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Law Reform · Nature & the Reef

Hold draft submissions for new Parliament

23 January, 2015

With the Queensland Government now in caretaker mode, the State Development, Infrastructure and Industry Committee no longer exists. In effect, the inquiries and consultation on the recently introduced Ports and Planning Bills have ceased.

EDO Qld suggests that submitters hang on to draft submissions as the Bills could be reintroduced in the new Parliament and referred to a successor committee.

Public comment on the Draft Priority Port Development Area (PPDA) Planning Guideline is still open for public comment until 30 January 2015.

New Port Development Legislation for the Great Barrier Reef

In March 2012, UNESCO’s World Heritage Committee expressed serious concerns about increased coastal and port development affecting the Reef. In 2014 the State Government released a Ports Strategy which is meant to set the overall framework for port development for the next 10 years. You can read EDO Qld’s submission on the draft Ports Strategy here.

Ports Bill 2014

The proposed (now lapsed) Ports Bill 2014 contains a prohibition on port development outside existing ports at Gladstone, Hay Point/Mackay, Abbot Point and Townsville. On the surface this appears promising, but it has many caveats.

The many exemptions mean that the proposed ports legislation is unlikely to satisfy UNESCO’s concerns, due to the following factors:

  • There is no prohibition on the dumping of dredge spoil in Qld waters of the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area, where over 80% of all World Heritage Area dumping takes place.
  • The prohibition on port development outside existing ports is highly discretionary and port development can still occur at a Qld Minister’s discretion. Furthermore, the public cannot challenge development in port areas. This means that port development could still occur in the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area.
  • There is a potential that existing port boundaries will be enlarged with ‘future investigation areas’.
  • It does not requires an Environment Management Framework for the port’s master plan, only for the development scheme within the master plan.
  • A proposed prohibition on dredging and port development outside established port boundaries will not affect existing proposals that will have major impacts, such as the Wongai development in Cape York. The proposal also will not affect current approvals that have major impacts, such as the Curtis Island LNG processing facility and port expansion.

This uncertainty means that the WHC Mission Report’s specific request that no developments be permitted which create individual, cumulative or combined impacts on the OUV of the GBR, has been ignored.

For more details on the lapsed Ports Bill, see here.

Public comment on the Draft Priority Port Development Area (PPDA) Planning Guideline is still open for public comment until 30 January 2015. Have your say here.

New Planning Legislation

Since 2013, EDO Qld has strongly advocated for transparent and public consultation on proposed new planning legislation. On 28 November 2013, the Queensland Deputy Premier disagreed with EDO Qld’s calls for a public discussion paper on the major proposed reforms of Queensland’s planning legislation.

In September 2014, the Queensland Government released draft Bills for public commentEDO Qld produced fact-sheets based on the September 2014 draft legislation to help explain the changes and what they will mean for you and your community. The facts sheets cover: Community Appeal RightsLoopholesTransparency and Accessibility and Ecologically Sustainable Development.

In November 2014, the Queensland Government formally introduced the Planning and Development (P&D) Bill 2014 and the Planning and Environment Court (P&E Court) Bill 2014. If passed, the Bills will repeal the Sustainable Planning Act 2009. Several of the proposed changes are significant and will affect all planning and development in Queensland.

It appears the new legislation would give local councils more power over which types of development will be open to public notification and appeals, as councils could choose to reduce public participation rights.

For an overview on the September 2014 proposals, read EDO Qld’s submission here. In total, 224 submissions were received and a consultation report was developed. The Parliamentary Committee was in the process of scrutinising the planning bills, until the Queensland State Election was called on 6 January 2015 and the Queensland Government entered ‘caretaker mode’.

Environmental Defenders Office Queensland (EDO Qld) gives a strong legal voice to the environment when needed most.

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