17 September, 2012

Budget, Fast-tracking Development, Land Clearing



This week’s budget formalises the merger of key water entities in South-East Queensland and formalises the end of the Queensland Water Commission.

The Qld State Government has shut down most of Queensland’s climate and Environment initiatives arguing that the Federal Government’s carbon pricing scheme is duplicating this action. .

In Environment and Heritage Protection the State Government has cut around $20m in funding including two large solar energy generation projects.  $12m has been diverted into the Everyone’s Environment grants program.

Minister Powell say the Qld Government is refocusing his department’s core purpose to be a strong environmental regulator facilitating appropriate, sustainable development while also being a protector of Queensland’s heritage.

The Qld State Government aims to be fiscally prudent, pro-environment and pro-business believing that that these elements are not mutually exclusive.

Environmental Protection Regulation Amendment Project

On Friday 24 August 2012, the Temporary State Planning Policy 2/12 Planning for Prosperity (TSPP 2/12) came into effect.

This is the new Government’s first State Planning Policy. The TSPP 2/12 has been introduced as the pre-cursor to a single State Planning Policy that will combine 14 existing State Planning Policies into one.

The new policy is, indeed, concise – only 7 pages long - but its reach appears quite long. The policy’s Preamble explains that it must be reflected in relevant State and local government decision making.

The Queensland Government is fast-tracking development for it four pillars:
  • agriculture
  • tourism
  • mining/resource extraction
  • Construction.  

The TSPP 2/12 then sets forth broad objectives for each industry.

However, the policies do not apply to a local government's assessment of development applications.

TSPP 2/12 requires referral agencies (but not local government assessment managers) to apply the policy at the decision- making stage of assessment, with the aim of protecting land uses and reducing incompatible uses.

While TSPP 2/12’s policies do not apply to the assessment of a development application or assessment of a master plan (TSPP 2/12, ss 1.3.1 and 1.3.2), conflicts with such planning instruments are to be resolved by giving additional weight to:
·       agricultural uses in areas zoned for agricultural uses
·        urban uses in areas zoned for urban uses
·        tourist development shown to be complementary to an area’s environmental, scenic and cultural values
·       mineral and extractive resources development shown to be complementary to an area’s primary intended land use. (TSPP 2/12 s 2.3).

The policy indicates that the Government will facilitate and removal of some costs to development. The policy aims to 'speed not impede' development, allowing developers to maximise the economic potential of projects.

More specifically, TSPP 2/12 applies to the full range of circumstances set out in the Sustainable Planning Act 2009, including a referral agency’s assessment of a development application (TSPP2/12 s 1.3).

In addition, TSPP 2/12 is to be applied in the making or amending of regional plans or local plans, as well as in designations of land for community infrastructure (ss 1.4, 2.1 – 2.3).

Vegetation Management

Minister for Natural Resources and Mines Andrew Cripps announced a strategy that will aim to streamline vegetation management across Queensland.

The management of vegetation is currently regulated by several Acts of Parliament, including:
·         Sustainable Planning Act 2009
·         Vegetation Management Act 1999
·         Nature Conservation Act 1992.

Each Act has a different function and any person proposing to clear vegetation may need approvals under one or more legislation depending upon the geographic area, tenure of the land, whether or not the ecosystem is identified as remnant ecosystem, or if the activity involves rare or threatened plants.

Mr Cripps plans to make reforms to the Vegetation Management Act and underlying regulations to allow landholders to:
• Undertake routine management activities such as vegetation thinning, weed control, fodder harvesting and clearing of vegetation encroachment in accordance with self –assessable codes and without the need to regularly apply for permits;
• Receive exemptions for vegetation management activities undertaken to allow for environmental works, and as part of clean-up operations following natural disasters.

In addition, the Department of Natural Resources and Mines will work with local Natural Resource Management and other groups to create practical Area Management Plans (AMPs).

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