Planning reform: Not more of the same…please

Development in the Redlands -has there been good planning?

Development in the Redlands – has there been good planning?

It is hard not to conclude that the Queensland planning framework has been reborn too many times since the introduction of the Integrated Planning Act followed by the Sustainable Planning Act.

The Government is now undertaking another major revision and this points to a long-running failure of planning and policy development. Many people and organisations are concerned that the current review will be another iteration but with a warped focus on so-called “economic” matters.

It is perhaps unfortunate that many groups and stakeholders in the community will likely meet the Government’s Discussion Paper with cynicism. This is because so many feel betrayed by the failures of successive planning reform initiatives. For Redlands2030 and the Redlands community,  the progressive weakening of the primacy of the SEQ Regional Plan has eroded so much of the support that was witnessed for the first SEQ Regional Plan in 2005. That has accompanied a major failure of process and outcomes and reliability of the statutory planning framework in Queensland.

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Overview and systemic failure

The performance-based approach, to date, has largely failed community expectations and it is still an obscure process to most people. Some semblance of certainty and even “straight jacketing” zoning might rebuild some faith in the system.  An ongoing reliance on performance which is so often reliant on outputs rather than outcomes has failed community after community.  The Government should stop doing the same thing because it will lead to the same outcome.  The existing and proposed new model seems to be better described as “planning for planners” and history shows that this has not worked.

The whole construct of community consultation around regional plans and planning schemes should be evaluated as a requisite for any reform process. Redlands2030 suggests that few people in the community feel the current consultative arrangements for the review statutory planning are working (or even workable). A pre-requisite is a mind set that is based on “planning for people” which needs to be the operating paradigm.

Land use planning should be:

1. Values based

Community values must hold sway in the planning system if the Government wants to re-build and retain confidence in the planning system. There are myriad measures of community values including many of the “Community Plans” developed before the LNP downgraded that form of planning. However, if the values-based approach is to be restored – land use planning should be re-linked to proper assessments (not faith based) of community values and interests. In the absence of an alternative, but in recognition of the need for a unifying “vision” the foundation for the new planning framework should be ecologically sustainable development (ESD). The previous Beattie Government had adopted an ESD framework, which was at odds with the Sustainable Planning Act. That alone was an example of how the previous planning framework was fragmented.

2. Evidence based

Evidence-based planning is the second tenant of planning that Redlands2030 would expect to be upheld.   The previous LNP Government was obviously reliant of a top down model (in fact many in our community were concerned that the LNP had a “faith based” approach). This resulted in some well established and accepted evidence on the need to plan for climate change, sustainability of natural resources, social outcomes, livability, and quality-of-life measures being denigrated and discarded. Equally, it seems the previous LNP Government was intent on downplaying the need for regional landscape planning (and the landscape values as espoused in the SEQ Regional Plan 2009-2031. These landscape values were developed from extensive community consultation processes (beginning in 1993 under the Goss government).

3. Joined up

However, Redlands2030 argues that planning needs to be holistic and include, for example, specific outcomes for non-urban uses like peri-urban areas, rural lands, nature conservation, heritage conservation, indigenous cultural heritage, community open space, natural resource management etc. Any new planning framework must give some recognition and real weight to what might be termed “other plans”. For too long, the so-called planning act itself has ignored essential of planning matters – often in spite of community and stakeholder agreement that the matters listed above should be routine planning matters. Examples that come to mind are regional natural resource management plans, catchment management plans, transport plans, recreation trail plans etc.

For Queensland to have a world class ‘best practice’ planning framework, there are essentially planning goals including:

  • ensuring that natural resources and non-urban environments can sustain growth,
  • transparent and accountable governance, and
  • community participation in decision making.

The current Directions Paper needs a crucial extra step – additional consultation on detailed reform proposals, with a clear focus on the need for the planning framework to achieve broader regional landscape goals.

The Directions Paper is relatively lacking in detail, and follows “fuzzy” logic that the previous LNP government used to censor meaningful community consultation. While the document may have been intended to prompt discussion, it seems more like “more of the same” rather than providing a firm understanding of what is proposed for the new planning legislation.

The missing link in the Government’s planning reform is a proper evaluation of the existing system. The need for reform and the problems (even failures) of the old system should be exposed so efforts can be directed at fixing real problems rather than starting all over again.

Many people in Redlands would agree that the planning system could be improved – but it is likely there will be many opinions on how planning should be improved. Accordingly a proper evaluation of the existing planning framework is needed to support effective planning reform. The present assumption seems to default to the ongoing call from the “economic” development industry for “certainty” – but the community and other industries also want certainty. “Economic development” relies on sustainable supplies of goods and services from the regional landscape. Establishing a basis for development supported by a sustainably managed regional landscape is the goal of planning.

