Fraser Coast 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.

Fraser Coast Regional Council

Interviewee: Gerard Carlyon, Director of Development and Community 

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

  • Few things: Closed front development inquires counter but available by appointments. Prelodgement still available. Officers still available. Business as usual.

  • Plan sealing and pre-start meetings still occurring

  • Essential inspections still on for engineering, building, plumbing

  • Brought on a consultant engineer to increase engineering capacity – expedite projects for the region to continue to work on

  • Number of staff working from home -some staff. Still large number staff in work and maintain social distancing

  • Engagement – Set up a economic recovery group – Local UDIA Fraser Coast BP is included.

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

  • Teething problems working from home

  • Service delivery hasn’t been good enough due to staff absences.

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

  • Background planning is currently being undertaken in response to the fluid situation e.g. alternative work arrangement where social distancing increases and restrictions increase

  • Ensuring DAs are processed to build on a platform to ready the council for recovery.

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

  • Engagement – we have set up an economic recovery group and the Fraser Coast Branch President is included

  • Continued advocacy to council. 

Have you implemented any of these proposals?

Focussing resourcing on avoiding delays to plan sealing processes

Yes, we’ve brought on an engineering consultant and brought in staff from other departments. Reviewed delegations to allow for greater ability to move approvals quickly.

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

Yes, as above.

Establishing a Low Risk Team to process

No, however, the planning scheme has been designed to push self-assessable applications. Council are looking at reviewing and drafting Planning Scheme 1 July 2020.

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

Yes – Engineering consultant has been appointed. Local consultants in economic working group noting potential decrease in work. Council are reviewing local projects to appoint local contractors.

Relaxing restrictions on on-site work work hours

Yes – Council open to flexibility in addressing this matter.

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

No – Not as of yet. Council to review incentive strategy for next round. Infrastructure Charges are less than the cap. Working with recovery group on specific initiatives to improve local employment. Waiting on State and Federal on potential further restrictions and then strategising outcomes.

Providing immediate offset refunds for LGIP trunk infrastructure

No, however it is in the discussion for council among other initiatives to address the development and construction downturn.