In August 2007, the Queensland Government introduced legislation to bring about forced amalgamations of many local governments in Queensland.
Extensive argument was responded to by Premier Beattie, who proposed the introduction of ‘iconic legislation’ to afford protection to the particular characteristics of distinctive places, particularly from the councils-to-be-subsumed of Noosa and Douglas.
One month has been offered (from mid August 2007) for stakeholders to suggest the form and intent of the legislation prior to the government commencing to draft the legislation. It will then be introduced into parliament in late October/early November 2007 and brought into effect by 15 March 2008, prior to Council elections.
‘Iconic’ has been described as including areas of state or national significance, areas of historical significance, areas of unique natural environment and World Heritage areas like the Reef, Daintree & Sandy Straits. It may be an area where development growth is restrained and sustainability is more important than growth.
The stated intent of the proposed legislation is to give the force of state law to already existing planning schemes in environmentally significant and important areas, to ensure those planning schemes now have more grunt and the clout to ensure icons are even more protected, to allow appropriate development to continue but with the new laws, planning schemes in these areas become more powerful than ever.
I can only imagine that the underlying motive of this exercise is to extract political capital from the illusion of parliamentary concern. In the Daintree, for example, World Heritage is already quarantined from development. The Convention for the Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage is enabled domestically under the provisions of the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 and the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Heritage Protection Act 1984. Queensland’s Wet Tropics World Heritage Protection and Management Act 1993, provides statutory authority to ensure Australia’s international obligations, as defined within the World Heritage Convention, are met. The Integrated Planning Act 1997 provides another level of protection and local government is utterly subordinate to state interests in the adoption of planning scheme amendments.