Win for transparency: all environmental authorities are to be published online from DEHP, but more to be done
17 February 2017
EDO Qld commends Minister Miles for undertaking to provide copies of all environmental authorities online from today, Friday 17 February 2017.
Environmental authorities are required to be made available to the public through the public register under the Environmental Protection Act 1994 (Qld) (EP Act).
CEO of EDO Queensland, Jo-Anne Bragg, praised this initiative, stating that this is a necessary step towards helping Queensland move into the 21st century in meeting community expectations that information should be provided online, making it free and easily accessible to the majority of the community.
“However, this should just be the first step in improving transparency and accountability in the decision making and regulation around environmental and community impacts in Queensland.
“Our government agencies have a duty to proactively provide information to the community. Matters of environmental interest affect all Queenslanders, and it is important that interested members of the public and advocates of environmental issues have ready access to public documentation such as EAs and enforcement tools, such as Environmental Protection Orders, online.
“This information is necessary for organisations such as the Environmental Defenders Office, whose lawyers are routinely called upon by the community to provide legal advice on environmental matters. The community needs to know if industry is complying with conditions protecting air, water and nature.
“There is also the fact that environmental approvals and compliance actions need to be undertaken in a transparent manner. This is a good start to put EAs on line, to be followed by Environmental Protection Orders.
The next needed step is to put online all public register documents, such as plans required to be submitted under the conditions of Environmental Authorities, plans of operations for mines, monitoring data, application documents and enforcement documents. Having these documents online will also save the Department and the community time and resources,” Ms Bragg said.
“Improvements to the public register under the EP Act are also needed, to ensure the community can access all monitoring data that is created to determine compliance with a condition of an environmental authority condition. Frequently conditions are being drafted in a way that prevents monitoring data created by industries from being obtained by the community, because it is not required to be given to the government.”
“The public has a right to know the quality of the air they are breathing and the water they are drinking, and the impacts to the environment that concerns them.
“We hope the Queensland Government continues this trend of working to improve transparency through ensuring increased, easier access to information relevant to proposed or existing impacts to the environment and communities.”
The media release from Minister Miles is here.
Stronger State planning needed to protect renewables and agricultural land
9 February 2017
Comment by EDO Qld Solicitor Revel Pointon
EDO Qld supports the need for the Queensland Government to take a strong, strategic approach to planning for the growth of our renewable energy sector, and to protect our vulnerable ecological areas and prime agricultural land.
Currently the Queensland Government is seeking comment on the State Planning Policy, State Development Assessment Provisions and the new draft Planning Regulation. These documents set out what the Queensland Government considers to be the most important matters in Queensland which require protection by the State Government in planning decision making. Submissions are due Friday 10 February 2017.
EDO Qld are disappointed to see that the current versions of these draft instruments out for comment do not provide sufficient protections for the renewable energy sector to develop smoothly and in a way that is compatible with other planning demands on our State.
A requirement to identify and protect renewable energy projects should be provided, so that prime sites for renewables that do not affect prime agricultural land nor our vulnerable environmental matters are protected from incompatible development.
The State Planning Policy currently requires strong planning and protections for ‘key resource areas’ which include coal and petroleum and gas resources, along with other extractive resources. Why aren’t similarly strong planning requirements and protections being afforded to our expanding, clean, renewable energy industry?
The assessment of renewable energy projects still lies with local governments, whereas our Planning Regulation could make the State government responsible for assessment of these projects to ensure proper assessment against other matters of State significance, such as environmental and agricultural matters and coherent planning across the State.
With the support of the funding received from the Australian Renewable Energy Agency funding and the Queensland Government’s renewable energy target, the large-scale renewable energy sector is likely to grow quickly in Queensland in the coming years.
We need strong planning laws which reflect the importance of the renewable energy industry to meeting our climate change commitments and transitioning our state to clean energy that is better for our air, water and health.
We encourage all Queenslanders to get their submissions in by Friday to ensure that the matters they think should be given the strongest and most coherent protection across Queensland are reflected in State planning policy and law.
SEQ Regional Plan: free seminar on Thursday 16 February
8 February 2017
The draft South East Queensland (SEQ) Regional Plan has been released and is open for comment until midnight on Friday 3 March 2017. Read more…
To help you with your submissions, EDO Qld is working with the Qld Department of Planning and two regional planning experts to put on a free workshop and seminar on Thursday 16 February in Brisbane to help you supercharge your submission to address your concerns effectively.
