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New Queensland planning law puts transparency and accountability at risk

Philippa England writes in The Conversation (23.3.18) that changes under Queensland's recently instituted Planning Act give councils much more leeway in their decision-making, which makes it harder for appeals against decisions to succeed.

'Recent changes in Queensland planning law continue the shift toward a more commercially oriented, business-friendly planning framework that relegates accountability and public access and influence to a minimum.

'This stands in contrast to a 2015 government directions paper for planning reform that declared: "The planning system should be open, transparent and accountable to ensure that both the community and industry can have confidence in the decisions that are made."

'When the then planning minister, Jackie Trad, introduced the Planning Act in 2016, she identified three reforms that supported transparency: restoring a rule that each party to planning litigation will ordinarily pay their own costs (undoing an amendment by the previous Newman government); introducing a requirement that councils give reasons for their decisions; and extending the public consultation period for new planning schemes by ten days.

'These reforms are laudable. But, when weighed against other trends entrenched in the law, they are relatively trivial. The act, which took effect in mid-2017, makes development assessment an even more discretionary affair. It leaves community-based litigants with even less prospect of success in the Planning and Environment Court.'

 

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