Development Industry Regulatory Reform

The State Government has reaffirmed its commitment to stimulating the development sector by pursuing statutory reform in an effort to slash both red and green tape.

Speaking at a UDIA development forum this week, the Deputy Premier (and Minister for State Development and Infrastructure and Planning) Jeff Seeney, confirmed that the major changes proposed under the Sustainable Planning and Other Legislation Amendment Bill 2012 (SPOLAB 2012)  (released on 13 September 2012) were the key to getting the State’s development industry back on its feet.

Mr Seeney touched on the high points of the changes proposed by the SPOLAB 2012 (a single State assessment and referral agency, removal of master planning and structure planning arrangements and streamlining the assessment process) but did not raise much that was new during his presentation. During question time however, Mr Seeney added some colour to the motivation behind the Government’s proposed change to the costs regime of the Planning and Environment Court (with costs to follow the event unless the Court orders otherwise) stating that it is a necessary check for litigants who should generally be required to consider that pursuing litigation will have cost consequences.

Although Mr Seeney was unable to shed any light on the proposed amendments to the Planning and Environment Court Rules, which is expected to provide some detail as to how the Court will exercise its discretion in relation to costs orders, he did indicate that it was hoped the amendments will achieve in an even greater focus on the early resolution of matters through the expanded powers provided to the Court’s Alternate Dispute Resolution Registrar and the likelihood that there would be no order made as to costs if an early resolution was reached.

Mr Seeney went on to outline the further regulatory reform that was on the State Government’s hit list, targeting the following:

The Infrastructure Charges Regime – Mr Seeney indicated that balance was required to address developer concerns of unaffordable infrastructure charges and Council concerns of artificially capped infrastructure charges that are inadequate to cover the cost of delivering new infrastructure. He indicated that “When capping of infrastructure charges was introduced by the previous Government we knew then that it was flawed and would end in tears.” He also indicated that the Government is currenlty reviewing the infrastructure charging regime, with a decision to be made early next year.

Coastal Management reform – Mr Seeney trumpeted the Draft Coastal Protection State Planning Regulatory Provision (the Draft SPRP) which took effect on 8 October 2012 and suspends the operation of the State Planning Policy 3/11: Coastal Protection (Coastal SPP).

Mr Seeney indicated that:

– the Draft SPRP was an essential repair to the uncertainty and limitation to development caused by the previous Government’s hastily adopted Coastal SPP on the eve of its demise at the recent State Government election;

– the new regulatory provisions introduce a revised framework for managing development in the coastal zone which attempts to redress the balance equally between the environmental, social and economic aspects of coastal protection; and

– it is expected that the SPRP will remain in place until the State Government enacts its proposed single State Planning Policy sometime in 2013.

Reform of Vegetation Management laws – Mr Seeney pledged the Government’s commitment to simplify and undo the constraints imposed upon landowners by the Vegetation Management Act. He said the current tangled we of regulation is not achieving what he understood the initial intent to be, which was the prevention of broadscale clearing of rural land in Western Queensland.  He indicated that the State Government was well on track to fulfilling its commitment to addressing these concerns with reforms to be announced in further detail some time soon.

Developments on this story are set to continue. The State Development, Infrastructure and Industry Committee is holding a public hearing this week on the SPOLAB. It is understood that key stakeholders in the Development industry have been invited to present their views on the anticipated impacts of the proposed changes should the SPOLAB be enacted in its current form (expected to occur mid December 2012).

We will endeavour to keep you updated on these changes as and when they occur.

This information is intended to provide a general summary only and should not be relied on as a substitute for legal advice.

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