Australia: Details of the new Queensland State Assessment and Referral Agency (SARA)

Planning and Environment Alert: 11 July 2013

On 1 July 2013, the Queensland Government launched the new State Assessment and Referral Agency (SARA). Under the new arrangements SARA is now the single lodgement and assessment point for all development applications where the State has jurisdiction under the Sustainable Planning Act 2009 (SPA). The introduction of SARA was a key priority of the Newman Government's planning reforms in Queensland. The new regime is aimed at providing a whole-of-government approach to State development assessment and creating the most efficient and effective planning and development assessment system in Australia.

Partner James Ireland and solicitor Thomas Buckley outline the new arrangements under SARA.

Key points

  • All development applications where the State has jurisdiction under the SPA will be referred to and assessed by SARA1.
  • The Director-General of the Department of State Development, Infrastructure and Planning (DSDIP) is the assessment manager or referral agency of SARA.
  • Development applications can be lodged to DSDIP via a new electronic lodgement portal called 'MyDAS'.
  • New Integrated Development Assessment (IDAS) forms have been released replacing the previous IDAS forms.
  • Development applications involving State jurisdiction will be assessed against the new State Development Assessment Provisions (SDAP).
  • The new changes to the State assessment arrangements have been given effect under the Sustainable Planning Amendment Regulation (No. 3) 2013.

Single referral agency

Under the previous arrangements, development applications were referred to and assessed by the chief executives of the relevant State departments administering the Acts that involved matters of State interest. This included, for example, the Department of Transport and Main Roads and the Department of Environment and Heritage Protection. Under SARA, DSDIP is the now the sole State department responsible for development applications involving a State interest. The new arrangement is aimed at providing a more streamlined and co-ordinated approach to State development assessment.

Lodgement arrangements

SARA is supported by MyDAS, a new electronic lodgement system where applicants can lodge and refer their development applications to DSDIP. MyDAS allows applicants to track the status of development applications and is integrated with the new SARA online mapping system. MyDAS can be accessed here.

New IDAS forms are now available and must be used for development applications lodged from 1 July 2013. They are approved forms under SPA and now require an applicant (where applicable) to provide a statement addressing the relevant parts of the SDAP as mandatory supporting information to the development application.

State Development Assessment Provisions

SARA is complemented by the new SDAP. The SDAP set out the matters DSDIP may consider when assessing a development application as either an assessment manager or referral agency. The SDAP are a statutory instrument under the SPA and have effect throughout Queensland for development applications where DSDIP is the assessment manager or referral agency2.

The SDAP contain State codes for each matter of interest to the State for development assessment. The assessment criteria is outlined in the SDAP and also prescribed in the Sustainable Planning Regulation 2009 (SPR), which specify when a development application must comply with the State codes. Each State code is assessed against the code's purpose as well as a list of performance outcomes and acceptable solutions. There are 19 State codes3, which are categorised into five themes of State interest; housing and liveable communities, economic growth, environment and heritage, hazards and safety, and transport and infrastructure.

Sustainable Planning Amendment Regulation (No. 3) 2013

The introduction of SARA and the SDAP have been given effect through the passing of the Sustainable Planning Amendment Regulation (No. 3) 2013, which commenced on 1 July 2013. Schedules 6 and 7 of the SPR have been amended to prescribe that the chief executive administering SPA, being the Director-General of DSDIP, is the assessment manager or referral agency (where an application involves a State interest) for almost all development applications made under the SPA. The SPR has also been amended to specify that the SDAP are matters that DSDIP may have regard and give weight to when assessing a development application as either an assessment manager or a referral agency4.

Interestingly, the SPR has also been amended to prescribe the development application fees which are payable to the State in assessing development applications involving a State interest either as an assessment manager or a referral agency. This has been reflected by the introduction of a new Schedule 7A in the SPR which prescribes the various fees applicable to the different types of development involving matters of State interest.


1The only exception will be applications involving building work against the building assessment provisions of the Building Act 1975 or the Fire and Rescue Service Act 1990, which will continue to be assessed as they are now.

2Schedules 6 and 7 of the Sustainable Planning Regulation 2009 prescribe when the chief executive administering SPA (being the Director-General of DSDIP) is an assessment manager or a referral agency for certain development applications.

3Referred to as 'Modules' in the SDAP.

4Specified as 'prescribed matters' in section 10A of the Sustainable Planning Regulation 2009. Also see section 255A to 255E of the Sustainable Planning Act 2009.

© HopgoodGanim Lawyers

Award-winning law firm HopgoodGanim offers commercially-focused advice, coupled with reliable and responsive service, to clients throughout Australia and across international borders.

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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