Developers could win big time under planning law changes
TODAY is D Day for Noosa locals and the Sunshine Coast Council to make their feelings felt about the State Government's proposed changes to the planning laws that could tilt local government development legal battles in favour of the developers.
However the public may not be privy to what the Coast council's formal position is on the move to allow the Planning and Environment Court to make the losers in expensive appeal court cases pay both parties' costs.
Public submissions on the Newman Government's Sustainable Planning and Other Legislation Amendment Bill will close this afternoon, but according to Cr Green the council has been gagged on releasing its position.
"Council met yesterday (Monday) about this and put together our submission but we're not allowed to publicly release it," Cr Green told the Noosa News.
"The government in their rules says you must not disclose the contents of your submission - your contents can only be disclosed at the discretion of the State Government at a particular time.
"We can't actually say what council's position is."
Cr Green and a number of Noosa community groups including the Noosa Residents and Ratepayers Association have grave concerns about the proposed move to enable the court to award costs - replacing the existing situation where both sides pay for their own legal fees that can run into the hundreds of thousands of dollars.
The Regional Planning Portfolio head was so concerned by the new direction that he called an 11th hour public meeting complete with council officers on Wednesday at the Tewantin council chambers to help locals who are interested in making a submission. More than 60 people representing about 14 organisations attended.
While Cr Green does not have a problem with all of the seven proposed amendments, he said the awarding of costs recommendation was "a big concern".
"If you have a look in the history of Noosa there have been so many times where there have been co-respondents whether it's the (Noosa) Parks Association, whether it's Noosa Waters Residents Association or whether it's just individuals who feel passionate about something," Cr Green said.
"They're going to be very hesitant now because of the potential for costs.
"You may have a challenge where an applicant may try and push ahead with an application that doesn't have the support of the community or the council, but effectively just try to bankrupt them by spending as much money as they can in a court process."
Cr Green said this costs amendment would be "a real challenging outcome".
"A lot of times we've been to court where we've had wins and we've had some losses. And you would hate to preface all your thinking with - is this a 100 or 200 or $300,000 cost that we're going to bear to the community."
Cr Green said at Wednesday's meeting those attending were to be given dot points on best how to make a submission.
And he said one of the frustrations for locals aware of the changes and keen to have their say, was that the link on the State Government website to make a submission was down all last week.
The councillor said that "some of the reforms are quite good" and were about "making good development in the right place, easier to achieve".
"I personally support all of that but with this one (on court costs) I think they've potentially taken it one step too far."