Development Assessment Streamlined – Queensland

Development Assessment Streamlined – Queensland

Development Assessment Streamlined – Queensland


Probably the vast majority of land development in Queensland is managed through the framework of the Sustainable Planning Act 2009 (SPA). Chapter 2 therein identifies the various State planning instruments against which assessable development is to be assessed by the relevant assessment manager (usually a local Council) and any referral agency (usually a department of the State government such as the Department of Transport & Main Roads). Section 15 of the SPA identifies the following as State planning instruments under the Act:

  •  a State planning regulatory provision;
  •  a regional plan;
  •  a State planning policy; and
  •  the standard planning scheme provisions.

Being a State planning instrument, application of the State Planning Policies (SPPs) in a development assessment context can have a bearing on whether your next development proposal will receive approval or otherwise. But further, a local Council is obliged to have regard for the SPPs at the times when it is making or amending its local planning instruments, including a planning scheme, and so application of the SPPs can affect the zoning of your land interests. Presently, each local Council throughout Queensland is in the process of creating a new planning scheme and so the recent release by State government of ‘State Planning Policy – Draft for consultation April 2013’ should be of interest to those with land interests in Queensland, particularly those with interests to develop land.

Currently there are up to thirteen SPPs which are of varying degrees of effect throughout Queensland. What the ‘State Planning Policy – Draft for consultation April 2013’ is proposed to do is consolidate the expression of and implementation of policies for all State interests into the one policy and thereby replace all the current SPPs. Accordingly, up until 5pm on Wednesday the 12th of June 2013, the Department of State Development, Infrastructure and Planning (DSDIP) is calling for submissions on the ‘State Planning Policy – Draft for consultation April 2013’ and the following are worthy points of discussion from Arnold Development Consultants’ (ADC’s) review of the document.


  • Simplifying matters by replacing many SPPs with one SPP
  • Simplifying the process of referring a development application by endorsing the single ‘State Assessment and Referral Agency’ (SARA)
  • Clear and logical expression of the State interests and supporting policies
  • Clear delineation of those parts of the SPP relevant only to ‘making or amending a local planning instrument’ and to ‘local government development assessment provisions’
  • Expressing support for ‘innovative and locally appropriate solutions’ and alternative solutions ‘where the State interest could be met using a range of methods’
  • Stating that ‘Planning should facilitate efficient approvals, encourage innovation and, where appropriate, reduce the assessment burden on developers’
  • Stating that the local planning instruments should adopt ‘the lowest level of assessment for industrial and commercial uses in industrial and commercial zones’ (ADC advocates for self assessable status in these cases)
  • Stating support for a densifying of areas of a ‘high level of access to infrastructure and services’ with a suggestion that these areas at least include land which is within 400 metres of a public passenger transport facility’


Negatives and/or parts requiring clarification

  •   ‘State interest – coastal environment’:
    • Reference throughout this section of the document to the ‘coastal zone’ is a concern. The document     requires a local planning instrument to reflect the SPP for this State interest by, inter alia, ‘supporting  conservation of the coastal zone in its natural state to the greatest extent practicable’. The potential problem lies in the mapping of the extent of the coastal zone (which at the time of writing was to ADC’s knowledge not yet available). The glossary directs enquiry into the extent of the coastal zone to s 15 of the Coastal Protection and Management Act 1995 which reads as follows:

 The coastal zone means the part of the State comprising the following—

(a) Queensland waters and land within the area shown as the coastal zone on the coastal zone map;
(b) the airspace above the surface of the area mentioned in paragraph (a);
(c) the subsoil below the surface of the area mentioned in paragraph (a).

 If, as ADC suspects, the coastal zone map to which the above refers defines the extent of the coastal zone as extending ‘over Queensland coastal waters (to three nautical miles from the coastline) and landward to cover all coastal islands and the part of the mainland that is generally either: five kilometres from the coastline; or where land first reaches the height of 10 metres Australian Height Datum (AHD), whichever is further from the coast’ then a statement in the draft SPP which seeks the ‘conservation of the coastal zone in its natural state’ is putting the development prospects of a huge expanse of developable land zoned for urban purposes in jeopardy. ADC sought clarification of this point from DSDIP but no certain response was forthcoming other than that the mapping intended to operate in conjunction with the draft SPP is yet to be finalised and is therefore not yet available.

  • ‘State interest – natural hazards’:
    • Requiring land mapped within erosion prone areas to be ‘development-free buffers’ where no ‘permanent buildings or structures exist’ without declaring the alternative of enabling appropriate development of these areas where the constraint is reasonably mitigated will have the effect of reducing land supply and cruelling the reasonable development intentions of many with land interests near the Queensland coast.
  •  ‘State interest – amenity and community wellbeing’:
    • Without a definition for ‘green space’ a policy of protecting it such that there is ‘no net loss of green space’ may be a problem for green-field development aspirants. In Brisbane’s City Plan 2000 for example, the mapping of Greenspace Areas (Map A from Chapter 3, Part 3) is inclusive of some land which is likely suitable for development and even possibly within the Urban Footprint under the South East Queensland Regional Plan.
  • At the time of writing, to ADC’s knowledge, the ‘DSDIP SPP Interactive Mapping System’ had not yet been fully developed and nor had the numerous guidelines referred to throughout the draft SPP. It would have been preferable to have placed the draft SPP on public notice only after the mapping and guidelines associated with the document were available for public viewing and comment.


The Queensland government should be applauded for seeking to simplify and streamline development assessment processes by way of introducing one consolidated State Planning Policy in place of the numerous current State Planning Policies. Whilst the document itself is generally clear and concise in its presentation there are a few matters which need to be questioned which, should we assume the worst, would likely see poor outcomes for Queensland’s building and construction industry, housing supply and the wider economy.

Arnold Development Consultants
Andrew Magoffin (Director of Planning)




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