New planning laws threaten community rights

Deputy Premier Jeff Seeney flanked by LNP's Peter dowling and Mark Robinson

Deputy Premier and Minister for Planning  Jeff Seeney flanked by LNP members Peter Dowling (Redlands) and Mark Robinson (Cleveland)

If a project developer wanted to build something next to your house that might block your views, increase noise levels and disturb native wildlife would you be happy?

New building projects of all sizes often cause conflict between developers and the existing community about issues such as quality of life and environmental impacts.

For many years Queensland has had planning and development laws which set out processes for developers and local councils to follow. They also give the community opportunities to find out about proposed developments and voice objections about unacceptable impacts.

Last year the Newman Government drafted new planning bills with the objective of ‘streamlining’ the development process. While the proposed streamlining would give developers more certainty and quicker approvals for development it would also reduce the community’s rights to raise concerns about inappropriate development.

Public consultation was undertaken about the draft bills but little notice was taken of community concerns about reduced opportunities to raise objections.

What was wrong with the old planning framework

The Deputy Premier and Minister for Planning (Jeff Seeney) said the reforms were to drive development and simplify planning processes. The argument for change was not based on any published assessment of problems with the current Sustainable Development Act (Qld) 2009.  It is common sense to make sure that you first understand what is broken before you start trying to fix something. But not necessary in Queensland, apparently.

The LNP’s proposed new laws were:

Mr Seeney claimed that these new laws would:

  • create the best planning system in Australia
  • facilitate strong and positive planning and development outcomes for all Queenslanders
  • streamline the assessment and approval processes
  • remove unnecessary red tape
  • re-empower local governments to plan for their communities.

He went on to say:

  • Councils will have more flexibility and discretion to better plan for their communities
  • Planning professionals can focus on outcomes, not process
  • Developers will have greater certainty regarding outcomes
  • the community can have confidence that the planning system will promote and protect it’s interests

But would the Seeney laws really protect the interests of existing communities?

Third party rights to make objections to development applications will be trimmed. Planners will allow developers more latitude to change land uses “as of right” where this is not inconsistent with local government planning schemes.

The whole process looks like planning for making fast money rather than planning for the long term future of communities.

Public consultation about the proposed laws

The new laws were published in draft form for public consultation. Normally, complex legislative issues would be the subject of a discussion paper explaining to the community what changes were being proposed and why. This did not happen for the new planning laws. Not surprisingly, the Government received only 221 submissions including 89 from individuals and 20 from community.   The Government did not make submissions publicly available but did publish a brief report: Draft Planning Bills 2014 Submission Overview.

The Environmental Defenders Office (EDO) made the observations that “public rights to access to information, public participation in development assessment logoincluding notification and submission rights, have become less secure in the P&D Bill”.   

The EDO also set out how the decision to remove the principles of Ecologically Sustainable Development (ESD) as the fundamental cornerstone of planning law is a large step backward from the objective of achieving a “world’s best practice planning system”.

The  (EDO) said “we reiterate our earlier views that in order to gain full and proper public scrutiny and debate of these changes, there should have been a comprehensive discussion paper prior to the Bills, as occurred in NSW and as is standard for major reforms”Of interest in the discussion was the logic by which the requirement to seek land owners’ consent before a development application is lodged over their own land was to be removed from the Bill.

Here is a link to the EDO submission.

Proposed laws introduced to Parliament

Public land for sale - or give away

Public land for sale – or give away

In December 2014 the draft laws, with a few minor amendments, were introduced to Parliament and then referred to a committee for review. The review process was terminated when the State election was called.

If a snap poll had not been called in early January, it is likely that the LNP would have pushed the new laws through Parliament when it was scheduled to meet in February 2015.

Redland City and the LNP’s proposed planning laws

The Redlands has been experiencing considerable development over the past two decades. The community has become aware of the importance of good planning schemes and the problems people will experience if development is not properly planned and controlled. Excessive infill development, loss of koala habitat and major growth in road traffic are just some of the issues concerning local residents.

