Legislation update

Comprehensive roundup: emergency amendments to the Planning Act and Economic Development Act

By Sarah Macoun / 24 March 2020
6 min.
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Worthwhile read for: Business Owner, Manufacturer, CEO, COO

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic the state government has introduced new laws to urgently amend the planning framework. The Public Health and Other Legislation (Public Health Emergency) Amendment Bill 2020 was introduced and passed on 18 March and the Act commenced on 19 March. 

The emergency amendments include changes to the Planning Act 2016 and the Economic Development Act 2012. The changes are intended to:

  • ensure that there is an immediate ability to manage supply chains for businesses by allowing 24 hours, seven days per week operating conditions in order to provide goods and services to the community; and
  • allow statutory timeframes to be suspended or extended where the community and workforces are adversely affected by COVID-19.

In the case of the Planning Act, the Act inserts a new Part 4 titled ‘Applicable Events’. The amendments introduce four key changes designed to achieve the objects of the Act as follows:

  1. the declaration of “applicable events”;
  2. the ability to issue “temporary use licences”;
  3. the power to declare uses and classes of uses for the applicable event; and
  4. extending and suspending statutory timeframes.

The amendments to the Planning Act and the Economic Development Act are consistent with each other. 

In this alert partner Sarah Macoun and solicitor Kate Thorogood discuss what the amendments are and how they will work in practice. 

Declaration of applicable events

The amendments allow the Minister to declare an applicable event if they are satisfied that an event has taken place, is taking place or is likely to take place and the event may affect a state interest under the Planning Act.

On 20 March the Minister declared that the COVID-19 emergency is an applicable event for the whole of the state of Queensland for the period of 20 March to 20 June inclusive. 

It is expressly contemplated in the explanatory material that in future an “applicable event” could also include floods, cyclones, bushfires or other public health emergencies.

Temporary use licences

Under the Planning Act, when an applicable event has been declared, a person may apply for a temporary use licence for premises located in the area that the applicable event notice applies to. A similar application may be made under the Economic Development Act where the premises are also located in a priority development area (PDA) or associated land for a PDA. 

The application can be for a licence that:

  • if a development approval for a material change of use is in effect for the premises - changes a condition of the development approval;
  • if the premises is a designated premises—provides that a use of the premises is not required to comply with a requirement about the use stated in the designation for the premises;
  • otherwise - changes the existing lawful use of the premises, including, for example, by:
    • increasing the intensity or scale of the existing lawful use; 
    • adding a new use; or
    • replacing the existing lawful use with a new use.

The Minister must consider the application and either refuse or issue the licence with or without conditions. The licence may only be granted if the Minister is satisfied that there are reasonable grounds for authorising the temporary change of use during the applicable event. The licence may only be granted for the period in the notice for the applicable event.

Temporary use licencing is intended to ensure that there is an immediate ability to manage supply chains for businesses by allowing 24 hours, seven days per week operating conditions in order to provide goods and services to the community.

The Department of State Development, Manufacturing, Infrastructure and Planning (DSDMIP) website advises that further information about temporary use licences and a register of temporary use licences will be provided soon.

Declaration of uses and classes of uses

Where an applicable event has been declared, as it has now, the Minister may publish a notice to declare that limitations on the hours of operation or restrictions on the movement of goods are removed for a use or use of a class of use/s. 

On 20 March 2020 the Minister made a declaration for the whole of Queensland for shop use and warehouse and transport depot uses directly necessary to for the supply of goods to a shop. The definition of shop for the purpose of the declaration does not include adult store, agricultural supply store, betting shop, food and drink outlet, garden centre, hardware and trade supplies, heath care services, market, outdoor sales, service station (excluding shop component) and showroom.

The effect of such a declaration is that to the extent that a provision of the relevant act, designation requirement or development condition have the effect of limiting the hours of operation of the use they do not apply for the period that the declaration is in effect (which per the current declaration is 20 June 2020).

Like the temporary use licencing, the declaration of uses amendment is intended to ensure that important services can continue to be provided to the community as needed. 

Extending and suspending statutory timeframes

Where an applicable event has been declared, the Minister can, by publishing a notice on the relevant department’s website, extend or suspend a period under the Planning Act or the Economic Development Act to do a thing. The provisions apply to all statutory timeframes under the Planning Act and the Economic Development Act. The only limitation is the Minister must be satisfied that the extension of time is necessary.

The effect of an extension is that any period that starts during the extension notice period or a relevant period that had started before the extension notice period but is not ended, is afforded the stated extension of time to complete that period.

The effect of a suspension is that the relevant period that starts during the suspension notice period or a relevant period that had started before the suspension notice but is not ended, is suspended and any action done under this suspended relevant period is taken to have no effect.

This amendment will allow statutory timeframes to be suspended or extended where the community and workforces are adversely affected by COVID-19.

No extension notice or suspension notice have been given yet.

For further information or assistance, please contact our Planning and Environment team.

1 'Designated premise’ means: a premise designated by the Minister or a local government for the development of certain infrastructure prescribed by regulation.

Authors
Sarah Macoun
Partner
Sarah is a Partner in our Planning and Environment practice and offers extensive experience in the areas of planning approvals, litigation and dispute resolution, together with many years of experience and a keen interest in environmental legislation and...
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