Australia: New Economic Development Act 2012: Impacts for planning and development in Queensland

Last Updated: 9 December 2012
Article by Kelly Alcorn

Most Read Contributor in Australia, September 2016

The Economic Development Act 2012 (ED Act) was passed by the Queensland Parliament on 29 November 2012. In the First Reading Speech Jeff Seeney stated:

"Our government has committed to building a four-pillar economy for Queensland. Enacting the Economic Development Bill will equip us with the legislative tools necessary to identify and drive development projects that contribute to a strong and sustainable State economy..."

Overview of the ED Act

The ED Act amends legislation administered under the State Development, Infrastructure and Planning portfolio to meet the Government's election commitments to drive economic development in Queensland.

The ED Act makes changes to the State's planning and development process including:

  • establishes a new Minister for Economic Development (MEDQ) in Queensland designed to carry out, promote and co-ordinate activities to facilitate economic growth and development for community purposes in Queensland;
  • transfers the Urban Land Development Authority's powers, functions, assets and liabilities to the new MEDQ;
  • establishes the Commonwealth Games Infrastructure Authority to facilitate the planning and development of the Commonwealth Games village and other venues;
  • commences the process for the transfer of South Bank Corporation's planning powers to Brisbane City Council;
  • clarifies and improves the powers of the Coordinator-General to fast track major projects and streamline assessment including dealing with requirements of Environmental Impact Statements and Infrastructure Facilities of Significance under the State Development and Public Works Organisation Act 1971 (SDPWO Act); and
  • introduces Temporary Emissions Licences that may be granted to authorise the relaxation of approval conditions issued under the Environmental Protection Act 1994 (EP Act) to authorise the release of contaminants during an emergency, as a response to the recommendations made by the Queensland Floods Commission following the 2010/11 floods.

Establishing a new Minister for Economic Development (MEDQ)

The ED Act establishes a new Minister for Economic Development (MEDQ). The entity's primary function is to facilitate economic development and development for community purposes in Queensland.

The ED Act repeals the Industrial Development Act 1963 and Urban Land Development Act 2007 (ULDA Act).

Many of the substantive provisions of the ULDA Act will be transferred to the MEDQ under the ED Act.

The MEDQ will continue to have the power to declare Priority Development Area's (PDA's), formerly Urban Development Area's (UDA's) under the ULDA Act, and will have the function of planning for and facilitating the development and management of PDA's.

Applications for development in a PDA will be assessed by the MEDQ under the new legislation, and will not be subject to assessment by local government under the Sustainable Planning Act 2009.

The ED Act makes provision for the transition of undecided UDA applications into PDA development applications that will be decided by the MEDQ, and existing ULDA Act approvals and development schemes will be taken to be approvals and development schemes under the new regime.

The MEDQ will have the power to deal commercially in land, property and infrastructure to facilitate economic development and development for community purposes. This power includes the ability of the MEDQ to dispose of its surplus land at market value, and to facilitate the grant of an appropriate lease under the Land Act 1994.
Until the ED Act is proclaimed and the new entity which integrates the ULDA starts, planning and development responsibilities of the ULDA will remain the same. The exception is the ULDA's assessment functions for the Bowen Hills, Northshore Hamilton, Fitzgibbon and Woolloongabba UDA's, which were delegated to Brisbane City Council on 30 November 2012. The state government has indicated that it will consider delegating the planning and assessment function for other existing UDA's where the relevant local government demonstrates it has sufficient resources to administer the areas.

South Bank Corporation to become Brisbane City Council

The ED Act amends the South Bank Corporation Act 1989 (Qld) (SBC Act) to commence the process for the transfer of the functions of South Bank Corporation to Brisbane City Council (BCC) including:

  • streamline the makeup of the board to facilitate transition to the BCC;
  • enable the sale of land assets to reduce debt; and
  • enable the granting of a lease of the parklands to BCC and contract to it the obligation to manage the parklands.

The ED Act also provides for the transfer of planning and development assessment powers from South Bank Corporation to BCC. The power to receive and assess development applications will be transferred to BCC on a date to be proclaimed. However, these applications will continue to be assessed against the approved development plan established under the SBC Act until BCC has developed its own planning scheme for the area. Current applications will continue to be assessed and decided by South Bank Corporation to ensure certainty and progress of approvals is maintained for applicants.

Establishment of the Commonwealth Games Infrastructure Authority (CGIA)

The ED act also establishes the Commonwealth Games Infrastructure Authority to facilitate the planning and development of the Gold Coast 2018 Commonwealth Games Village and other venues.

Clarifying and improving the powers of the Coordinator-General to 'fast track' major project approvals

The ED Act amends the State Development and Public Works Organisation Act 1971 (SDPWO Act) to clarify and improve the powers of the Coordinator-General to 'fast-track' major projects.

'Significant Projects' under the SDPWO Act become 'Coordinated Projects' under the ED Act. The criteria for determining whether a project is a coordinated project have been broadened but are subject to four limiting criteria of which at least one must be present, they include where the project has:

  • complex approval requirements imposed by a local government, the State or the Commonwealth;
  • strategic significance to a locality, regions or the State, including for the infrastructure, economic and social benefits, capital investment or employment opportunities it may provide;
  • significant environmental effects; or
  • significant infrastructure requirements.

Under the ED Act 'infrastructure facilities of significance' will be renamed 'private infrastructure facilities' (PIF). The ED Act sets out the requirements for infrastructure facility applications, and prescribes the criteria the Coordinator-General must consider before approving the project as a private infrastructure facility. The criteria includes:

  • the economic and social significance and economic or social benefits of the project to the country, state or region;
  • the financial and technical capability of the proponent;
  • that the project satisfied an identified need or demand for services;
  • that the project will be completed in a timely way;
  • that the land on which the facility is proposed has been sufficiently identified; and
  • that the project is not inconsistent with state policies.

An existing application for an infrastructure facility of significance will not be affected by the amendments.

If land is required to be compulsorily acquired for the PIF the proponent must provide evidence of negotiation for at least four months with the registered owner of the land. In the event that a PIF is declared before the land is acquired the proponent must provide evidence to the Coordinator-General of negotiation and final unconditional offer made to the land owner.

The approval will lapse after two years but can be amended or revoked by the Coordinator General at its discretion or at the written request of the applicant.

The ED Act is expected to commence operation in early 2013.

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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