From 4pm-5.30pm: Community Workshop: visions for SEQRP – a workshop to discuss your concerns and dreams for South East Queensland
From 6pm-7.30pm: EDO Qld LawJam: A seminar to hear from key experts in regional planning and how your concerns can be met through the SEQRP, with Q’n’A
- Revel Pointon, Law Reform Solicitor, EDO Qld
- Kerry Riethmuller, Associate Executive Director, Department of Planning
- Darryl Low Choy, Professor, Griffith University School of Environment
- Paul McDonald, General Manager, Healthy Waterways and Catchments
Where: Cliftons, 288 Edward St, Brisbane
The SEQ Regional Plan is an important regional planning tool, which can direct how both the state and local governments undertake planning and development decision-making in SEQ. Regional Plans override planning schemes where there is inconsistency.
As part of the package released for consultation, there are numerous background papers which provide more information as to the policies which shaped the new SEQ Regional Plan. We recommend you review these background papers, which are under the following headings:
- Background paper 1: Grow – considers the preferred pattern of settlement to best manage projected regional growth in SEQ
- Background paper 2: Prosper – considers the approach to supporting improved economic and employment outcomes for the region
- Background paper 3: Connect – considers the infrastructure demands and integrating land use and transport planning to improve outcomes in the region
- Background paper 4: Sustain – considers issues for the protection and management of our natural environment and sustainable social outcomes for our communities
- Background paper 5: Live – considers ways to improve the quality of design and amenity in our urban areas
The government has collated the preliminary responses to the ‘Shaping SEQ’ community consultations; check out whether your response has been adequately captured, by reviewing the responses here.
You can find the full suite of documents here: http://www.shapingseq.com.au/ShapingSEQ/documents
Key elements EDO Qld would like to see come through the review to create a new SEQ Regional Plan are, amongst other things:
- stronger mapping which locks in certain vulnerable environmental areas and corridors as protected from being developed; and
- to ensure that it reflects and is based on the detailed understanding of the region’s natural assets which we now have.
EDO Qld will be providing an in-depth analysis and suggested submissions on the SEQ Regional Plan, with a view to protecting SEQ’s diverse ecologies and maintaining or improving healthy communities in our region. We will notify supporters via our e-bulletin, so make sure you are subscribed!
You can also attend one of the Department of Planning’s “talk to a planner” sessions. These will be one-on-one sessions with a planner who can answer your questions, held across SEQ throughout November and December. Register your interest…
Also – important planning instruments have been released and are currently open for comment. The Development Assessment Rules are open for comment until 19 December (find out more), and the State Planning Policy, Planning Regulation, and State Development Assessment Provisions are open for comment until 10 February (find out more) . Make sure you have your say!
Stay tuned for our template submission to assist you, coming in mid-February.
How to lodge a submission
Submissions must be provided to the Department of Infrastructure, Local Government and Planning in writing and include the following information:
- first and last names
• addresses (home or business)
• signatures (unless lodged electronically).
You may lodge your submission in several ways.
- Online, here
• By email, to SEQRegionalPlan@dilgp.qld.gov.au
• By post, to Draft South East Queensland Regional Plan Review Feedback, Department of Infrastructure, Local Government and Planning, PO Box 15009, City East QLD 4000.
More on planning reforms
Planning reforms poised to enter third stage (09/11/2015)
Special extra LawJam on proposed planning framework (19/10/2016)
Queensland, planning for changes to planning (19/06/2016)
Three key State planning instruments open for your comment until 10 Feb
6 February 2017
The three key State planning instruments open for your comment until 10 February are the draft:
These three instruments protect key environment and community issues across Queensland and dictate many features of our planning framework.
Locate the draft proposed instruments, along with factsheets and videos to explain some of the changes on the Department of Planning website, here.
Find the old versions of the instruments to compare the new drafts by following the links in the descriptions below.
Need help making your submission? Download our submission template. Don’t forget to replaced highlighted sections with your details, and add your opinions and any personal examples to support your opinions.
You can also check out our slides from the recent EDO Qld and Department of Planning LawJam series for ideas on key issues to raise:
- EDO Qld slides by law reform solicitor Revel Pointon: here
- Department of Planning slides by Executive Director James Coutts: here
Get your submissions in by 10 February to have your opinion heard about these instruments. Details of who to make your submission to are below.
Why are these instruments important?
These instruments each affect the whole planning framework across Queensland in different ways.
State Planning Policy (SPP):
- Expresses the matters the Queensland Government consider to be the most important to protect in planning across the State, and how these matters should be protected.
- The policies expressed in this document must be integrated into the Regional Plans and Local Planning Schemes, along with Designated Infrastructure and development assessment decision making.
- In other words, the more specific the wording of the SPP, the better the policies will be reflected throughout the planning framework.
