list by the State government, as to what local planning instruments and regional plans in particular will achieve, in moving forward.

The Queensland Government has now released the draft Proposed State Interests – Part 1 of the State Planning Policy for consultation during November 2012.  It purports to be the first step in the preparation of a single SPP, and ‘presents the proposed state interests in the planning and development assessment system’.  It is said that the feedback received in relation to this document ‘will inform the drafting of the State Planning Policy and the supporting material needed to implement the state interests’.  It further foreshadows the availability of the draft SPP for public consultation during the first quarter of 2013.

The draft proposed State interests are articulated under the following ten elements:

  1. Maintaining agricultural productivity
  2. Promoting the tourism industry
  3. Enabling the productive use of mining resources
  4. Supporting the construction industry
  5. Ensuring planning enables economic growth
  6. Providing housing choices and liveable communities
  7. Safeguarding the environment and the state’s heritage
  8. Securing transport networks and facilities
  9. Protecting the community’s safety
  10. Delivering necessary infrastructure

In so far that those elements listed above and marked as 6 – 10 are concerned, their interplay with the sixteen policies in SPP 2/12 is more difficult to ascertain.  Perhaps this is acceptable, given that in the large part, they otherwise seem to touch on matters the subject of existing SPPs (e.g. koala conservation, airports and aviation facilities, and natural hazards).

Also, in light of the recently introduced Economic Development Bill 2012 (which at clause 87 includes a definition of ‘State interest’ (for the purpose of that provision, which deals with the matters to be considered by the Minister for Economic Development Queensland in deciding priority development area applications)) it would seem logical (but is not made certain at this stage), that recourse to the draft SPP will be facilitated.

Overall however, it is reassuring to know that the State plans to make available the draft SPP (assumingly in its complete form) for consultation in the early new year. In the absence of really understanding the structure of that document (and the potential scope of its applicability in the application of other related enactments which refer to ‘State interests’), it will be difficult to offer significant comment in relation to the draft Proposed State Interests – Part 1 of the State Planning Policy.

Please click here for a copy of the draft Proposed State Interests – Part 1 of the State Planning Policy and details of how to make a submission.