Gladstone 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.

Gladstone Regional Council

Interviewees: Mark Francis, General Manager of Customer Experience and Helen Robertson, Manager of Development Services

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

  • Social distancing strategy in place
  • Development services still in operation
  • Closed the front door services to main customers services but available by appointment
  • Plan sealing still occurring and has drop in facilities
  • Essential maintenance for engineering, building and plumbing still occurring
  • Video conferencing available for pre-lodgements
  • Have allowed staff and officers to work remotely to ensure social distancing. 

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

  • Organisationally – Working from home.
  • IT capabilities had to be rapidly equipped for staff to ensure remote facilities available.

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

  • Economic Recovery Group – under the Mayor, investigating how to help the community and industry for the local economy
  • How the council will respond to a shut down of the construction industry is being considered if that eventuates
  • “Temporary Permit” from DSDMIP – opportunity for business to innovate in the region. Council’s role is to assist and facilitate local business community.

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

  • Segmenting community to ascertain the support for different industry groups. To determine their needs.
  • We would share the updates from economic development specialist and work with the Institute to implement specific initiatives to the development industry.

Have you implemented any of these proposals?

Focussing resourcing on avoiding delays to plan sealing processes

No, however, but we haven’t experienced resourcing problems as of yet.

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

No, but budgeted for contingencies.

Establishing a Low Risk Team to process

No, however the team, being multi-disciplinary, process these applications readily.

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

No, but budgeted for contingencies – utilise local consultants.

Relaxing restrictions on on-site work work hours

Yes – however, not common. The process is a standard, outside of COVID-19, to facilitate this.

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

No, however it is an initiative that could form part of the economic recovery group. Currently, 50% discounts on headworks charges.

Providing immediate offset refunds for LGIP trunk infrastructure

No. majority of trunk infrastructure was constructed during LNG boom. Market conditions have dictated this how/when trunk works (by developer) are to occur. Council has an ambitious capital works program, however, prioritising the community. Council has pressed forward on community-based projects.