Given the uncertainty taking place worldwide as a result of COVID-19, the Queensland Government has introduced various statutory amendments to the planning legislation in order to assist communities and industries during this time.

Urgent amendments to Queensland's planning framework have been made to extend operating hours to 24 hours a day in response to supply chain demands, to issue 'temporary use licences' ensuring important services may continue to be provided to the community, and to allow for the suspension or extension of statutory timeframes.

Amendments to the Planning Act 2016 (Qld) allow the Minister to declare an 'applicable event', which is not necessarily limited to the increasing COVID-19 emergency, but could also apply to natural disasters (eg. bushfires).

The Minister has already declared an 'applicable event' from 20 March 2020 to 20 June 2020 for the COVID-19 emergency, a copy of which is available here.

During an 'applicable event period':

  • Certain 'declared uses' will be allowed to operate 24 hours a day in order to provide goods and services to the community. This will allow, for example, supermarkets to restock their shelves around the clock without breaching development approval conditions.
  • Applications can be made to the Chief Executive for a 'temporary use licence', which will provide relief from approval conditions or other operating constraints. This will ensure that important services are continually provided to the community in an applicable event.
  • The Planning Minister can suspend or extend statutory timeframes across the planning framework. This will provide for development assessment timeframes to be appropriately managed by state and local governments (eg. if local government workforces are adversely affected), and potentially avoid deemed approvals/refusals of development applications.

Similar amendments have also been made to the Economic Development Act 2012 (Qld), to provide similar powers for priority development areas.

The Public Health and Other Legislation (Public Health Emergency) Amendment Act 2020 (Qld) was introduced and passed by Parliament on 18 March 2020, and rapidly came into force on 19 March 2020.

This approach by the Department of State Development, Manufacturing, Infrastructure and Planning in welcomed and responds to a potential scenario where industry, government or the community may be significantly affected by measures introduced to combat COVID-19, such as self-isolation and a work-from-home workforce. The amendments are considered imperative to ensure that important services remain available and accessible to the Queensland community.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

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