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:
- Planning and Development Bill 2014
- Planning and Development (Consequential) and Other Legislation Amendment Bill 2014
- Planning and Environment Court Bill 2014
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 including 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
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:
- The community’s rights to be made aware of proposed developments
- The community’s rights to make submissions objecting to proposals for significant land use change when development applications are submitted.
- 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