Australia: QLD Planning And Environment Update

Last Updated: 5 October 2009
Article by Stafford Hopewell

Major legislative reforms and policy initiatives are gathering speed in Queensland. New planning legislation has been enacted by Parliament and the Queensland government is proposing major new climate change and coastal policies which will significantly impact on development across the State.

Sustainable Planning Act

The Sustainable Planning Act 2009 (SPA) has now been passed by Parliament and will commence on a date to be fixed. The legislation was the subject of extensive consideration in Parliament involving 13 hours of debate with 13 government members and 26 opposition members speaking on the bill. Despite this lengthy attention, the bill was enacted virtually unchanged.

At 745 pages, the new Act marks a milestone in the evolution of planning law and practice in Queensland. According to the Minister for Infrastructure and Planning, the Hon Sterling Hinchcliffe, the new Act:

  - reduces complexity through standardisation;

- adopts a risk based approach to development assessment;


- provides streamlined dispute resolution processes; and


- encourages active community participation in the planning and development system.

The new Act has been described as an "evolution rather than revolution" and largely retains the fundamental elements of the existing Integrated Planning Act 1997 (IPA). However, there are over 200 process changes which need to be understood and managed by applicants, local governments, State agencies and other stakeholders.

New processes, timeframes, rights and obligations will pose challenges on the managers and users of the new planning system, particularly in the transition to the new system. There are too many changes to summarise in this update but key issues to look out for include:


- new mandatory requirements for development applications;


- reduced timeframes for dealing with development applications;


- new decision making rules for code and impact assessment;


- expanded Ministerial powers;


- the impact of deemed approvals;


- restrictions on compensation; and


- new cost provisions in the Planning and Environment Court.

South East Queensland Regional Plan 2009 – 2031

On 28 July 2009 the South East Queensland Regional Plan 2009 – 2031 (SEQ Regional Plan) was released by the Queensland government. Despite around 3,500 submissions being made during the consultation period on the draft SEQ Regional Plan, SEQ Regional Plan as finalised was largely unchanged.

The SEQ Regional Plan, including regulatory provisions, is the pre-eminent planning instrument for development in South East Queensland and prevails over any conflicting planning instrument. Under the SEQ Regional Plan, urban development is prohibited in over 85% of the region and a range of policies apply to development within the urban footprint.

South East Queensland Climate Change Management Plan

As part of the on-going response to climate change issues, the Queensland government is currently inviting submissions on the draft South East Queensland Climate Change Management Plan (SEQ Climate Plan).

The SEQ Climate Plan is intended to establish high level actions to implement the climate change policies of the recently finalised SEQ Regional Plan. Unlike the SEQ Regional Plan, the SEQ Climate Plan will not have any statutory effect and, once finalised, will primarily provide a guide for State agencies and local governments in planning and development decision making.

Climate change is rapidly emerging as a significant planning and development issue and is increasingly being dealt with through planning policies and instruments. Whilst the SEQ Climate Plan will not directly form part of the legal framework governing planning and development, it will have a potentially significant impact on how State agencies and local governments manage climate change through their respective statutory powers.

The consultation period for the draft SEQ Climate Plan closes on 9 October 2009.

Draft Queensland Coastal Plan 2009

The Minister for Climate Change and Sustainability, the Hon Kate Jones, has recently released a new draft Queensland Coastal Plan (draft Coastal Plan). The draft Coastal Plan has been prepared to take account of the significant changes that have occurred to Queensland's planning, policy and legislative environment since the first coastal plan was developed.

The draft Coastal Plan addresses planning for future urban development in and near coastal locations and utilises the most up to date projections from climate change science to set actions to address the risk of climate change impacts on coastal resources. The draft Coastal Plan contains:


- a draft State Policy Coastal Management aimed at coastal land managers; and


- a draft State Planning Policy Coastal Protection.

The Coastal Plan is intended to provide greater policy certainty and consistency, reduce overlap with other policy initiatives and integrate more effectively with the IPA (and SPA).

Once finalised the Coastal Plan will be a statutory instrument under the Coastal Protection and Management Act 1995. The Coastal Plan will also include a State Planning Policy Coastal Protection which will be a statutory instrument for planning and development matters.

The majority of the State's development and population growth is focused on the coast and coastal issues can have a significant impact on planning and development. The Coastal Plan when finalised will therefore constitute an important part of the State's statutory planning system.

The draft Coastal Plan is open for comment until 31 October 2009.


Queensland 's planning and development system is experiencing rapid and significant change affecting all stakeholders. New legislation, policies and plans will continue to challenge.

For more information, please contact:


Stafford Hopewell

t (07) 3114 0232


Phillip Canning

t (07) 3231 1509


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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