The SEQ Regional Plan Mark III is was released 20 October. On its release community and other stakeholders the people of the region are invited to make comment and submissions.
But unlike in 2009, this time the community has no idea of the success or otherwise of the existing regional plan.
In fact, the Palaszczuk Government looks like it has reviewed the existing SEQ Regional Plan in an evidence vacuum.
Evaluation of the existing Plan
The extent to which the SEQ Regional Plan has worked or been successful (or even implemented) depends on the aggregate efforts of State and local governments, non-government organisations as well as the Commonwealth Government. The reality is the performance of the plan involves an array of people and organisations and their effort. Success is due to direct and indirect, intentional and unintentional efforts of these organisations and enterprises and individuals across the region.
Sadly, there is no sign of a monitoring and evaluation report that might help stakeholders understand the success or otherwise of the existing regional plan. In the absence of an evaluation of the implementation of the existing plan and without agreed measures of implementation the chances of reasoned or informed stakeholder input is slim.
In the absence of a formal review the community is in the dark, so much so that the region runs the risk of actually living the adage “if you don’t know where you are, you can’t get where you’re going!
In 2009 the then review of the Regional Plan followed to commitments in the Plan of 2005 with the the publication of the State of Region Baseline Report 2005- 2006 followed by the SEQ State of the Region: Technical Report 2008.
Given the release of the draft of the next version of the Regional Plan there is no sign of the next State of the Region Report. Yet the commitment to a State of Region Report is an undertaking of the existing Plan. So where is the State of the Region report?
Possibly an even worse comment on the regional plan is the lack an evaluation of the programs (ie the intended work plan) of the SEQ Regional Plan 2009-31. There about 144 programs in the existing Plan, these were established by the 2009 Plan. Many of were programs were developed with community and stakeholder consultation. If the work of the previous Plan is not worth reporting upon then why would stakeholders respond to the State Governments call for community submissions in the making of a new Regional Plan.
Questions to emerge are:
Did the Government complete the programs of the existing Plan, if not what not?
How will stakeholders judge the success or otherwise the existing 2009 Plan?
Did the programs work?
Did the programs fail?
Surely knowing what worked and what didn’t work are pre-requisites to a plan review and an informed community would enhance submissions on the latest version of the Plan. If the evaluation information is not made available the planning process will depend on the community starting from scratch in terms of “where we have been” and a much more “top down” or “edict driven” regional plan and regional planning process. It is a giant leap backwards!
If the previous efforts of stakeholders mean anything there needs to be a feedback loop on the implementation of the Plan. Anything else and the invitation for community make comment on the revised draft plan can only be seen as a compliance exercise. It is NOT a meaningful or serious community engagement process.
Even more daring is the comments by an array of reputable people on the benfit of the first State of the region report. This comments are collated below and are not even acknowledged in the “spin” attached to the new draft regional plan!
What should be a pre-requiste for a review of the SEQ Regional Plan?
It seems there will be no attempt to review and evaluate the existing SEQ Regional Plan. So stakeholders will be left to their own devices and the opportunity is being lost whereby everyone could use the same evaluation data and the same ”hymn” book to make a contribution to the new Plan.
The risks are that “evidence based” and “values based” planning will not be central to the new regional plan. This approach could seriously weaken the influence of the new plan and fragment efforts to align the efforts of Government Departments, local governments and other contributing agencies and this could further weaken the input of the community, NGOs and professional bodies.
AT least there is a serious risk that regional planning will revert to a top down or personality (maybe ego) based planning process.
The pre-requisites for an Plan evaluation are:
1. State of Region Reporting
In the review of the 2009 Regional Plan there were commitments to an evidence-based approach to regional planning, including a State of the Region Report described in:
a. the principle (1.2) to “Monitor the progress made in SEQ towards achieving sustainability
b. the policy (1.2.1) to “develop regional targets for desired regional outcomes for the SEQ Regional Plan
c. Program (1.2.2) to “publish the State of the Region report using relevant and timely sustainability indicators to report on the progress in achieving sustainability in the region
2. Regional Targets
The existing Regional Plan collated targets from subsidiary regional strategies (see SEQRP Table 1 p41) and embedded into the Regional Plan. These targets were another way of measuring the “success” of the Regional Plan. But the report on targets seems to have fallen by the wayside and so an evidenced based approach to inform the review of the Regional Plan looks to have been swept aside.
