Gympie continues to grow.
Gympie continues to grow. Craig Warhurst

Gympie roped in-to planning law

GYMPIE region residents have lost control of their future with new oppressive State Government planning laws over-riding local government, regional council Planning Committee chairman Ian Petersen said yesterday.

Cr Petersen has clashed with Mayor Ron Dyne over the introduction of a Statutory Regional Plan for the larger area that includes Gympie – along the lines of the still-controversial South East Queensland and Far North Queensland Regional Plans.

Cr Dyne has claimed early inclusion of Gympie in the State Government’s takeover of planning issues would allow council to be “part of the process”.

Cr Petersen has responded that this is something like “the turkey looking forward to Christmas dinner”.

Cr Petersen is also at odds with the Wide Bay Burnett Regional Organisation of Councils (including Gympie), of which Cr Dyne is the chair.

Cr Petersen said WBBROC, through its Planning Advisory Committee, is strongly supporting Statutory Regional Plans and has actively encouraged the government to designate Wide Bay Burnett as the next regional plan to be rolled out.

Cr Petersen says Gympie has benefited from “refugees” from the inflexibility of the South East Queensland plan, which takes effect from the Sunshine Coast Regional Council boundary.

“One of the greatest drivers of the exceptional growth that we have enjoyed in our region has been the migration of people fleeing the horrors of the SEQ Statutory Plan.

“This has enabled us to maintain growth through the global economic crisis, while the Sunshine Coast has seen massive reductions in applications.

“Why are we so anxious to destroy our competitive advantage as soon as possible?” he said.

Cr Petersen said there was no doubt Gympie Region had outgrown its existing planning schemes, but says introduction of a new regional scheme could have been delayed until new council plans had been formulated, with consultation and public discussion.

It would also have been smarter “to see the ramifications of the new Sustainable Planning Act” which he said had only just replaced the previous State planning law, the Integrated Planning Act.

“Because of strong growth, we have well and truly outgrown our current planning scheme and that is why we are going flat out on developing a new one.

“Unfortunately, these new regulations lock us into the current outdated scheme.

“Even if we accept that the new system was inevitable, surely we could have achieved a much better outcome by delaying it until we had a better understanding of all the other elements in play.

“The SEQ Plan has delivered some very obvious disadvantages and I am aware of considerable angst within Cairns Regional Council in relation to the FNQ Regional Plan.

“These are very rigid documents which do not allow any flexibility and virtually remove councillors from the decision making process,” he said. “The stated aim is to prevent urban sprawl, limiting subdivisions outside the urban footprint, setting a minimum lot size of 100ha in the regional landscape and rural production areas, limit rural residential subdivision and control urban activities outside the urban footprint.

Cr Petersen warned that while the new regional plan was still only a “draft”, regulations tabled in Parliament at the same time made it effective now.

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