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Councils to be given protection to stop flood development

CLEAN UP: Paul Sterling joined the crowds that showed up for the Bargara Beach cleanup. Photo: Scottie Simmonds / NewsMail
CLEAN UP: Paul Sterling joined the crowds that showed up for the Bargara Beach cleanup. Photo: Scottie Simmonds / NewsMail Scottie Simmonds

EXCLUSIVE: The state government has finally signalled it will change planning laws to protect councils that alter zonings to better reflect flood risk.

Assistant Minister for Planning Reform Ian Walker said the protection of Queenslanders was paramount and the state had to canvas possible legislative improvements.

The state government would begin consulting with industry and local government to ensure legal protection for councils from inappropriate development on flood-prone land.

The moves comes after Local Government Minister David Crisafulli and Premier Campbell Newman have spent the past two weeks ignoring questions from the Sunshine Coast Daily on the subject and following calls from the Local Government Association of Queensland and Nicklin independent MP Peter Wellington for it to act.

Sunshine Coast Council planning portfolio head Russell Green said the policy shift would immediately be factored in to its consideration of submissions to the draft regional planning scheme.

Those discussions were now into their third day and would continue with a series of all-day meetings through to April.

"Any reforms to SPA's injurious affection provisions, local government will support if changes deliver good planning outcomes,'' he said.

"It will depend on the implementation."

Mr Walker said section 733 of NSW's Local Government Act 1993 had successfully addressed the issue and may be an option for Queensland. Compensation arising from planning scheme changes has been in place in Queensland since the Local Government Act 1936, with ability for a person to seek redress from certain adverse effects to a person's development rights.

Local Government Association CEO Greg Hallam said injurious affection laws were the elephant in the room in relation to flood protection and had to be dealt with.

"This would be the best decision of this government without a shadow of a doubt. It would be an absolute credit to him and the government and will have our support.''

Mr Walker said the tragic deaths and loss of homes and businesses in the 2010-11 and 2013 floods highlighted that there is no room for complacency for governments on the issue.

"Queensland is the only state that allows compensation arising from planning scheme changes based on solid planning principles, especially in relation to flooding,'' he said.

"Developers who want the best for communities should work closely with the state and local government to find a way forward on best-practice planning schemes that address flooding head on.

"Providing certainty for councils in this all-important area of planning is our goal."

Mr Walker said considering a legislative change to the compensation provisions of the Sustainable Planning Act 2009 was a key recommendation from the Flood Commission of Inquiry - recommendation 4.1(b).

Earlier this week the LGAQ welcomed the call by Mr Wellington for councils to be able to rezone or down-zone land proven to be vulnerable to flooding - without fear of having to give big compensation payouts to developers.

Mr Hallam said Mr Wellington was "spot on" when he told State Parliament this week that the antiquated law of "injurious affection" needed to be abolished.

He said Queensland was the only state to retain injurious affection - which meant that if councils moved to protect communities from natural disasters by down-zoning land, they are left open to legal challenge through claims for compensation, and the accompanying huge costs of litigating such claims.

THE QUESTIONS WE ASKED ON FEBRUARY 1

1. Queensland has legacy zonings that allow development in now well-established hazard prone areas. Will the Minister consider altering legislation to protect local authorities that correct planning schemes to better reflect that risk?

2. The Insurance Council of Australia submission to the Senate Standing Committees on Environment and Communications - Recent Trends in and Preparedness for Extreme Weather Events - states that "it is decision making regarding the built environment that is driving economic losses by choosing to accept the construction of damage-prone property in hazard-prone areas".

Will the Minister consider the government using call in powers to stop approvals that allow construction in those areas?

3. Will the review of the SEQ Regional Plan consider the need to reduce the cost of extreme weather events by limiting or stopping increases to population density in areas at risk of flooding or sea water inundation?

Topics:  bundaberg, flood 2013, oswald, planning, queensland


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