Sunshine 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.

Sunshine Coast Council

Interviewee: James Ruprai, Group Executive, Customer Engagement & Planning Services

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

  • Intent has been to maintain business as usual as far as possible
  • Large contingent of working from home but the priority is to ensure that staff are available
  • Some staff maintained in offices across the coast for face to face contact upon appointment.
  • Staff base maintained at a level so that there are no loss or reduction of services
  • Customer contact centres closed due to social distancing requirements but have a system of by-appointment only sessions where industry is able to make an appointment with planner/engineer.
  • Making sure that key customers have ability to access council advice
  • Key contacts nominated within teams – e.g. op works, DA, environment, flooding.

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

  • Continuing to balance legislative provisions with can-do attitude for industry and the community
  • Construction and development is still ticking along and council wants to support industry as much as we can within the realms of legislative requirements.

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

  • Monitoring changes that have been put in place and being responsive to react in real time.
  • Feedback from industry is really important so that Council can continue to be flexible to the situation.
  • Trying to take a longer term outlook but also very focus on day to day operations and being agile to deal with challenges presented for all stakeholders, industry, general public and council.

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

  • The Institute has the potential to offer detail on challenges and future needs of the industry
  • Being involved in the conversation and acting as a conduit on issues industry faces
  • Really important that council has that single point of contact to react and put in place measures that are needed – UDIA offers that single point of contact.

Have you implemented any of these proposals?

Focussing resourcing on avoiding delays to plan sealing processes


Investing more resourcing in avoiding delays to existing Development Applications

Business as usual. 

Establishing a Low Risk Team to process

Looking at it, but business as usual. 

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

Not at this stage, as we have existing capability. May consider if the need arises.

Relaxing restrictions on on-site work work hours

Outside council. Do not have the ability to change without direction from State.

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

No, at this stage council has a stimulus package that we will continue to look at, but it does not include a home builders grant.

Providing immediate offset refunds for LGIP trunk infrastructure

Developed a package for infrastructure rebates.

Other comments:

  • SCRC realises the importance of the construction and development industry in the context of the local economy and as a major employer
  • Incredibly important that the construction industry is supported through this crisis
  • Council has identified that there has been an increase in work in plan sealing and bond requests and will reshuffle internal resources to accommodate this change
  • At this stage, council believes that it has sufficient resources to meet demand but will continue to monitor and adjust resourcing and expertise as necessary.