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New Queensland Planning Act July 2017

Brisbane suburbia
Wednesday, August 30, 2017 - 14:12

The Queensland government has finally passed the new planning act. There is background information on it's website. The act took effect in July 2017 to allow industry and council’s be ready. The department has published a number of online videos explaining the changes.

So are there any significant changes?

Yes and no. The marketing from the state would have you believe that it will be simpler, faster and cheaper to get a planning approval. But will it? See the UDIA comments. The state is saying that the Act and regulation is smaller but they are neglecting to include the Ministerial guidelines and DA rules that make up the things that were taken out of the Act.

The Integrated Development Assessment System is retained with some changes:

  • new or changed steps.
  • timing of the various steps.
  • option to dispense with an information stage.
  • exemption certificate.
  • different levels of assessment – accepted development, assessable development & accepted development. Assessable development may be code or impact which are basically unchanged from what we have now.

Of concern is that impact assessment can be against any other matter of relevance. It is not clear what this can be against, so far the notes include planning need but it could be local laws, council policy or anything else. No doubt there will be plenty of legal challenges on this in the future.

Summary of changes in legislation

“Compliance” assessment is gone. This is significant when it comes to developments for material change as use such as multiple dwellings that have civil works to be completed after the planning approval is given. The state has no mechanism for a process for this to be assessed to it looks like the applications will now have to be “complete” with the attendant risk that if the planning aspects are not accepted expensive engineering plans may need to be redrawn at significant cost. This is clearly a backward step. The government’s claim is that this is another form of assessable development similar to operational works for a subdivision. This isn’t clear at this stage how that will work.

The “exemption” certificate is available for limited low risk developments. It is uncertain how this will work but it is intended to provide flexibility in certain circumstances.

The DA process details have been removed from the Act and are now included in guidelines published by the Minister and the DA rules. The DA rules & guidelines will provide more flexibility but are more complex at the same time.

One change is that the applicant may choose to not have an information request that stops the IDAS timeframes. This will be useful for low risk applications where the required information is well known to industry. However, the risk is that if something isn’t correct then council does not have to accept more information.

There is a tightening up of the rules that allow a decision that is contrary to a planning instrument. Some of the flexibility in code assessment has been removed making it look more like self-assessment.

Compensation has changed. Particularly where a council changes its planning scheme in response to natural hazards such as sea level rise. In those cases there is no compensation available for changes to a planning scheme. So for those people that are affected by natural hazards they need to make sure they undertake development while the planning scheme still allows it or within the 12 month superseded planning window after a change.

The number of external planning documents has reduced with many of them now in the regulation. The regulation has significantly grown in size as a consequence. Other than the DA rules and the guidelines the only other significant external documents are the single state planning policy and state regional plans.

So is it better?...

Time will tell, but the changes are not extreme and in some ways have made it easier with fewer planning documents to check.

- Ken Burmeister

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