3. Program implementation
The review process even lacks a report on the completion of the program commitments espoused in the 2009 Plan. So the community is largely in the dark on what was achieved under the existing regional plan. Without a proper evaluation of the existing plan, the stakeholder input to the review process is at the whim of planners. The community in particular is being given the mushroom treatment: kept in the dark and fed compost (or worse).
The 2008 Report Card
The new SEQ Regional Plan claims it will manage the growth of the SEQ region in the most sustainable way possible. This is hardly a convincing assertion but probably a rare piece of truth in
advertising in a Government publication i.e. the barely ambitious statement “most sustainable way possible” . The previous versions of the SEQ Regional Plan commit to State of the Region Reporting “to be prepared on a regular basis to monitor and assess the region’s progress towards sustainability”.
In 2008 the SEQ State of the Region Report was written so readers could easily relate to chapters and structure of SEQ Regional Plan 2005–2026. The data and information contained in the SEQ State of the Region Report was then, seemingly readily and easily used to develop the 2009 version of the Regional Plan. It all made sense!
Importantly, the publication of the SEQ State of the Region Report “enabled the SEQ community to provide comment on the draft SEQ Regional Plan based on accurate and relevant regional information”.
The State of Region Report used quantitative data (apparently where possible) and qualitative assessments for each chapter, these reports make for interesting reading, especially in the context where a further State of the Region report is not being produced.
What the experts said in 2008
Comments by various authors make for insightful commentary on the state of the SEQ region in 2008 and the need to continue the reporting process. The list of expert contributors was impressive and sample extracts are shown below (bolding by Redlands2030).
- Professor Ian Lowe—Emeritus Professor, School of Science, Griffith University: Warning bells are ringing……. the average ecological footprint in SEQ is 7.3 ha per person. Given that the world’s biologically productive land and sea surface area equates to about 1.8 ha per person, local consumption levels are many times the sustainable level. The biggest component of the local footprint is residential building consumption, followed by electricity supply—the reverse of the national figures. So the construction of houses, which are larger than needed and very inefficient by modern standards, is a primary driver of unsustainable consumption.
- Professor Joe Baker—Chief Scientific Adviser, Department of Primary Industries and Fisheries: The critical factor in assessing progress toward sustainability is to be able to reliably and reproducibly assess change over time. This requires an agreed set of indicators, used in the same manner, year after year, covering all desired regional outcomes……This is a beginning of a long-term commitment.
- Professor Hugh Possingham—Director, Centre of Applied Environmental Decision Analysis, The University of Queensland: It is high time we set about building a credible set of regional environmental accounts. …. Of course getting the regional environmental accounts sorted is only the first step; it is then our responsibility to balance the books as quickly as possible!
- Mr Simon Baltais—Secretary, Queensland Conservation Council Incorporated, SEQ Healthy Waterways Champion 2007: Development continues to take precedence over protection of amenity and biodiversity along SEQ’s coastline
- Professor Darryl Low Choy—Griffith University School of Environment and Chair of the Regional Landscape and Open Space Advisory Committee: Conclusion: the process is absolutely right but the coordinating mechanism to drive the process needs to be re-established and the products emanating from the process need improvement.
- Professor Peter Spearritt—Professor of History, The University of Queensland: Because of population growth we need to cherish and increase our open space, from national parks to recreation areas. If we can’t retain the few remaining green corridors then our 200-km city, already a functioning entity, will become Australia’s longest strip of continuous suburban sprawl. In that eventuality, it won’t be nearly such an attractive environment to live in.
- Gordon French—Chair, SEQ Catchments Ltd: …further support and coordination of effort is required across industry, research and government if we are to report favourably against the indicators in this report into the future.
