Whose SEQ Regional Plan?

Quite a few people from the community groups Lockyer Community Action Inc. and Lockyer Uplands Catchments Inc. went to the consultation meeting on the draft SEQ Regional Plan last month.

The first surprise was that there was not to be any presentation about the background, objectives, structure or process leading up to the production of the draft.  Instead, the public were to be provided with “consultations” with individual planners.  A novel idea, but it would have been much more useful had we been provided with an overview of the draft from the planner responsible for preparing the document.

The second surprise came when we were led into the meeting room and introduced to a planner by one of the “ushers” who had been issuing numbers to the public in the foyer – she told us that we had a limit of 10 minutes with the planner.

Despite the planner my partner and I were paired up with doing her best, many of our questions were outside of her field of involvement in the preparation of the draft plan, so we didn’t really get satisfactory answers to our questions and certainly did not have a usefully informative discussion on the topics of concern to us.

The others in our group came away from their meetings with very similar feelings.

It was with some delight that I came across the article below in today’s issue of The Conversation – it pretty much sums up my misgivings about the consultation process, the preparation of the plan, and the general thrust of its content.

Overall, the issues below are illustrative of my general impression from a number of exchanges with different arms of the State government in the last year that we are not being well served by this government, and that their priorities are much more aligned with those of developers and industry.

Here’s the article:

ShapingSEQ regional plan gives ‘stakeholders’ a bigger say than citizens

Brian Feeney, The University of Queensland

Special interest groups have had much more influence than the wider community on the new regional plan for Southeast Queensland. A draft of the plan, ShapingSEQ, was recently released for comment. Prior input from the wider community was limited to submitting “thought bubbles” about the region without having the benefit of any report card on how the previous plan had performed.

This process did not accurately gauge community concerns and submitters were not a representative sample. Perhaps it gave people the feeling they’d “had a say”. The process just as likely reinforced cynicism about government consultation.

Regional planning in Southeast Queensland began in the early 1990s when councils in the region signed up to the Regional Framework for Growth Management. This was a non-binding set of guidelines promoted by the state government to manage land-use change.

Subsequently, this framework evolved into a statutory regional plan in 2005. It is noteworthy that consultation in the lead-up to the 2005 plan included the public release of discussion papers with options for the region’s future.

The initial focus was very much on getting southeast Queensland councils to accept the need for regional planning. At that time, the role of the wider community was relatively minor.

A 1990 meeting of representatives from government, business, trade unions, professional groups and community organisations was an important impetus for starting the regional planning process. This “stakeholder” model of community engagement has been the dominant form of consultation ever since.

Stakeholders or citizens?

Stakeholders have particular vested interests – such as protecting the environment, promoting a business sector, or advancing a government agency’s agenda.

Preparation of the 2016 draft plan involved several of these stakeholder “reference groups”. Participants in these groups were there to advocate for the organisation they represent, often making it more difficult to find “outside-the-box” solutions.

Consultation by negotiating with stakeholders is consistent with the dominant view that explicitly pursuing the public interest is less important than growing the economy. Consequently, an “issue management” approach has been taken, with stakeholders “competing” for influence over which development regulations are put in place. Within this worldview, trade-offs between stakeholders usually take place in a “growth first” framework.

An alternative is to promote informed deliberation by citizens who don’t represent particular interests. The Perth Dialogue with the City process shows how this “citizen” approach can work.

This was a process of engagement with a large group of demographically representative Perth citizens. They were provided with relevant in-depth information before their deliberations about the city’s future.

Wide consultation overdue

It has been at least ten years since there was either an open performance review of southeast Queensland regional planning, or consultation with the wider community on options for the region’s future. Engagement with the wider community is particularly important now for a couple of reasons.

First, the 2016 draft plan claims to have a 50-year vision horizon, compared to the previous plan’s 20 years. Because of this change, the wider community should have been engaged in developing this new vision rather than being presented with a fait accompli in the draft plan.

The ShapingSEQ draft plan seems to have more of a ‘growth first’ approach than the 2009 regional plan.
Queensland Government

Second, the draft plan represents a significant change of focus from the previous 2009 plan. That plan aimed to reduce the region’s ecological footprint and mitigate climate change by reducing greenhouse gas emissions. In contrast, the 2016 draft seems to be adopting a more “growth first” approach.

It is noteworthy that virtually all references to climate change in this new draft are about adapting to change rather than reducing greenhouse gas emissions. These significant changes should have been widely debated before the draft plan was prepared.

Independent report card needed

For a debate on future directions to be genuine, the community needs an independent, comprehensive report card on how things are tracking.

The draft plan has ten indicators, some of which show modest improvement. However, other indicators, such as housing affordability and loss of biodiversity, have gone backwards. And koala numbers continue to decline.

The report card should also acknowledge that Australia (including southeast Queensland) has one of the worst records for resource use and greenhouse gas emissions per unit of economic output of any developed country.

Moving beyond ‘predict and provide’

The draft plan largely takes a basic “provide land for the predicted demand” approach, which assumes that regional planning is a type of technical process best left to the experts.

However, regional planning always involves trade-offs between different economic, social and environmental values. These should be openly discussed through genuine community engagement.

