Cassowary Coast Regional Council 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.

Cassowary Coast Regional Council

Interviewees: Daniel Horton, Manager Planning Servicees and Byron Jones, A/Manager Regional and Community Development

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

  • A number of staff are working from home to continue work and are coming into the office as required, ensuring access to Information Technology facilities
  • Team meetings are still occurring (as required) and contact with Staff occurs daily to deal with matters
  • Less complicated applications (80%) are still being decided within 3-5 business days
  • More complicated applications (20%) are still being decided in a timely manner without Council seeking extensions of time from the applicant
  • Limited meetings in the office on a as needs basis
  • Closed front door offices to public
  • Capacity to arrange online pre-lodgement meetings if necessary
  • Plan sealing is still being undertaken by a drop off and pick up arrangement
  • Essential inspections and conducting proactive inspections for engineering, building, plumbing inspections
  • Building admin continue to deal with new applications, inspection certificates, building certificates (property search) and general customer enquires
  • Building Certifier and Plumbing and Drainage Officer still operating (assessments, inspection and dealing with enquires)
  • Council has a dedicated team working on economic, community and social recovery efforts with government, not for profit and other community organisations
  • Customer requests still being addressed and investigated by Planning, Building and Plumbing.

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

  • Information services technology for remote access for staff
  • Capacity to provide CITRIX to all officers is limited to allow all staff the ability to work remotely, however all critical staff have remote access.

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

  • There is uncertainty around how much longer the restrictions around COVID-19 will be in place
  • Local Government elections have just occurred and there is always potential for changes to operations and policies for all councils
  • Council is developing project proposals for possible COVID-19 recovery funding and upcoming State Government elections
  • Council is also reviewing its development incentive scheme and how this may assist the COVID-19 recovery.

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

  • Council welcomes input from the Institute on providing a number of proposed initiatives for council to investigate and propose
  • Use the above point to inform recovery efforts.

Have you implemented any of these proposals?

Focussing resourcing on avoiding delays to plan sealing processes

Yes, we have a dedicated resource completing these applications.

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

Yes, continued focus on getting existing development applications approved as soon as possible and dealing with new applications within the required timeframes.

Establishing a Low Risk Team to process

  • Less complicated applications (80%) are still being decided within 3-5 business days
  • More complicated applications (20%) are still being decided in a timely manner without Council seeking extensions of time from the applicant.

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

Not required at this stage, Council has internal town planning resources in the Regional and Community Development Section which can be called on the assist where required.

Relaxing restrictions on on-site work work hours

Yes, on a case by case basis.

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


Providing immediate offset refunds for LGIP trunk infrastructure

No, however Council does have a Reduction in Infrastructure Charges Policy (Policy No. PRD005)

The aim of this policy is to encourage development that achieves certain strategic objectives for the Cassowary Coast by allowing a reduction in the infrastructure charges payable of up to 100% in relation to certain types of development that are completed within three (3) years of the date of the approval taking effect.

Other initiatives which Council is working on include:

We are continuing to plan for the current and future requirements of residents in the Cassowary Coast Region.

  • A full amendment of the Cassowary Coast Regional Council Planning Scheme 2015 – The project involves a review and amendment of the Cassowary Coast Regional Council Planning Scheme 2015 to more effectively outline preferred development forms with a view of giving greater effect to economic growth policies articulated by the different levels of government in accordance with the provisions of the Planning Act 2016. The amendment is a  proactive approach which provides greater specificity for preferred planning outcomes for key sectoral opportunities within our Region (e.g. tourism and agribusiness) is considered as essential to attract realistic and sustainable investment opportunities and meet the region’s growth needs.
  • The Warrina Lakes Strategic Master Plan – will provide a 10 year vision that establishes the priorities and strategic direction for projects within the Warrina Lakes facility. The master planning process will involve analysing key opportunities and constraints, identifying the potential of the areas assets, improving the environmental values of the site, evaluating current pedestrian and vehicular traffic arrangements, and collaboratively develop market-tested strategies with stakeholders to revive tired areas and structures. The activation of the Warrina Lakes will significantly contribute to a prosperous and liveable region, for both visitors and locals. It is envisaged that Warrina Lakes will be an adaptable open space that allows for future flexibility as the community and open space function and needs change over time.