Noosa Community wins 

The Member for Noosa, Glen Elmes, has described late changes to the State’s new Sustainable Planning Bill as sensible and of benefit to community groups opposed to particular developments.

Mr Elmes said concern had been raised during consultation about the draft Bill that it raised the prospect of community groups being left with significant legal costs for unsuccessful court challenges to proposed developments.

“The Bill as passed through Parliament last night strikes a midway position which doesn’t deter legitimate challenges but also discourages development opposition which has no merit and little prospect of succeeding,” Mr Elmes said.

“I was pleased to see that quite a few submissions to the Committee which considered the draft Bill came from community organisations within the Noosa electorate.

“In fact, the majority of submissions on the costs issue came from Noosa.

“Among them were Noosa Integrated Catchment Association, Noosa Chamber of Commerce, Noosa Parks Association, Noosa Waters Residents Association, and the EDV Residents’ Group.

“I met with both the Deputy Premier and Assistant Minister, and wrote to them on several occasions to ensure the concerns were addressed.

“The Noosa community has proven so often in the past that a professional campaign with widespread community support succeeds, and this legislation supports that process.

“Part of Noosa’s vibrancy is due to the many active community organisations which work to ensure the area’s uniqueness is protected and promoted.

“The essence of this Bill is to support the development of appropriate and necessary infrastructure, while maintaining sufficient environmental and community safeguards.”

Mr Elmes said the Deputy Premier had listened to concerns expressed during public hearings with regard to how individuals and community groups might be dissuaded from legal action for fear of incurring significant costs.

“There will now be a much clearer path for potential opponents to be informed as to the merit of their case before there’s any need to incur court costs,” he said.

“There’s an option for no-cost mediation prior to court action, which will give opponents an indication of whether they have any prospect of succeeding.

“The mediation process can also address any community concerns through agreed changes to the proposed development.

“In cases which do go to court, the new legislation means judgments will take into account a range of issues to weigh up how, if at all, costs should be apportioned.

“I welcome this change from the original proposal which locked the awarding of costs into something of a winner takes all, which was viewed by community organisations as a severe disincentive to pursue opposition to development seen as unsustainable.

“The amended provisions provide a fairer framework within which proponents and opponents alike can assess the best and least costly way to resolve disputes.”

Mr Elmes said the Bill is an important piece of legislation because sustainable development is an important component of getting the Queensland economy “back on track.”

“The construction industry in Queensland contributes about $30 billion to Queensland’s annual Gross State Product of about $260 billion,” he said.

“It employs about 10 percent of the State’s workforce; that is about 224,000 people.

“It is critically important to the State’s economy, which is why it is one of the four pillars along with tourism, agricultural and resources.”