By not providing opportunities for such engagement, the draft plan has failed to give the community a real say in the region’s future.

ShapingSEQ is open for community feedback by formal submission until midnight, Friday, March 3 2017.

The Conversation

Brian Feeney, Urban Planning Researcher, The University of Queensland

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Nice try. More work needed – and in another location, without all the people living nearby

The proposed motocross development at Adare could possibly, with a lot more work on the concept and the details, be a good idea.  But not at Adare.

It’s just  in the wrong location, even if judged only on the number of people impacted.

The Qld Moto Park at Wyaralong, on the other hand, is an example of a properly located motocross facility – there are only about 120 people living within 4km.  At the Adare site, here are 900 people living within 4km of the proposed motocross property, including a lot of young people who don’t need their nights and weekends blighted by motocross and traffic noise.

demographic table QMP vs Adare[1] Compiled using the 2011 Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) Census Data for the localities closest in proximity to the proposed development.  Where census data is not available at the necessary scale for a locality, extrapolations have been made from an adjacent locality close to the proposed development.
[2] Note: 0-19 years includes those aged 0-14 years.[3] Sources: http://www.abs.gov.au/websitedbs/censushome.nsf/home/quickstats and Google Earth imagery and overlays to locate houses and properties within specified radii of the properties.


The $4 million QMP (Queensland Moto Park) facility between Beaudesert and Boonah was developed through the efforts of the SEQ Council of Mayors, the SEQ Councils, and the State Government.

The LVRC Mayor, Steve Jones,  as the Chair of the SEQ Council of Mayors Trail Bike Task Force, played a significant part over a number of years in the development of the project.  The QMP Wyaralong facility is a well-planned site following strict design and operating criteria.

Clearly, even judging only by the number of dwellings and residents adjacent to the site, the location of the proposed Adare development has not been well planned.

MX tracks and their poor relationships with neighbours and local government

The quote below is from the introduction to a review of the relationships between motocross tracks and their neighbours and local government agencies.  The quote below is from the introduction to reviews of the histories of eight existing or proposed motocross tracks in America.

At the Oct 21 Conditional Use Hearing regarding the Thomas Conditional Use proposal for motocross/camping in rural Clackamas County, testimony was given in support of the proposal based on claims that motocross was “family friendly”. A man stated that Washougal MX had expensive homes in the vicinity of the MX tracks and that local residents and the commercial MX business had happy relationships.

Extensive research into the functioning and relationships multiple MX facilities, whether permitted or unpermitted, have with their neighbors and with their County planning departments proves conclusively that it is totally false to claim motocross events can happily co-exist with residential areas.

Every case I researched, including Washougal MX, proved that  residents within earshot of MX tracks are miserable and that they consider motocross a serious nuisance which steals their quality of life and degrades and pollutes land. Counties have extra work loads to enforce MX code infractions and have ongoing struggles related to traffic, crowd control, noise, and regulating environmental damage. Local police and emergency services are impacted as well.


Any claims that the proposed Adare motocross track will be family oriented don’t take into account the impacts on families among the 900+ people living in the vicinity of the track.

Emergency Services

It’s worth noting the mention of impacts on police and emergency services as well.  That has also been the experience with the Black Duck Valley and the Wyaralong tracks in Southeast Queensland.

Noise as an Amenity Impact

There’s a nice quote from a county examiner (sort of like our LVRC Assessment Manager) in relation to noise [LVRC please note]:

pg. 24 item h. iii: “Even when the noise does not drown out conversation or disturb people sleeping or exceed 57 dbA, it increases the noise levels frequently enough and in amounts and for a duration that is enough to detract from the character of the area as rural residential. The examiner finds that such an impact is significantly detrimental to people nearest the site.”

Noise issues are NOT just about loudness as measured in decibels!  They are about loss of rural/natural amenity, and about stress and anxiety caused by ongoing, long-term exposure to noise which is not part of the local environment.

Loudness Requirements Can Stop Motocross

But, in terms of loudness of MX noise, the article quotes a complaint that: … imposed sound limitations that are so restrictive they effectively deny the permit application.”

As if the fact that MX operations can’t comply with mandated noise limits is somehow the fault of the legislators, or is a direct attack on MX as a business, instead of being a standard of what is reasonable noise in a particular environment.

Emu Creek track in the Tenterfield Council area is one example.  After a lot of time, court cases and expense the Tenterfield Council imposed noise and operating time limits on the motocross activities at Emu Creek, which they claim they could not meet from a business point of view.  They are still in business and seem to have moved to mountain bike and Bicycle MX activities to replace the motocross element of their custom.

It’s also worth noting that in the case of the Emu Creek motocross, Tenterfield Council monitored maximum noise levels [L(A)max], rather than averaged noise levels over a (usually long) period [L(A)eq], because they said it was more objective when long-term, long period noise was considered.  The Adare proponent’s Noise Study uses averaged noise levels, which always appear more favourable to the proponent’s case.

Costs to Council for Ongoing Compliance Action

The case studies refer to costs to all parties for the application (including appeals) procedures and for ongoing compliance.  In our own area, the Emu Creek case mentioned above is said to have cost the Tenterfield Council in excess of $66,000 for compliance monitoring and court costs before it stopped the noise nuisance.