SEQ Regional Plan: Projections are not destiny

Gold Coast skyline by night Photo: Kelly Hunter

Gold Coast skyline by night Photo: Kelly Hunter

Redlands2030 continues assessing the South East Queensland Regional Plan review process.  Today we look at the Grow theme which deals with the implications of continual population growth within the region over the next 25 years.

SEQ has been experiencing steady population growth that will see it reach 5.3 million in 2041.

SEQ has been experiencing steady population growth that will see it reach 5.3 million in 2041.

Another 1.3 million people could be living in south east Queensland by 2014 according to the Government’s population forecasts.

The Government’s web site is disappointingly simplistic in its framing of discussion about population growth. A total of 103 words and one graph about one of the cornerstone issues facing the region – continuous population growth.

It then goes on to ask the “hard hitting” questions of “What kinds of houses do you think we’ll need in the future?” Will a regional plan dictate what form of housing is to be built – unlikely). Dumbing down has reached a new low.

A more useful way to lead this discussion would be to provide some analysis of where future population growth should occur to best maximise social, economic and environmental benefits. Some options regarding different models of growth management (e.g. sprawl, growth boundaries, densities or even decentralisation) would be useful.

Unfortunately the State has refused to grasp this nettle and we just have a blank canvas to do what we wish, but not in a way that will be useful from a regional planning perspective. One could be cynical in thinking this is what they wished for anyway and population distribution models are already drawn up.

There is no certainty that future projections will lead to actual growth. Population growth has many influences, some of which are subjected to demographic trends (births, deaths and longevity), as well as internal and external migration patterns and other factors such as job opportunities and perceived liveability. At one stage SEQ was growing at 1,000 people a week. Now it is experiencing slightly negative population growth. So projections are not necessarily destiny.  And from a planning perspective “trend is not destiny” and so planning should be dictating outcomes not following trends.

Opportunity lost

Issues to be addressed in the context of a population growth discussion should include:

  • Infill /greenfield split. What percentage spilt is most desirable? More infill or more greenfield?
  • Housing type. What split of housing type is more desirable? Should we have more detached dwellings or are people more comfortable in townhouses, flats or high rise apartments?
  • Lot size. How low can you go – 250sq sqm? What sort of distribution split should be provided in master plan estates?
  • Transit Oriented Development. Is there a link between living next to a major train or bus station and the proposed density of development surrounding this station?
  • Population growth and distribution.  In the Queensland Plan it was agreed State growth would be 50% in the SEQ Region and 50% in regional areas. What is the status of the “approved” Queensland Plan?

A wider and more useful role from a regional planning perspective would be to place any proposed future population increase within a measurable sustainable development framework that provides some principle rules that must be met by future growth.

“Planning” for future population growth has, to date, existed within separate and not always entirely integrated disciplines. Traditionally, land use planning has sought to draw together and harmonise these different disciplines into a holistic plan.

In reality, once the plans have been made, they simply serve as a signpost. All too often they are run over, by the “4 wheel drive” of segmented decision making.

Even worse,  decisions by separate government agencies and local governments are too often at odds with the Regional Plan. In reality, the fiefdoms of individual agencies are hard to corral to an agreed whole-of-government regional outcome (or set of outcomes). The big agencies like Transport and Main Roads, Health and Education pay lip service to a regional plan delivered by the less influential Department of Planning!

Gaming by the property development industry also undermines regional plans, see the pertinent discussion in  Clean Money in a Dirty System: Relationship Networks and Land Rezoning in Queensland ).

Population growth in discrete areas should be linked to tangible benefits that are in turned linked to guaranteed infrastructure or services delivered by the responsible agency.

