18 Mar 2014

Changes recommended to Queensland's Regional Planning Bill

The State Development, Infrastructure and Industry Committee's report on the Regional Planning Interests Bill 2013 was tabled in Parliament yesterday. The report recommended that the proposed legislation be passed, but included a number of recommendations (including for amendments) and points for clarification.

Recommended changes to the Regional Planning Interests Bill 2013

The Committee's recommendations included that:

  • the exemption for pre-existing resource activities (clause 24 of the Bill) be amended to clarify that it is intended to exempt current, lawfully operating activities that were in place before an area was declared an area of regional interest. This recommendation is consistent with correspondence from the Deputy Premier attached to the report;
  • additional transitional provision be included in the Bill to exempt resource activities that have reached certain milestones in the overall approval process;
  • the short-term activity exemption (clause 23 of the Bill) be amended to exempt activities carried out for less than two years (rather than 12 months);
  • the Bill be amended to provide that the chief executive is only bound by local governments’ recommendations within priority living areas (not all areas of regional interest);
  • assessment and decision timeframes be included in the Bill (or the regulations); and
  • the appeal provisions be amended to provide that an appeal of a regional interest decision does not affect a resource activity’s operations unless the decision is stayed by the Court.

What needs to be clarified

The report seeks a number of clarifications from the Deputy Premier and Minister for State Development, Infrastructure and Planning, including:

  • whether amalgamating the definitions of priority agriculture areas and strategic cropping areas would avoid duplication;
  • the issues raised by submitters in relation to the mapping of areas of regional interest, including the accuracy of data used, the timeliness and ease of amending maps, the ability to challenge maps, and the inclusion of soil criteria in the Bill rather than the proposed regulation;
  • submitters' proposals that criteria for the chief executive's decision on an application be included in the Bill, and not prescribed by regulation;
  • whether a resource proponent is required to seek a regional interests authority for an activity on land it owns, and the rationale for the position; and what effect the Bill may have on current conduct and compensation agreements between resource proponents and land holders;
  • whether guidelines will be developed for the resource sector to assist in determining whether their activities are exempt from the requirements contained in the Bill.

The next steps

The Committee referenced a number of submissions concerned that the Bill is "framework legislation" and much of the detail of the operation of the proposed regime is contained in regulations. The Deputy Premier has advised the Committee that a draft regulation will be tabled at the time of the debate of the Bill, and consultation on the regulation will run for 30 days from the tabling.

The Bill is expected to be debated in the Queensland Parliament shortly.

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Clayton Utz communications are intended to provide commentary and general information. They 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 communication. Persons listed may not be admitted in all States and Territories.