Is it just a name change, or has the SPA really increased
sustainability in Queensland?
This is a difficult question – it not only involves a
consideration of sustainability concepts under the SPA in
comparison to those under the Integrated Planning Act 1997
(IPA), but also of the application of processes
under the SPA.
This paper considers sustainability concepts under the SPA.
Purpose of the SPA
The purpose of the SPA is the same as the purpose of the IPA,
i.e. the achievement of ecological sustainability. Therefore, there
is no change in purpose between the IPA and the SPA.
However, drilling down in the SPA, there is some difference in
that references to climate change have been included in the SPA. No
references to climate change were included in the IPA.
Advancing the purpose of the SPA includes (amongst other
ensuring decision-making processes take account of short and
long-term environmental effects of development at local, regional,
State and wider levels, including, for example, the effects
of development on climate change
avoiding, if practicable, or otherwise lessening, adverse
environmental effects of development, including, for
example climate change and urban congestion and adverse effects on
Consideration of short-term and long-term environmental effects
and avoiding, if practicable, or otherwise lessening, adverse
environmental effects of development were also required under the
IPA. The SPA differs only by including examples of the types
of environmental effects that need to be considered.
Accordingly, there is not a large difference between the IPA
and the SPA in this regard.
The other reference to climate under the SPA is in relation to
the terms used in the definition of 'ecological
'Ecological sustainability' is defined (under both the
SPA and the IPA) as a balance that integrates—
protection of ecological processes and natural systems at
local, regional, State and wider levels
maintenance of the cultural, economic, physical and social
wellbeing of people and communities.
However, under the SPA, a new point has been added in relation
to explaining the meaning of subparagraph (c) above. Section
11(c)(iv) of the SPA provides that the 'cultural, economic,
physical and social wellbeing of people and communities' is
maintained if potential adverse impacts on climate change are taken
into account for development, and sought to be addressed through
sustainable development, including, for example, sustainable
settlement patterns and sustainable urban design.
This amendment goes somewhat further than the examples of
climate change given in relation to advancing the Act's
purpose. The inclusion of a requirement, in advancing the
purpose of the SPA, to take into account for development potential
adverse impacts on climate change, and to seek to address these
through sustainable development, provides further support for the
argument that an assessment of the impact of greenhouse gas (GHG)
emissions needs to be undertaken for proposed development (in
particular, development that involves significant GHG emissions,
such as power stations).
Although the SPA includes a few references to climate change
that the IPA did not, the SPA has not dramatically changed the
development assessment or community infrastructure designation
processes from those that existed under the IPA.
The SPA and the Sustainable Planning Regulation 2009 do
not 'roll-in' additional legislation so that there is
increased jurisdiction for consideration of environmental issues
during assessment of development applications.
As the legislative processes remain (in effect) the same, it is
difficult to conclude that the SPA has increased
In our opinion, any increase in sustainability is coincidental,
i.e. due to State and Federal agencies, local governments, and the
public becoming increasingly aware of environmental issues, rather
than any change between the IPA and the SPA.
The increase in the number and variety of State regulatory
provisions and State planning policies under the SPA, a number of
which deal with environmental issues (rather than purely planning
issues), is an example of increasing environmental regulation that
is not due to any change between the IPA and the SPA. Federal
initiatives such as the mandatory disclosure of commercial office
buildings energy efficiency are likely to also contribute to
overall sustainability of development – together with
such ratings tools as Green Star and NABERS.
The content of this article is intended to provide a general
guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought
about your specific circumstances.
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