State Development Assessment Provisions (SDAP):
- Provides the detailed criteria by which the Department of Planning State Assessment Referral Agency (SARA) assess proposed impacts to state interests.
- These provisions replace the role of the specialist agencies, such as the Department of Environment and Heritage Protection, previously who would assess and dictate how state interests relevant to their expertise should be dealt with, e.g. through providing conditions, requiring refusal or approval. These provisions therefore must distil clear, detailed criteria to protect our state interests.
- Subordinate legislation that makes the new Planning Act operable, replacing the current Sustainable Planning Regulation. The Regulation determines, amongst other matters:
- how development applications will be assessed, by which body, and against what criteria;
- when development is prohibited, and when it can go ahead without assessment;
- when longer public notification periods can be provided; and
- when and how you have the right to access information about planning decisions.
Key tips in writing an effective submission:
- Keep your language clear and non-emotive
- Support your points with case studies from your experience or experts
- Structure your submissions so that they refer with headings to the documents you are commenting on.
- You can use the Department’s online submission form as an easy way of structuring your submission.
- Have a look at our EDO Qld Factsheet on Writing an Effective Law Reform Submissions
You can provide your submission using one of the following three ways:
1. Department of Planning online submission form available here
2. In writing to:
The Honourable Jackie Trad MP
Deputy Premier, Minister for Infrastructure, Local Government and Planning and Minister for Trade and Investment
c/- State Interest Feedback
Department of Infrastructure, Local Government and Planning
PO Box 15009
CITY EAST QLD 4002
3. Email to firstname.lastname@example.org including your name and residential/business address or electronic address.
Right to Information Act review: Have your say before 3 Feb and improve access to information in Qld
30 January 2017
– A consultation paper has been prepared to guide the review and submissions, including various questions the government is seeking responses to, available here;
– General information on how to make a submission can be found here;
– Download EDO Qld’s template submission here. Our template includes suggested points to note. however, remember to adjust it to suit your experience with examples!
The RTI Act: governs whether information held by Queensland government bodies will be released to the public, including information on development applications and mining projects.
The IP Act: address an individual’s right to access personal information held by government bodies and contains protections for personal information held in the public sector.
The RTI Act is of more relevance to the work of EDO Qld, so we have focused on the RTI Act below.
The RTI Act is essential to ensuring accountable, transparent governance
If you have ever been interested in understanding better how government decision makers made a decision that affected a matter of community interest, or wanted to access data which demonstrates the impacts of a development on your health or the environment but which is not on a register, you have probably made a RTI request. Without easy access to information behind government processes and decision making, there is an increased risk of corruption growing in governance, and loss of the benefit that open, accountable governance through encouraging an informed public can provide to assisting democracy and good decision-making. As they say: sunlight is the best disinfectant!
EDO Qld frequently assists clients in making RTI Act requests to access important information to help them protect their community and environment from harmful actions and inappropriate development, to prevent corruption and to ensure transparent and accountable governance. Regrettably, frequently these requests are not successful, excessively delayed and not decided with sufficient weight given to the public interest of transparent, open governance, as promoted in the Preamble to the RTI Act.
EDO Qld’s key suggested points to improve the RTI Act are below, with more detailed template guidance provided HERE:
– The ‘push model’, favouring proactive disclosure of information, is not currently being adequately implemented – more action must be taken across government to proactively provide the public with information to avoid the need for RTI applications
– All essential documents, such as copies of environmental licences and monitoring data, need to be made available to the public by legislation on a public register to avoid need for RTI applications
– Too much weight is put in favour of non-disclosure, more weight should be provided to the public interest of disclosing information, as committed to in the Preamble to the Act:
– Improve the balance of weight given in favour of disclosure in the public interest, to ensure this is given sufficient weight in decision making
– Narrow the number of considerations for when non-disclosure should be favoured
– The ability to refuse documents due to potential implications to commercial interests and deliberative processes must be better defined and restrained to ensure they are not misapplied or abused, for example confidence of commercial interests should be limited to ‘trade secrets’, particularly for major projects effecting the environment and community
– Given the importance of access to information to ensuring open, accountable governance, free of corruption, more consultation should be undertaken as part of this review, including public hearings
– To decrease the processing time of applications, a higher threshold should be applied to consultation with third parties and third parties should not have ability to pause the time for considering an application.
Get your submissions in by Friday 3 February!
For further information on the review and a full list of the Terms of Reference download the consultation paper here.
Information on how to make a submission to the review can be found here.
Email your submissions to: FeedbackRTIandprivacy@justice.qld.gov.au
Or post them to:
RTI and Privacy Review
Department of Justice and Attorney-General
GPO Box 149
Brisbane QLD 4001