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Public Notification During the COVID-19 Pandemic July 20, 2020

The COVID-19 Emergency Response Act 2020 (Qld) (The Act) commenced on 23 April 2020 in response to a range of issues faced by industries and government, as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The COVID Emergency Act includes powers to make what extraordinary regulations for relevant matters.  Section 9(n) of the Act states that the publication or display of a notice or advertisement is a relevant matter.

The Act provides that a regulation made under the Act may prescribing modified requirement or arrangements or suspend requirements or arrangements for relevant matters. Inherent in this relevant matter is the public notification regime for development applications.

Queensland’s planning system has been the public notification of development applications to enable submissions from the community and other stakeholders.

The Development Application Rules (DA Rules) prescribe the manner in which public notification must occur, and for how long. One aspect of this includes advertising in a newspaper generally circulating in the area

With the economic downturn of associated with the COVID-19 pandemic, many newspapers in regional areas have ceased their print editions.

The COVID Emergency Planning Regulation came into effect on 26 June 2020 (COVID Planning Regulation) and was made under the Act. Amongst other things, the COVID Planning Regulation provided a process for public notification for development applications (including other change applications) which had not yet undergone public notification. These COVID Planning Regulation will expire on 31 December 2020 unless extended. With the

Amendment of the DA Rules

Public notification may now occur in an online version of a local newspaper if there is no hardcopy newspaper circulating generally in the area where the development application is located. The COVID Planning Regulation also prescribes what a notice must look like when appearing in an online newspaper.

Public notification when no local newspaper

When public notification occurs and there is no local newspaper, an application for a development application must do at least one of the following.

  • By publishing in a hard copy State or national newspaper, in the requisite form.
  • By publishing a notice at least once in an online State or national newspaper contain the relevant information for the development application
  • By giving a notice that complies with the relevant public notice requirements for the application to the occupier of each lot in the identified area for the application
  • By the assessment manager for the development application publishing notice that includes the relevant information for the application if development applications are published on the assessment managers website.

Whether a development application is located in an identified area is determined by the assessment manager, but will be the area identified as having occupiers that are likely to be interested in the application.

Impacts of the Amendments

There may be significant cost if an applicant elects to give a notice to the occupier of each lot in the identified area for the application, there may be significant cost in doing so, depending on what extent of the identified area for the development application is.

If this approach is used, interstate and stakeholders residing outside of the area may not be notified of the development application. It also means that the usual requirements to give notice to owners of adjoining land

If you are intending to lodge a development application in an area which has recently lost its hard copy newspaper, these rules will affect the public notification process for your development application. For advice on how best to undertake public notification of developments in such areas, Stokes Lawyers can give you advice on how best to do so to ensure that the public notification process occurs with minimal delay.

The COVID Planning Regulation will expire on 31 December 2020 unless extended. With the cessation of regional print newspapers, we expect consideration of whether aspects are the COVID Planning Regulation will become a permanent feature of the Queensland planning system.

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