Australia: Did you know.... recent developments in planning and environment in Queensland

Planning & Environment Update
Services: Property & Projects
Industry Focus: Property

Many Queensland Councils are in a dire financial position according to a new Audit Office report?

The provision of local infrastructure including roads, water supply and sewerage infrastructure is a key responsibility for local authorities. However, according to a report released by Queensland's Audit Office this week, the provision of some of these necessary services may be in peril as the long-term financial sustainability of many of Queensland's councils is called into question.

State Government funding cuts, increased infrastructure costs and management issues are cited as some of the reasons for the predicted deficits. The report also cites a lack of understanding of budgeting and inaccuracies in forecasting.

In the absence of increased funding from the State, there are concerns about how some councils will overcome funding issues, with rate increases, service cuts and increased development fees and charges all options on the table.

The Queensland Government has said it will adopt the Audit Office's recommendations, including improved long-range forecasting, better reporting and more frequent financial reviews.

The legalisation of medicinal cannabis may open a new agricultural industry in Queensland?

The Public Health (Medicinal Cannabis) Bill 2016 was passed by Queensland Parliament this week, allowing medicinal cannabis products to be prescribed and dispensed to patients. With awareness of the benefits of medicinal cannabis growing and demand increasing, opportunities for the agricultural sector to meet the demand will inevitably increase.

Given Queensland's suitability for growing medicinal cannabis, and amidst reports that properties around Australia are being purchased for cultivating the crop, it will be interesting to see how the State Government and local councils address the potentially burgeoning industry.

The Queensland Government has declared its support for amendments to the Narcotics Drugs Act 1967 (Cth), allowing for controlled cultivation of cannabis in Australia for medical and scientific purposes. The new Queensland regulatory framework will operate together with the Commonwealth legislation to allow patients lawful access to medicinal cannabis produced locally under the Commonwealth scheme.

Queensland has announced its first 'critical infrastructure project' in seven years?

The Queensland Government has declared the Adani Combined Project to be a 'critical infrastructure project', the first declaration of its kind in seven years. The project comprises the Carmichael Coal Mine, the North Galilee Basin Rail Project and the North Galilee Water Scheme Project.

Declaring a development a 'critical infrastructure project' allows approval processes to be expedited, for developments that are considered to be 'critical or essential' for economic, social or environmental reasons in Queensland.

The project's 'prescribed project status' has also been renewed and expanded to include its water infrastructure.

State Development Minister Dr Anthony Lynham said invoking these special powers for the Adani Combined Project would reduce red tape for the project as well as the jobs and business opportunities it offers. Dr Lynham's decision will enable the Coordinator-General to intervene in the approval process to ensure timely decision-making.

The declarations of 'critical infrastructure' and 'prescribed project' were made on 7 October 2016 and are set to last for two years.

There are plans for half of Queensland's energy to come from renewables by 2030?

Queensland's Renewable Energy Taskforce this week tabled its plans to achieve a 50 per cent renewable energy target by 2030, with the release of its draft report "Credible Pathways to a 50 per cent Renewable Energy Target for Queensland".

Three 'pathways' to achieving the 50 per cent renewable goal are proposed:

  1. the 'linear pathway' focuses on building approximately 500 megawatts of renewable energy a year up until 2030
  2. the 'ramp pathway' concentrates on boosting efforts later in the period to capitalise on falling technology costs
  3. the 'stronger national action pathway' relies on the federal government placing a scheme to reduce emissions in the electricity sector by 45 per cent by 2030.

Network security and affordability are central themes, as well as the economic benefits associated with developing the renewable energy sector. The Taskforce has also warned against broader economic policy mechanisms such as carbon pricing.

The draft report was developed in consultation with an independent team of business, energy, and environmental experts and is now undergoing further public consultation. The final report is expected to be released by the end of the year.

This article is intended to provide commentary and general information. It should not be relied upon as legal advice. Formal legal advice should be sought in particular transactions or on matters of interest arising from this article. Authors listed may not be admitted in all states and territories

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