Brisbane Planning Director survey reveals COVID-19 “state of play”

COVID-19 had resulted in rapid change in planning departments across the State.

Early analysis of interviews conducted by the Institute on 7 and 8 April 2020 with Planning Directors in both metropolitan and regional locations throughout the State shows planning teams are quickly moving to remote working and are cognisant of their critical role in saving industry jobs by getting on with core business on their side of the fence.

Brisbane City Council

Interviewees: Dyan Currie, Chief Planner and Marcus Mulholland, Development Services Manager

What changes have you made to your department to ensure business continuity?

  • Transition of as many staff to working from home as possible
  • Changed way some services are delivered – e.g. virtual meetings and social distancing arrangements in inspections
  • Modifications made to the way some services are delivered to ensure outcomes are still able to be achieved.

What has been the greatest challenge or obstacle you have run into?

  • Technology e.g. in-person signing of contracts and hard copy plans of survey
  • Dealing with the fast changing pace of the issue and ensuring that the appropriate business processes are put in place for working in a remote environment for all participants. While council has responded quickly, not everyone can
  • While the present period is challenging, it has also presented opportunities and new ways of doing business which are likely to hold us in good stead into the future

What is the next change you think you will need to put in place to respond?

  • Sustaining the transition
  • Changing environment around social isolation – e.g. lockdown would present different challenges and require a different approach

How can the Institute be included in the development of your recovery plan?

  • Ground truthing of ideas in terms of practicality of different potential responses to COVID-19.

Have you implemented any of these proposals?

Focussing resourcing on avoiding delays to plan sealing processes

Implementing but more to go, may be potential for more. Process still important, want to ensure we maintain that service. Adjustment to how service is delivered.

Investing more resourcing in avoiding delays to existing Development Applications (DAs)

Ability to make DA decisions has been maintained and is improving in some situations. Resource profile is keeping up with demand.

Establishing a Low Risk Team to process 

BAU – AssessSmart, RiskSmart being maintained

Pre-emptively establishing outsourcing arrangements or a pre-qualified suppliers panel for planning, engineering and other relevant professions

RiskSmart, SealSmart and associated engineering program already in place and continuing.

Relaxing restrictions on on-site work work hours

Restricted by EP Act. Increase in noise complaints currently.

Providing a new home builder’s grant (like Rockhampton Regional Council)

Still considering.

Providing immediate offset refunds for LGIP trunk infrastructure

Options are being considered and working through implications.