Queensland's new Office of Growth Management should be empowered with the ability to ensure governmental consistency in policy underpinning planning regulation, according to a prominent planning and development lawyer.
The Queensland Government this week announced the establishment of Growth Management Queensland (GMQ), aimed at bettering development approval processes and creating a coordinated approach to managing population growth in Queensland, whilst removing three key greenfield areas from the planning system.
David Nicholls, partner in HopgoodGanim's planning and development practice, said the decision to transfer responsibility for the development of greenfield areas to the Urban Land Development Authority (ULDA) shows that Queensland's planning system can no longer cope with major projects, largely due to uncoordinated state regulation.
Nicholls believes GMQ should be given the power to ensure new regulation is not inserted into Queensland's planning system in an ad-hoc manner and without consideration of social and economic impacts.
"Since 2004 there has been a rapid increase in state regulation of development, particularly in South-East Queensland," he said.
"Unfortunately, there doesn't seem to be anyone monitoring the long-term social and economic effects of so many layers of regulation."
Nicholls added that as a result, new laws and policies have been embedded in the planning system without due consideration of how the laws intertwine.
"Despite the push for 'ecologically sustainable development' in Queensland, many planning instruments focus purely on ecological considerations, without taking into account the economic and social impacts," he said.
"These factors all deserve equal attention and need to be balanced to achieve outcomes that improve community well-being."
According to Nicholls, Queensland is currently operating under a more complicated, expensive and slow regulatory system than ever before.
"The ULDA has become the 'fast track'. The 'slow road' is made up of all other development areas - most of the urban footprint areas in the State. However, they also deserve consideration in the public interest, and the Government should pay attention to fixing the whole system rather than circumventing it for 'special' cases," he said.
"Over the last few years, the development process has been beset with barricades, diversions and, unfortunately in many cases, dead ends. If Growth Management Queensland is adequately resourced and given the authority to properly coordinate all the Government departments involved in developing regulation, it will go a long way to improving the planning and development system in Queensland."