Therefore, prior to the preparation of any new planning Bill, we support the view of the Environmental Defenders Office that there needs to be a clear outline of the proposal changes to the planning legislation so the community can give focussed feedback. We do not accept that consultation on the previous Government’s proposals are in any way given credence, because there was limited, and even contrived, consultation that ignored so many community views and interests.

Community views collated:

As part of Redlands2030 garnering views for this submission we asked people to provide comments and raise issues.  The response was encouraging in that the input exceeded our capacity to evaluate and collate the comments.  Accordingly the comments are provided below in “raw” format so that the Department can consider the various views and issues.

The Directions Paper is rubbish.

It is within the modern style of policy papers that the public service in both Queensland and Canberra puts out. It is a collection of motherhood statements, cobbled together without any lucid train of logic, with no practical recognition of the pros and cons of each of the issues, no real identification of the problems, and no feasible paths to get from the motherhood statements into practicality.

Who writes writes these things?

Some read as though they are done in the ministers’ offices not the department.

If done in the department, it seems the agency has been cleansed of people with content, knowledge and a passion to make things better and no understanding of why things are now less than optimal.

The credibility of planning as a profession is at an all-time low and it is more and more divorced from the community it is supposed to serve. It has adopted role of facilitating urban development.

The Directions Paper has “fuzzy logic”

The “fuzzy logic” is in plain view on page 3. Early in the page, the text claims “rigour and reliability” in the regime, which is laughable. When moving from the previous prescriptive system to IPA’s performance-based system, rigour was lost and uncertainty was introduced. Particularly since the performance standards expected by the authorities had not been codified when the system came into force in 1998.

Then page 3 proceeds to list half a dozen entirely valid complaints or defects with the regime. Both statements cannot be true!

Terminology and rhetoric failed

The responses by Redlands 2030 and the commentators and EDO cover a considerable area across thousands of pages of legislation,associated legislation and policy areas , and these are uncovering the new Labor trilogy of liveability ,sustainability and prosperity(jobs and infrastructure and growth) as opposed to perhaps the previous ESD?. These terminologies are losing meaning . This new trilogy which needs challenging is morphing into 3 principles, without the decades of established planning principles, with the forces of BCA, COAG , the Productivity Commission,state government. and new legislation foreign to the Environment, Social Planning and recognised Climate Change .
Some areas of governance (Local Government Act , Quangos and Infrastructure)also need review as well as; a compact on Green Space legislation(and Green (fauna) Infrastructure), programs and delivery , Biodiversity Legislation and the future independence of population studies and combination of Planning Need , Cost Benefit Analysis and Total Impacts of projects put into Business Cases. The frameworks by Geoff Edwards and Brian Feeney are fundamental , but need extensions and branch additions of some of the lessons of hundreds of community group and conservation group cases won and recently mostly lost. The number of call ins are needed.
The return to legislation, staffing, programs and practice of 2011 (Not guaranteed in “A better Way for Planning)is no longer sustainable when Climate Change is ignored and when balance is a dirty word and dirtier practices of offsets, much of CODE, and one stop shop remain unsustainable and unacceptable.
Much more needs to be said.
The wins in Qld and positive outcomes in NSW need collation to go forward

Community input to all major DAs is a requisite

Can the state govt then put on hold any large scale development and change the code assessable/impact assessable impact statement that make it possible for the public to have a say on any development that occurs in their neighborhoods – we are all sick and tired of suddenly seeing small unobtrusive signs suddenly appearing stating a large development will take place in our midst!

A better planning framework

Some suggestions for a better framework:

• retain ecological sustainability as the purpose of the Planning Act including a clear definition of what it is

• explicitly require all entities to advance the purpose of the Act

• do not use the separate approval process for priority development areas in the Economic Development Act but use Planning Act processes (amendment may be required) with proper community consultation

• reinstate State Planning Policies with substantial policy content to replace the inadequate Single SPP

• reinstate specialist referral/advice agency processing of DAs triggering referral

• retain the criteria in Planning Act for key planning scheme content rather than giving the Minister discretion to decide on key elements of planning scheme content without reference to parliament (as proposed in the LNP’s draft Planning and Development Act)

• restore the content of regional plans to their full pre-LNP scope

• include community consultation on alternative scenarios for draft regional plans as was done for the metro Portland (Oregon) 2040 Growth Concept ( rather than just asking the community to comment on a predetermined draft regional plan

• require councils to consult the community on the proposed policy direction to be taken with a new planning scheme (previously called a statement of proposals);

