SEQ Regional Plan – jargon, omissions and bias

Will the SEQ Regional Plan and its Regulatory Provisions be successful for conserving koalas?

Will the SEQ Regional Plan and its Regulatory Provisions be successful for conserving koalas?

If the SEQ Regional Plan, branded by the current government as ShapingSEQ, is meant to be an important part of how we plan what goes where the document should be readable, complete and free of bias.

Too much jargon

After flicking past the pictures, maps and narrative which fill the first 149 pages of the Shaping SEQ document you get to the State Planning Regulatory Provisions (SPRP) which is the bit that’s critical –  where the “rubber hits the road”.

But most people wanting to make a submission on the draft Plan are exhausted by the time they read through the narratives and reach the SPRP on page 150.  Once there the SPRP is confronting to most and lacks a plain English narrative.

Is it that the SPRP was written by planners for planners?

It is important to note that the regulatory provisions are part of the consultation process.  However, most readers will be put off by the “plannerese” and “legalese” that infects the SPRP.  There is no explanatory notation and the SPRP is too hard for most people to digest.  For example the clause “the provisions will be reflected in the Planning Regulation 2016”.   Of course a reflection is the exact opposite to the image being reflected but the jargon is embedded in the thinking of planners or maybe it is how planners think!

Clearly, State government commitments to “plain english” documents must be considered in the context of ‘overarching’ and ‘underpinning’  plannerese such that plain English is barely reflected in the SPRP! Perhaps someone, other than a Statutory Planner or a Lawyer, could be employed to rewrite the SPRP with the community in mind. The use of “following consultation” in the preamble is questioned considering the approach that has been followed that defies the reading skills of so many.

There is a need for a return to regional plans that are understood by the community, have a realistic chance of being implemented and hopefully that the community will hold in high regard.

Is there bias of the regulatory provisions?

The focus of the Shaping SEQ seems to be locked in on facilitating urban development through the next fifty years. Despite lip service to other uses the plan does little to ensure that the other uses will be sustained in the face of pressure for urban activity.  For example the draft Plan notes that “there are a number of areas that have been in the Urban Footprint for some time but have not yet been developed. One way that we could help get things moving is to investigate these areas further, and provide some rules in the state planning regulatory provisions that will allow these areas to be developed sooner“.

The heavily loaded question is then followed with a simplistic “what do you think?”

There is no suggestion of a full evaluation of the subject land to assess the most appropriate use or purpose.  It is all a question of timing for when these lands will be developed!  It makes the case that the draft Plan is ONLY about planning for urban development!

Where does the Queensland Plan fit?

ShapingSEQ is supposed to be a ‘regional plan’.  However it is surprising that in its text it concludes that the peak document is the single State Planning Policy, rather than a “plan”.  While the single SPP gets a guernsey in the Shaping SEQ document, there is no mention of the Queensland Plan.  Despite the legislation given the Queensland Plan, it is not acknowledged in the draft regional plan.

Shouldn’t the Queensland Plan be the peak Plan?

If this isn’t the case then one or other needs to be modified to bring them into line especially as both are primarily aspirational documents rather than ones leading to commitments to implement the policies contained within them.

Shouldn’t this be one of the tasks for ShapingSEQ?

Recommendations for the SPRP provisions of ShapingSEQ

Koalas

The policy framework DRO2 of SEQ RP 2009 concerned with koalas has not been evaluated but it seems certain the policy framework has not been successful.  Rather than stand aside until another review is undertaken, it is timely for the policy components from 2009 should be formulated as part of the SPRP in the new (ie 2016) version of the SEQ Regional Plan.

Recommendations are that policies 2.2.1/ 2.2.5 be “upgraded” and written as provisions of the SPRP to acknowledge the failure of past practice intended to protect koala and koala habitat in both the Urban Footprint and the Regional Landscape and Rural production Area

Urban Activity in the RLRPA

Urban Activity in the RLRPA should be “prohibited development” to secure and protect the values of the RLRPA

if this approach to be over ridden in any manner the test for an overriding need, in the public interest wherever it might apply should include a public exposure and public consultation phase, that clearly invites regional interests (not just the affected local government) and that documents and assesses the benefits and costs.  In past instances the overriding public interest has been applied by a single local government, acting it would seem without considering the overriding regional public interest.

SEQ Plan implementation

Prepare an annual report on the implementation of the SEQ Regional Plan for community comment and critique.  The awareness and trading of the SEQ Plan needs regular assessment so that community feedback can better inform the government on the implementation of the Plan.

SEQ Plan outcomes

Publish an SEQ State of the Region Report 12 months in advance of the programmed review of the SEQ Plan so stakeholders and community members can be informed of regional outcomes, gaps, successes and deficiencies in conjunction with the planned reviews and updates of the SEQ Regional Plan

Establish an SEQ Greenspace Fund

Acquisition and maintenance of a suitable publicly accessible regional greenspace network remains a regional imperative.  A dedicated green space fund would ensure progress is made on achieving major improvements to this longstanding gap in regional planning.  The goal of the fund would be to secure 25% of the area of the region (an increase of about 8% over that provided in 2016) as publicly accessible green space by 2020.  Funded by a regional green levy and a modest increase in conveyancing charges (which has a broad link to a “user pays” approach).  Clearly, funds should be available to purchase additional land (as in most other States and fund management and development of publicly accessible green space (e.g. park development or recreation trail development projects.

There is some question about the use of the SPRP to achieve this outcome, but a balanced approach requires that social and environmental outcomes be given effect in a definitive and certain manner.

