Infrastructure fee restructure imminent

SWEEPING infrastructure changes by State Government to reduce red tape and bureaucratic bungling will fast-track development applications, says State Infrastructure and Planning Minister Stirling Hinchliffe.

The minister has assured local planners and developers that a new Sustainable Planning Act 2009 will reduce red tape and other delays during the assessment process.

The new legislation will include a new category called compliance assessment which will apply to developments such as factories in designated industrial areas.

The new category will allow significant fast-tracking of assessments.

The challenge will be how the Gold Coast City Council (GCCC) implements the Bill, which is before Parliament. Hinchliffe is confident the bill will be passed and enacted by the end of the year.

“These sweeping reforms will ensure Queensland has a 21st Century plan to reflect 21st Century challenges,” says Hinchliffe.

“The Bill is less on process and more on outcomes and will allow business development to focus on the future. Fighting issues DA by DA should be a thing of the past.”

It is estimated that 13 per cent of Queenslanders are employed in the construction industry. By 2031, the Gold Coast population is expected to swell by 60 per cent to 749,000.

To accommodate the boom, an additional 140,000 new dwellings will need to be built.

The State Government reforms coincide with the council’s recent decision to change the way it assesses infrastructure charges following considerable lobbying from the development industry and a backlash by disgruntled developers.

“The Sustainable Planning Bill will be the act for all local governments to administer as assessment managers,” says Hinchliffe.

The Bill also includes an industrial land monitoring program to identify sufficient parcels and to encourage interstate business to southeast Queensland.

A koala habitat study will also be undertaken in identified areas.

Hinchliffe says that although no extra staff will be allocated to regions such as the Gold Coast, he did not expect further delays brought on by ‘koala bottleneck’ studies.

Conics senior planner Simon Forsyth welcomed the legislation and outlined standardisation of existing complex acts, but sent a clear message to local councils.

“It will need to be embraced by local government to ensure there are appropriate systems, so there are no additional delays during assessment,” says Forsyth.

GCCC has advised the Gold Coast Urban Development Institute of Australia that it is considering two options to aid the industry: Firstly, a possible restriction on infrastructure charges so fees never exceed a set percentage of the total project cost (for instance, five per cent of the project cost) and secondly, charging for the limit of the building works detailed in the development application rather than the potential of the site.

For instance, if a site has the potential to carry 12 dwellings but only eight are built, the developer will be charged for the lesser amount. At the moment, developers are paying for ‘phantom’ units.

The changes are expected to be finalised by the end of the month.

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