Have you planned for the new Queensland Planning Act 2016?

The Planning Act 2016 (Planning Act) was passed by the Queensland Parliament in May 2016 and will come into effect on 3 July 2017. The statewide legislation establishes a new planning framework and overarching policy for land use planning for the state with the local and state governments sharing responsibility for its delivery.

Along with the Planning and Environment Court Act 2016 and the Planning (Consequential) and Other Legislation Amendment Act 2016, the Planning Act will replace the current legislation – the Sustainable Planning Act 2009.

The new Queensland planning legislation seeks to implement some of the key reforms outlined in the Better Planning for Queensland – Next Steps in Planning Reform Directions Paper that was released by the Queensland Government in May 2015.

The new planning system comprises of three main elements:

  • Plan making: documents which guide all strategic planning and development throughout the state including the local planning scheme developed by local government which sets out what development can occur in an area and what land use and development proposals need to obtain approval from council.
  • Development assessment: the process for development assessment and application requirements made against the scheme by which local governments assess and make decisions on various land use and development proposals.
  • Dispute resolution: includes a court-based process through the Planning and Environment Court and a low cost and less formal process through the Development Tribunal for simple technical matters.

Similarities between the old and new planning system

The basic planning system in Queensland will remain the same with the following principles continuing to be recognised by the new Act.

  • There are still state planning instruments and local planning instruments. The local instruments still need to reflect state interests and the Planning Minister still approves these instruments and continues to set the rules for the process that must be undertaken by local governments to make or amend their planning schemes.
  • There is still a development assessment system set within the legislation which mandates the framework and process for development assessment and also the requirements for an application. However, the process details are found in the development assessment rules which is a separate statutory instrument.
  • There are still dispute resolution processes including the Planning and Environment Court (which is set up in its own Act – the Planning and Environment Court Act 2016) and a system for low cost speedy dispute resolution in the Development Tribunal (currently named the Building and Development Dispute Resolution Committee).
  • There is still a hierarchy of regulatory instruments with the pre-eminent legislation establishing the system, roles and responsibilities; the regulation under the Planning Act setting regulatory matters; and then statutory instruments, like the rules for certain processes, which are required to be created by the legislation and are empowered by the Planning Regulation.

Key changes under the new planning system

Overall, the new legislation will provide an improvement to Queensland’s planning system with the following aspects highlighting the primary points of difference from the current system.

  • There will now only be two state planning instruments – the State Planning Policy (SPP) and Regional Plans. The State Planning Regulatory Provisions, Queensland Planning Provisions as well as compliance assessment and permits will no longer be used.
  • The new Act provides for three types of development categories along with the concept of a categorising instrument that categorises development. A categorising instrument can specify certain development as ‘prohibited’ for which a development application cannot be made; as ‘accepted’ for which a development approval is not required; or as ‘assessable’ for which development approval is required. Assessable developments will either be a code assessment (bounded assessments only assessed against assessment benchmarks) or impact assessment (assessments carried out against assessment benchmarks that may have regard to other relevant matters).
  • Longer time frames will now be required for community consultation on new planning schemes by local government and mandatory consultation on state planning instruments.
  • An additional provision for infrastructure charges has been included authorising local governments to impose charges in certain conditions and the new legislation also provides for the automatic indexing of charges.
  • Changes have been made to the definitions of building work, operational work and what constitutes material changes of use.
  • The Act will now prescribe a framework for the assessment system and provides for the creation of the Development Assessment Rules (DA Rules), which separately set out the assessment process that must be followed when an applicant makes, changes or withdraw a development application.
  • Greater emphasis on ecological sustainable development and the protection of heritage buildings with proposed developments requiring examination by an independent body.

Naturally there will also be transitional provisions within the Act that will shield existing arrangements to a certain extent.

For further information on the new Planning Act and how it might apply to you, please contact DSS Law’s property team.


DSS Law insight articles are intended to provide commentary and general information. They should not be relied upon as formal legal advice. If you would like specific advice relating to this topic, please contact DSS Law on epost@dsslaw.com.au.