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[QLD] Council development hand-back begins

Brisbane Times, 31 May 2012

Queensland councils will soon take back control for planning urban development areas, with Premier Campbell Newman announcing the first step in removing a key state planning body’s authority. In the lead-up to the March 24 election, which his party comprehensively won, Mr Newman vowed to wind down the Urban Land Development Authority as part of his push to “re-empower” councils.

The ULDA was set up by the former Labor government to take charge of planning and assessing proposals in numerous urban development areas, including four in Brisbane – Bowen Hills, Woolloongabba, Northshore Hamilton and Fitzgibbon.

Mr Newman told Parliament this morning the government would use a section of existing legislation to start handing back power to councils.

Under section 136 of the Urban Land Development Authority Act, the ULDA may delegate its functions to the chief executive officer of a local government.

Mr Newman blasted the Labor-passed law, saying even the ability to delegate was linked to a public servant rather than the democratically-elected council.

But he said the LNP government would use the existing law as a first step toward re-empowering councils to plan the 17 urban development areas across Queensland.

This would begin with the four urban development areas within Brisbane City Council boundaries, but would also see power progressively handed back to other councils.

However, Mr Newman said councils would need to meet the same ULDA timeframes to hold onto the powers and the delegation step was subject to each council’s willingness to take on the responsibility.

Mr Newman said he would like to assure all property owners in the key areas they would not be adversely affected by the decision.

“It’s business as usual,” he said, adding the delegations would apply to new development applications.

Mr Newman said his deputy, Jeff Seeney, was working on the issue and flagged potential legislative changes in the future.

“This is a good and quick first step,” he said.

The former government set up the ULDA as part of its housing affordability strategy, saying the body would be able to help bring new property to market.

However, Mr Newman today argued the ULDA’s creation was reflective of a “centralised, ‘we know best here in George Street’ approach”.

“If Queensland’s planning system worked well there wouldn’t need to be an Urban Land Development Authority,” he said.

Mr Seeney said the ULDA also had a planning role in some regional Queensland mining communities, but this would be taken back into the Department of State Development, Infrastructure and Planning.

He raised concern about the accommodation crisis in Moranbah, Blackwater and Emerald, saying country towns had been “smothered” and “taken over as a mining camp”.

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