Missing links for SEQ planning

Queenslands’s regional planning missing links include:

  1. Formally acknowledging (i.e. publicly documenting) the burden that future population growth will place on the region
  2. Outlining the gap between the current and the future that must be addressed to accommodate this future growth (i.e. what must be provided or conserved)
  3. Stating in clear terms how these gaps are intended to be addressed (e.g. through allocation of resources)
  4. Monitoring and reporting back to the regional community on a yearly basis how this program of works and expenditure is progressing
  5. Evaluating and reporting progress in the implementation of approved plans (and the announcing new or review processes) which are “sold” as new or stand alone planning initiatives that show little regard for previous community and NGO contributions
  6. Acknowledging efforts of the non-government sector, professional and community organisations in the planning and delivery of regional outcomes, and mobilising community input
  7. Assessing community input to previous iterations of the SEQ Regional Plan and more recently the Queensland Plan.

The ideological shift of elected governments should not be used to shield the current government and contemporary planning arrangements from previous community input.  The trashing of previous community and NGO input shows a lack of respect for the efforts of these largely voluntary sectors.

Redlands2030 – 4 June 2016

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4 thoughts on “SEQ Regional Plan: Projections are not destiny

  1. Why does the population need to grow ?? They clearly have not planned for the last 20 years, what makes you think that they will plan properly for the next 30.
    We need to reduce our immigration to 70k pa (long term average) down from the ‘normal’ 200k pa that we have had over the last 10 years. Otherwise our traffic congestion will get worse, we can’t afford to upgrade the road networks or public transport and we don’t have enough money for the extra services ie. hospital, schools etc. So why are we persisting with this rapid population growth which is one of the highest in the OECD and comparable to some 3rd world nations. Too bad about the koala populations are they will surely go extinct. We need a Sustainable Australia, not one where ‘Jobs and Growth’ costs our quality of life and environmental destruction. Its time to wake up and decide what type of Australia that we really want.

  2. The Missing Links can be extended to include 5 Planning Principles , the real population figures, the gluts of new and predicated ;units, residential and industrial lands and impacts of Priority Development Areas , Preliminary Approvals, CODE Development(including Tin and Timber ) and some Some State Developments and land clearing and Offsets. A threats to Landscape and Lifestyles Map and Periurban Maps by SEQ Catchments are yet to be released.
    The DILGP Attitudinal Survey (mentioned at the Gold Coast) is being sat upon.
    The Issues raised above and others should be further examined with the demise of ;Coastal Planning and mapping, Qld. Planning Provisions (for regulation of Planning Schemes) The Sustainable Planning Act 2009, (See EDO /QCC critique) , the State Planning Policies 2012 and the rise of PDAs and similar intractable instruments.
    1. The” Infill/ Greenfield split” warrants the discrediting of this and the other myths going back to the COAG and “Industry ” “unfinished business 1997” when Tick and flick EIS Approvals started and hazy Investigation Areas and “Emerging Communities” zones were designed . EIS Triggers and EIS s disappeared later circa 2003 ? with the appearance of fast track Preliminary Approvals used to knockout Bushland in the FGK Corridor and Greater Brisbane Greenbelts. Why should there be a split like there used to be in BCC Emerging Communities Zones? . Investigation Areas used to be a 50/50% split in BCC , but now anywhere they can morph as residential /units into Planning Scheme or Local Plan without any referral , veto or advice from EHP or sometimes without public scrutiny .
    Infill abuse now covers nearly all landscapes from CODE High Rise to fast track Growth Management Documents advocating subdivision /clearing of Old Growth and Koala Habitat. What constitutes Greenfield /Brownfield/ Wetfield needs comparing to new vegetation mapping , ecosystem services mapping and Greenspace Mapping together with Climate Change Corridors and Refugia .
    2. The GROW Theme needs correlation of ; in migration -out migration, Births over deaths and the status of temporary students/back packers /homeless people and brain drain trends. The residual growth figures could be anywhere, but certainly much lower.
    The Housing type needed needs statistics. The vacant dwellings/units ,held by Investors, Institutions , Agencies etc should be revealed.
    3. The minimum lot sizes should be compared across each Local Authority . The report by the Local Government Association Qld indicating that developers held up near completed lots deserves an update. A report on student and backpacker housing and low income housing is needed
    4. The progression of TODS and BCC’s “Sardine City ” 12 ha clusters of 3 storey CODE around shops or old Commercial and TODS of 50 ha around Train and Bus Stations and 53 Growth Suburbs should be disclosed to the other 2 million people of South East Qld. The downside of TODS -lack of air , with shadows and lack of parking and greenspace and Community facilities is apparently difficult to transmit in todays media. There is no statutory requirement to provide trade offs of green space for CODE Development Low Medium to High Rise. BCC used to take residential 10% park or bushland contribution but now just takes the money.
    5. The population growth 10 years ago was predicated on Beenleigh(Bahrs Scrub), the Western Corridor and other other Sunshine Coast areas/canelands and PDAs. as well as loading up every council with unneeded residential. But PDAs keep appearing like ‘spot rezonings’ It is not known whether in the Hinterlands (with some exceptions)they will change the Urban Footprint and lift the Water Towers to 200 metres to develop midslopes as Logan City Council has just approved a 32,000 pop. 1329 ha residential development to 220 metres AHD at Undullah inside the Flinders Karawatha Corridor .