(Regional) Landscape areas and natural assets

Define, delineate and gazette regional landscape areas and biodiversity corridors (see Page 111) by cadastral boundaries and ensure these areas a protected from urban activity and other incompatible uses by the prohibition of incompatible uses.  Too much of the plan relies on good intent planning compromises to achieve development outcomes.

Further add Moreton Bay, Moreton Island, most of Bribie Island and North Stradbroke Island to the list of Regional landscape Areas.

These landscape areas need to be defined by metes and bounds so that the impacts of planning, infrastructure and development are known and can be quantified.

Inter Urban breaks

The SEQ Region is (or is at risk of becoming the 200km City) there is urgent need to protect interurban breaks from the insidious planned sprawl. Lip service to inter-urban breaks need to be replaced with effective measures in the SPRP.

Define, delineate and gazette regional interurban breaks by cadastral boundaries and ensure these areas a protected from urban activity and other incompatible uses by the prohibition of incompatible uses.

Sale or disposal of public lands, parks and open space

All proceeds from the sale of any parks or public assets in SEQ to be acquitted to the SEQ Greenspace Fund.  Such action would be a belated recognition of years of neglect given to the region’s inadequate regional open space needs and previous assessments that there amount and distribution of publicly accessible green space is a hidden and unrecognised constraint to development.

Biodiversity

Take the biodiversity policy framework of the existing SEQ Regional Plan and build it into the RPRP to give some fixed measures of protection and some assurances that biodiversity will be sustained in the new Plan, ie

  1. Avoid impacts on areas with significant biodiversity values the RLRPA, including biodiversity corridors.
  2. Avoid or minimise impacts on areas with significant biodiversity values in the Urban Footprint or Rural Living Area
  3. Avoid offsite impacts from development or other activities on adjacent areas with significant biodiversity values.

Cumulative impact

Incremental growth of urban development seems likely given the heavy  reliance on policy and narrative rather than the SPRP provisions.  The SPRP should be inclusive of cumulative impact assessments on a precinct basis rather than a lot basis.  Historically planning has considered impacts on the basis of a development application but fails to consider cumulative impacts or loads.

Add provision for the assessment of cumulative impacts on natural assets and infrastructure on material change of use or development outside then urban footprint.  Cumulative impact assessment could be a defining or hallmark provision of the new SEQ Plan and regional planning in SEQ.

For clarity Division 2.1.5 should have its title changed to delete any reference to “Cumulative” as this has a different connotation within the general community. A possible alternative title would be “Multiple activities”.

Overriding public interest

Under SPRP 4.2 (5) establishing over-riding need in the public interest should involve independent community input in determining that interest and it not be left to Statutory Planners to determine.  There are a number of examples but the decision to support the preliminary approval of the Shoreline development in south Redlands is one that lacks transparency as regards the public interest and was decided on the basis of statutory weasel words rather than the public interest (as the “man in the street” might conclude, if given the opportunity to have input).

Performance based planning

It is suggested that a definition of “performance based decision-making” and a explanation included on how it is intended to be applied, be included.  Community expectations and experience around this “planning” or rather assessment process are being frustrated.  Continued reliance on performance based planning places State and regional planning and development assessment at odds with community expectations and public interest.

Make this article your submission

The SPRP is a legal minefield, especially for non planners but clearly the community can ask that the provisions be improved and made legible. The SPRP usually escapes scrutiny from the community although it is carefully scrutinised (rightly) by the stakeholders reliant of legal provisions especially the land development industry.

If you have additional comments or disagree with the suggestion outlined, it is suggested you own comments be added. But let the Government know that there are problems with the SPRP and how these critical provisions are introduced through the Regional Plan.

To raise the level of community concern about the implementation of ShapingSEQ it is suggested this article be sent either:

  1. as an email hyper link using the email “logo” at the top of the page to SEQRegionalPlan@dilgp.qld.gov.au
  2. copy the text of this article into a a standalone email and send to the SEQRegionalPlan@dilgp.qld.gov.au 

Redlands2030 – 1 March 2017

Please note: Offensive or off-topic comments will be deleted. If offended by any published comment please email thereporter@redlands2030.net

2 thoughts on “SEQ Regional Plan – jargon, omissions and bias

  1. Good piece, sadly one does need to be a lawyer to have any real clout.
    I have a working knowledge of the acts and my daughter is well and truly a practitioner in the area but the hard reality is the planing people are looking for technical legal holes in their proposal. We have written several responses to things like this and all we ever get is references to the proposal that they believe meets the guidelines and or the letter of the law as it stands today.
    They are simply not interested in say someone writing and giving in one instance 18 reasons why something shouldn’t be done. They simply wrote a form list of sections to the law or the proposal with letters to each one of my points. in some cases the reasoning was arcane or nonsensical except in a extreme legalistic context.
    It’s a bit like council having an open meeting on a development when in truth they have “workshopped” the issue already and the numbers are already decided.
    While this example is a bit old but when our ” good? ” mayor was a rookie she read out a pre written speech after public comment period. The speech contained scientific and factual impossibilities for the reason the development should go ahead i.e. that she could see a known toxic water born Anaerobic bacteria, therefore the dam needed draining and redevelopment. ( the specific bacteria lives under the detritus at the bottom of still water. The water in the dam was full of dirty water vision was impossible and the bacteria is microscopic. The mayor of the time gave her a congratulation because he was as ignorant to the facts as she.
    My point is that unless you can threaten their electoral prospects or drag them into a court case they can’t win. Once a plan like this is published it should be titled ‘tell us how good the plan is because it’s going to happen’. Ergo the campaign needs to rock members seats.

  2. Some great points made and really helpful for our submissions. Well done Redlands 2030! You’re really keeping us informed!

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