Redlands has also experienced the absence of proper planning principles through the LNP’s “no holds barred” approach to coastal development in the Priority Development Areas at Toondah Harbour and Weinam Creek.

So what have the existing members of State Parliament (Mark Robinson, Peter Dowling and Steve Davies) been doing to explain the proposed new planning laws to their electorates.


Nothing on websites. No media releases to the local paper. No public meetings to discuss these issues with their electorates.

Presumable, the local members hoped that the community would remain blissfully ignorant of the LNP’s new planning laws until it was too late. Wake up and find new laws passed, approvals granted, chain saws and bulldozers ready to go.

Our current local members seem happy to disregard the longstanding participation of the Redlands community in local, regional and State planning processes.

Community angst about the plight of koalas is but one reason why all candidates should want to improve the planning system rather than making it weaker.  A comprehensive planning framework for koalas is required as previously discussed by Redlands2030.

Where do the candidates stand on changes to planning laws?

Redlands2030 calls on all candidates in each of the Redlands electorates to make clear their views on the subject of changes to Queensland’s planning and development laws.

In particular, candidates should clarify if they support:

  1. The community’s rights to be made aware of proposed developments
  2. The community’s rights to make submissions objecting to proposals for significant land use change when development applications are submitted.
  3. The importance of planning for ecological sustainability

Residents concerned about these issues should send this post to their local candidates for the upcoming State election and seek assurances about their stance on any changes to planning laws.

Posted by Redlands2030 on 22 January 2015

Candidate responses in order they are received

David Keogh, The Greens candidate for Redlands, 22 January 2015

As the Greens’ Candidate for Redlands, I fully support, as does the Queensland Greens, the community’s right to be made aware of proposed developments. We do not support Code assessment for anything other than small projects which comply with the planning scheme and fully support ecologically sustainability in all aspects of planning and development.

Deb Kellie, ALP candidate for Redlands, 23 January 2015

In December last year Minister Jeff Seeney indicated there would NOT be an early election as the government had some significant pieces of legislation it wanted to pass before an election. Key amongst those were the changes to the planning legislation, the topic of this Redlands 2030 post. Fortunately, Campbell Newman’s decision for the snap election created a window of opportunity to prevent their proposed laws being rushed through without proper consultation. To answer the 3 questions posed in your article:

1. The existing planning laws allow for community consultation on proposed developments; this is a right that should be protected.

2. Community members, both individuals and groups, ought have the right to have their voice heard in respect to planning applications. The objections made by the community should be publicly available and should be a component of the local authority and state & federal governments consideration of any application. Labor remains concerned with the Newman Government’s extensive use of “call in” powers for a variety of development projects, particularly as they were elected with a mandate to delegate more decision making power to Local Governments.

3. Appropriate controls are required to ensure ecological sustainability. Labor believes our economic future depends on our environment being healthy and robust. Economic growth should complement our environment and seek to rebuild its sustainability, not degrade it. Economic growth should be pursued using ecologically sustainable development, and environmental and social impacts should be fully accounted for in assessing development projects.


Election matter is authorised by Steve MacDonald of 104 Channel St, Cleveland

Please note: Offensive or off-topic comments will be deleted. If offended by any published comment please email

10 thoughts on “New planning laws threaten community rights

  1. Dead right, both major parties are not much different. Hence that’s why I am standing as the Greens candidate for Redlands, and we have 2 other for Cleveland and Capalaba. People keep complaining about the major parties and do nothing about it. Here is a chance to send a message by voting Green.

  2. In relation to strategic land use planning the current LNP “open for business approach” to green field land release across Qld is not much different from the former Labour government approach. Having worked for the previous government & Redland City as a senior bureaucrat I support the position that local communities through local government ( Community Plans & local Planning schemes) should determine the strategic planning of their respective local areas without “forced urban growth” dictated by State governments. Those councils that follow the dictate of the State are free to do so but those that chose a more sustainable approach should also be allowed to determine their own destiny. Unfortunately we still have a narrowly based economomic approach being sold by both major parties. The idea that adding more population to an already well populated area adds economic value to that area is flawed thinking. The sooner we have a more intelligent debate about long term sustainabilty the better. Unfortunately most senior bureacrats & politicians have sold their souls to the existing system & can’t afford “to buck the system” lest they lose their job or privileged position.