    A series of Questions have been raised by various groups.
    A. Can the Regional Plan compensate for the loss of lifestyle and endeavours and hence programs, largely removed and omitted /not considered for, from the Sustainable Planning Act 2009 including Qld Planning Provisions, Greenspace and Park Contributions, Green Fauna Infrastructure, Ecosystem Services , Climate Change and Climate Change Refugia, and Priority Species, ?
    B. Will DILGP have the staff, resources , “ticker ‘and $3Million to do the reviews and required reports in time by October (not just 5 Themes) ?
    C When will the SEQ NRM Plan and Atlas 2016 be available and will it be released in time to be used by DILGP SEQRP unit and consultants? Or will they walk away?
    D. Is it going to be a Placebo Plan , given the standing of the 2009 Plan and given scientific advances , and Climate Change worsening, since 2009?
    E Will DILGP let SEQRP Unit present Climate Change Strategies in the Urban, Periurban and Regional Landscapes?
    F. Will DILGP get a new Koala Unit to present effective policies to counter Koala extinction?
    #SEQ Koala Habitat Mapping by SEQ Catchments and field surveys
    # A halt to Tree clearing and Offsets
    # Legislate some Fauna Corridors, Fences and Fauna Overpasses

    Koalas are at the tipping point , can be translocated , but may get eaten, like at Coomera. Greater Gliders just die with the old growth logging like Trinity Green , and Southern NSW Forests(CSIRO) .

    The Non Government Organisations across SEQ, in order to save; places, precincts , lifestyles,landscapes, near endangered and near extinct species have to combine to rewrite the Regional Plan

    Greater Glider

  3. Good post, one of the things that the community need to be aware of is the approvals given by Mayor Williams and her pro development team in the last term. The southern Redland Bay Shoreline development which will accommodate 10,000 residents, a development with no sewerage system in place and no public transport.
    We also have the Toondah Harbour and Weinam Creek PDA developments, which Council was happy to flick off to the state to give the developer the opportunity to not have to comply to Redland Council policy. We know that Toondah is planned to fill into the bay to make 100 acres of land to build 3600 units and accommodate another 10,000 people. We have no idea how many people will be accommodated at Weinam Creek PDA , would it be another 10,000 people to give the developer the justified financial outcome?
    Before the Council election the State Government had directed the Redland Ciuncil to reduce the planning scheme figures by 18,000 people, as it is claimed the population figures for SEQ have reduced due to a reduction of people moving into Qld.
    I would recommend all residents who care about the City attend Regional Planning meetings being held in Redlands and having a say about the City future, and reflecting on ” don’t destroy what we have come to enjoy”

  4. Missing links you identify should be the essential building blocks of a revised Regional Plan. Professor Low Choy speaks of the need for continuous improvement and learning in planning…but our State governments seem to be going backwards. Where is the review of the current regional plan, so we can think about how to make it better?

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