SEQ Mayors defend local democracy for community say in planning

08 / Apr / 2011 | News

SEQ Mayors will today launch a campaign to defend the right of local communities to have their say in the future shape of South East Queensland.

Council of Mayors (SEQ) Acting Chairman Councillor John Brent said the State Government’s planning powers, through the Urban Land Development Authority (ULDA), encroached upon the fundamental right of the community to vote out the people responsible for planning decisions.

“Councillors are directly accountable to the communities in which they live, not just at election time, but at the supermarket, the local club and everywhere else locals wish to express their views,” Cr Brent told a forum in Brisbane today.

“The community can’t voice their concerns to an unelected faceless bureaucrat or a distant State minister.

“State and Local Governments in Queensland have worked well together to develop and implement the SEQ Regional Plan, but the creation and expansion of the ULDA is taking planning out of the hands of local communities.”

An independent report, prepared by Professor Kenneth Wiltshire AO and Dr Stephen Jones of the University of Queensland Business School, will be released today, warning that undermining the role of local government in planning could seriously impact on local democracy and accountability as well as breaching the ‘subsidiarity principle’ of good government.

The report warned that local communities in Queensland are losing control over their quality of life and that new forms of urban planning, development, infrastructure provision and service delivery are threatening the traditional structures of urban governance in Queensland, reducing the role of local government and giving more power to the State Government and private interest.

The report recommends placing severe constraints on the use of fast tracking which should only be used for emergency situations; the abolition of the ULDA and a clearer identification of the roles and responsibilities of the three levels of government in the Australian federation, from a local community participation perspective.

Sunshine Coast Regional Council Mayor Councillor Bob Abbot said his community was totally opposed to the State Government’s decision to strip his council of planning responsibility for the new suburb of Caloundra South and give it to the unelected ULDA.

“We want to plan for a community that has the highest standards of social, environmental and economic infrastructure,” Cr Abbot said.

“But the ULDA wants to cut every corner in the interests of an ill defined ‘affordability’ agenda.

“The developers are delighted, but the local community is outraged. The level of government closest to the people should be engaging with the community to make decisions about planning, not unelected bureaucrats,” he said.

The Council of Mayors (SEQ) will be calling on both sides of politics to review the legislation surrounding the ULDA to give planning control back to councils while improving the provision of State and local infrastructure.

“SEQ Mayors are committed to take on that fight on behalf of the residents of SEQ and return planning authority where it belongs, with Local Government and local communities,” Cr Abbot said.

“The rights of the community to be involved, to appeal and most importantly to vote out the people responsible for decisions have been removed and we want those rights back.”