QUEENSLAND Deputy Premier Jeff Seeney has again stepped into the storm of controversy surrounding the draft Moreton Bay Regional Council Planning Scheme.
The Local Government Association of Queensland is concerned his ministerial direction for the council to ignore any "theoretical projected sea level rise due to climate change" in its draft planning scheme might have consequences throughout the state.
And MBRC Mayor Allan Sutherland has warned it could leave residents waiting until the end of next year for a completed planning scheme.
Despite public pressure, the council has been hesitant to remove any assumptions about sea level rise from the scheme, arguing it would open future administrations up to legal action.
Mayor Allan Sutherland said he'd received legal advice from "the best silks in Australia, via the LGAQ" that the ministerial direction meant the council could remove the predicted rises from the planning scheme but would still need to consider them in the development approval process.
"In lay terms we can take it out and get rid of it (theoretical sea level rise due to climate change) it's out of our planning scheme and no one can see it but when someone comes along and puts an application in we have a very real obligation to include that and take that into account in our DA assessment, otherwise we could be held liable," he said, as councillors addressed the letter in a Coordination Committee meeting on Tuesday.
In his ministerial direction, the Deputy Premier said he had introduced a bill to fix this discrepancy. But the Mayor said he understood the bill wouldn't come into place until October next year, potentially holding up the planning scheme until December.
The Deputy Premier didn't respond to questions about legislation changes or council liability but said he intervened to "ensure resident's rights to build and develop their properties was maintained and not restricted by their local council".
"The state understands and expects councils to take account of potential climate change issues in the planning of new developments," he said.
"However they must take a more understanding and sensible approach to existing suburbs to ensure homeowners maintain existing rights such as being able to construct a deck on their house, or make other improvements to their property."
The Mayor and the LGAQ have both written to the Deputy Premier seeking clarification.
"What we need in working for councils is their should be consistency," LGAQ president Margaret de Wit said.
"We want to know if there will be other councils who will be directed to remove the reference to sea level rise from their existing or draft schemes."Moreton Bay Communities Alliance chairman Ken Park said there was a long way to go before residents could "own" the plan. "It is regrettable that we are now in state election mode, so we can expect a degree of politicking as the saga unfolds," he said.
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