    • Didn’t think such decisions could be made in this “care-taker” period!
      Will the Gold Coast rainforest walkway also get the nod?
      Last minute rush to deliver to donors?
      In the Gold Coast case it’s the Member himself.

  3. As the Greens’ Candidate for Redlands, I fully support, as does the Queensland Greens, the community’s right to be made aware of proposed developments. We do not support Code assessment for anything other than small projects which comply with the planning scheme and fully support ecologically sustainability in all aspects of planning and development.

  4. Sarah, an excellent comment and I definitely and totally agree with what you have written. Just one more thing. If the number of divisions is cut at the next election and we lose some councillors we all know which councillors would go. They would be the ones who don’t always vote with the Mayor, those who try to give their constituents a say.
    How sad this would be for The Redlands.

  5. Wow. Taking away the rights of the community to object is, and I hate to say it, not surprising! I have never been so disillusioned by a Council/Government in all my life. The Council are making decisions `based on what the community wants’, but these decisions (and I’m not one of those community members who have been asked for my feedback) are being pushed through without any fanfare. I chose to live in the Redlands for a number of reasons:- the abundant wildlife, the natural beauty of the area, the `country-fied’ environment, the convenience of shops, medical facilities and great schooling options. In the last 10 years the wildlife has been decimated, the `country-fied’ environment has all but disappeared and the congestion on the roads has almost become a joke. Some development is necessary to ensure an area remains viable, but changing an already perfect location into a hot, overcrowed city like any other is not what I signed on for. It is about time that the Council/Government started to understand that they are elected to work for us, the community. I want to have open and frank decisions about things that affect me and my family and the community within which I live. I want to have issues publicised so everyone, who wants to, is able to give their feedback. I want to know what’s going on – the facts only and not some spin that a political party is providing in order to get the results that they want. I want there to be emails being sent out asking for our thoughts. I want there to be accountability. I want there to be a true council/government who is working for the community and not just a few influential members who are cashed up and ready to throw their weight behind political campaigns. I am amazed how simple some things appear and yet there are always wheels within wheels working to spin a response this way or that. I want an honest council/government who is honestly working to do right by the community and the beautiful region that they’ve been blessed to have been put in charge of.

    What’s next?… will this avenue of free speech disappear too?

    • You’ve hit the nail right on the head, Sarah! Let’s hope the LNP (and all other parties involved) get ‘the message’ loud and clear on 31 January

  6. I alwaye thought Joe was the worst of the brown paper bag recipients, but I now think this government beats him hands down. Going on what is happening at the moment with all the conflict of interest issues associated with this LNP government, one wonders if all these new laws were worked out before the last state election, and government, developers and big business worked on them together. The government especially Newman and Seeney keep telling the people we will let the people decide what goes on in thier back yard, then at the same time change the laws that prevents the people from achieving the sustanable developments they want. The three LNP members Dowling,Davies and Robinson kept quiet while Seeney called in the Mt Cotton Superqarry, the poisonous Bio mass plant near Mt Cotton Primary school and very silent on the shoreline development. I would just say to people, ask and vote for any of the Redland candidates who will rescind all the LNPs draconian laws put in place to stop the ordinary citizen from having a fair say in their electorate.

  7. Sadly the community will get comments like “yes we agree to whatever the community wants” and then after the election the same old arrogant LNP comment, we are the strong team and do what we want, and hopefully in 3 years the community will forgot what we did.
    The new amendments are driven by those who donate to election campaigns, developers wish to have a tick and flick assessment, get rid of those pesky residents and the environment is a liability, trash the trees and as some of the developers live outside of Redlands they couldn’t give a care about our precious koalas.
    Even writing to the state members will not give the community a true opinion of what is planned, all too easy before an election. They are all just noddys, only got to see the photo in this story to see that,

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