Livingstone 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.

Livingstone Shire Council

Interviewees: Melissa Warwick, Acting Coordinator, Development Assessment and David Battese, Manager of Liveability

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

  • First thing: Number of staff are working from home to continue work. Ensuring access to IT facilities
  • EOI – Ethos Urban to potentially put in place to provide fee for service and Milford Planning (Townsville) also. Both will be utilised as a backup on higher order applications. This service will continue to encourage economic growth.
  • We continue to have our Development Control Unit (DCU) meetings weekly. The aim of the DCU when established is for 95%-100% of easier applications to be decided within 3-5 business days
  • Limited meetings in the office. Closed front door offices to public
  • Arranged online pre-lodgement meetings if necessary
  • Plan sealing – Drop box by the front door and pick arrangement
  • Essential inspections and conducting proactive inspections for engineering, building, plumbing inspections
  • Building Certifiers still operating within council
  • Across the organisation, looking to put forward aspects to council on recovery efforts
  • From the Institute, council is keen to receive some data around deferral and concessions on Infrastructure Charges or Development Application Fees and how effective these incentives really are.

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

  • Information services technology to other main buildings
  • Capacity to provide CITREX to all officers is limited to allow all staff the ability to work remotely – however administration PODS have been set up to be the key contact point for all internal systems to provide information and data to those working external without access to key systems.
  • Council is in the process of undertaking a review into all of the systems council operates – and have narrowed it to 4-5 suppliers to better prepare council for all systems it operated with
  • Liveability Department is essential paperless and therefore relies on IT systems and online DA lodgement.

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

  • There is uncertainty around how much further this (COVID-19) will go
  • Local Government elections have just occurred and there are always potential / likely changes to operations and policies for all councils
  • Challenges in a new council, with the business and development community to continue with jobs. 

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

  • Institute working with council 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 – greater staff focus on getting these applications out.

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

Yes, contingency on outsourcing DAs. The focus now on getting existing development applications approved and issued and juggling this with our existing duty planner service.

Establishing a Low Risk Team to process

Yes – Development Control Unit to process low risk applications. Pre-existing, however, in recent times putting stronger emphasis.

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

Yes, as per previous points.

Relaxing restrictions on on-site work work hours

Yes – through standard conditions and approvals.

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


Providing immediate offset refunds for LGIP trunk infrastructure