- Associate Professor Bob Beeton—The University of Queensland School of Natural and Rural Systems Management: Overall, this and other freely available data suggest that governments are confronted with a stark choice. Either change the urban form of SEQ and better manage its natural resource base or pay the enormous price of the infrastructural adjustment that will be necessary.
- Gary Sansom—President, Queensland Farmers’ Federation: In the next iteration of the SEQ Regional Plan, the agricultural sector will be looking for an acknowledgment of the significant contribution it makes to the wealth and wellbeing of the region…
- Mr Mike Grundy—CSIRO Theme Leader, Managing Australia’s soil and landscape assets: The calmness is misleading—the pressures and impacts on these lands are as broad ranging and as significant as at any time in their history.
- Professor John Lowe—School of Health and Sports Sciences, University of the Sunshine Coast: Health, a primary factor underlying all economic growth, needs to be given priority, rather than being seen as just an afterthought.
- Associate Professor John Minnery—School of Geography, Planning and Architecture, The University of Queensland: Strong communities underpin a strong region, both in terms of reality and public perceptions. There is room for optimism but not complacency in relation to strong communities.
Engaging Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples
- Mr Graham Dillon—Ngarang-Wal Elder: engagement is not simply a matter of good governance as with other stakeholders. It is a right in common law after the Mabo Decision and by statute under the Native Title Act 1993.
- Professor Boni Robertson—Office for Indigenous Community Engagement, Griffith University: ….there is a need to uphold a commitment to both cultural and professional integrity in the context of the SEQ Regional Plan…
- Ms Dyan Currie—President, Planning Institute of Australia, Queensland Division: The review of the SEQ Regional Plan provides an opportunity to test, substantiate and refine the policy direction and move forward by building on the strengths of the original.
- Professor Brian Roberts—Emeritus Professor of Urban Management, Centre for Developing Cities, University of Canberra: while we are improving on some of the targets towards the achievement of sustainable development, significant and possibly unpopular changes in urban policy and design will be needed, especially in the way we deal with urban consolidation.
- Professor Tim Robinson—Head of the School of Economics and Finance, Queensland University of Technology: Growing knowledge-based industries, increasing employment of professionals, and a strong export performance combine in SEQ to create a modern, forward-looking economy.
- Dr Peter Brain—Director, National Institute of Economic and Industry Research: Realising these benefits in turn requires world best- practice expenditures on transport, community and research infrastructure along with high-quality local political leadership.
- Mr Paul Clauson—Executive Director, Infrastructure Association of Queensland: Planning for demographic and environmental change in a sustainable way is no easy task; however, it must be done with a sense of immediacy if our future as a vibrant, socially and economically functional community is to be ensured.
- Associate Professor Michael Regan—School of Sustainable Development Bond University: Infrastructure determines a region’s productive capacity, output and the rate of growth of output.
- Paul Greenfield—Vice Chancellor, The University of Queensland: People like coming to SEQ—they come to live, work and play. ….. this influx poses major infrastructure challenges, including the provision of adequate supplies of water, the discharge of waste-water and the health of the SEQ waterways.
- Ms Elizabeth Nosworthy—Chair of the Queensland Water Commission: an undertaking to the community to supply sufficient water to support a comfortable, sustainable and prosperous lifestyle, while meeting the needs of urban, industrial and rural growth and the environment.
- Professor Peter Newman—Professor of Sustainability, Curtin University: …..we need to be even more vigilant in stopping urban sprawl and building better public transport to halve traffic by 2050. This is the challenge to build on the SEQ Regional Plan.
- Professor Brendan Gleeson—Director of the Urban Research Program, Griffith University School of Environment: Our biggest problem though remains our bondage to the car. We have not yet stemmed the growth in vehicle kilometres travelled per person—a real threat to our lifestyle and economy.
The Government has given no explanation as to the reasons for not producing a State of the Region Report, to inform the development of a new version of the SEQ Regional Plan.
It looks like the Government is planning in an evidence vacuum!