• require councils to provide a supporting document summarising the evidence to support the approach taken in a new planning scheme or major amendment (previously called a planning study); this will include an evaluation of the social, economic and environmental changes that have occurred under the previous planning scheme

• the evaluation of these changes will require councils to set up and maintain a database that puts together on an ongoing basis information generated as part of development assessment (e.g. changes in water quality, social impacts, flooding impacts etc) and other relevant information generated by council or state agencies . For areas expecting large population growth (like Gold Coast), it’s particularly important to have regular evaluation reports (say every 5 years) to ensure that the environmental and social impacts of growth are within acceptable limits. Portland (Oregon) provides an example of how this could be done – see

• the previous LNP government seems to have taken a ‘hands off’ approach to requiring good planning practice in relation to local interests (i.e. not state interests). In the case of the draft Gold Coast City Plan 2015, this resulted in insufficient protection of diverse local character, taking instead too much of a ‘one size fits all’ approach. The state needs to resume oversight of planning schemes to ensure that schemes are able to deliver the key outcomes required not just for state interests but also for the community generally.

Align planning reform to ALP State Policy

The ALP State Policy Platform is as good a place to start as any, especially given the “fuzzy” nature of the discussion paper. The recently released discussion paper is wide of the mark while the Platform includes laudable commitments (or at least intentions) such as……

7.8 Labor introduced statutory regional planning, which limited urban sprawl and protected the majority of metropolitan areas from inappropriate urban development.

7.9 Labor legislated a Sustainable Planning Act, which placed ecologically sustainable development at the core of development planning and assessment.

7.150 Labor will restore a balanced planning system that is focussed on the three core objectives of liveability, sustainability and prosperity.

7.152 Labor will ensure planning considers the full range of needs for community formation, including sufficient land supply for residential, employment, retail, educational, community facilities and open space uses.

7.153 Labor will ensure that high-quality urban design and place-making underpins new development, with a strong emphasis on public and active transport to support more compact and walkable communities.

7.154 Labor will develop and implement healthy planning principles that recognise the important link between community design and health outcomes.

7.155 Labor will establish appropriate protections for sites with national, state or local heritage values.

7.157 Labor will deliver for each region of Queensland new statutory regional plans that effectively integrate land-use planning and infrastructure planning.

7.158 Labor will publish regular reports, supported by measurable data, on the progress of implementing each regional plan, as well as on their social, economic and environmental impacts and benefits.

7.159 Labor will establish genuinely consultative and collaborative decision-making structures that ensure Local Government and local communities can participate effectively in the process of regional planning.

7.164 Labor believes that public scrutiny of, and the right to object to, resource and urban development proposals is an important part of an open, transparent and accountable democracy. Labor will reinstate statutory notification rights and public objection rights for resource and urban development proposals.

7.169 Labor will protect and enhance South East Queensland’s green space through retaining a statutory urban footprint

Joined up planning and cumulative impacts

Minister for Transport Jackie Trad needs to be alerted to the increasing traffic issues in Redlands due to non-stop development..code assessable. Capalaba residents were dumbfounded when, without public consultation, six 6-storey apartment bldgs were approved Cnr Mt Cotton/Redland Bay/Moreton Bay Rds Capalaba, CODE ASSESSABLE! July 1st nursing home with over 130 beds will open its doors adjacent to 4-way intersection Old Cleveland Rd E/Finucane Rds intersection.
Driving home Carindale-Capalaba yesterday 3:30 p.m.bumper to bumper traffic much of the way…parts of road is busway but merging traffic cause bottlenecks. No sign of bus lane Capalaba-Bne City so until there is a solution to relieve traffic congestion, the massive SHORELINE development outside the urban footprint of some 4000 homes in S Redland Bay should be put on hold for now to avoid gridlock…

Planning hierarchy has too many “exceptions”: community has no chance

The Sustainable Planning Act is say 684 pages. There are other parts of it not mentioned and the Institutional Arrangements , SARA, SPP, QPP, SEQ Regional Plan, The Offsets Act , etc etc ,Vegetation Management Act which no longer protects 6,900 hectares of H.V. Regrowth Koala Habitat in Redlands . The TIMELINE in the Discussion Paper omits the critical CODE and Alternative Solution implementation and the loss of all the EISs, Triggers and Column 5 rejections and gutting of Strategic Plans and supporting documents and the draconian green light for development Offsets Act 2014.
The UDIA mantra is “UNFINISHED BUSINESS” 1997 (fast track & rollback)and industry generation of urban myths like”High Density will generate a range of commensurate green space”: There is no statutory requirement anywhere to provide green space. The urban footprint jumpout has competitors like zonal creep, PDAs. LAPs and spot rezonings and CODE DEVELOPMENT

Redlands2030 – 31 July 2015