SHAPING SEQ?

Feb 28, 2017
Michael Matusik

The boring stuff first.

The Queensland Government released ShapingSEQ – the draft South East Queensland Regional Plan – for public consultation late last year.

Submissions close this Friday, 3 March 2017.

Three themes got my attention:

1.  Firstly, more infill development is wanted, lifting from a 50% target, in the last plan, to 60% (by 2041) in the current rendition.  In theory, there’s nothing surprising here, except, I can’t see how this plan will remove any of the existing road blocks to getting an infill development approval.

2.  Secondly, the new plan also seeks to restrict development within the urban footprint to make our urban areas more compact, and so more efficient, and more liveable, and more affordable.  Pipe-dreams?  Furthermore, eleven potential future growth areas have been identified outside the urban footprint, but few are in areas where people really want to live.  And none, for example, are on the Gold Coast, despite the Gold Coast City Plan identifying 17 urban investigation areas, with four outside the housing footprint.

3.  And lastly, infrastructure. There’s lots of references to it – roads, rail, water, sewerage, etc., – but will those governments (local and state), and the engineers in all those agencies and departments ever read this?  And then act?  And deliver as per this plan?  Or will they, most likely, implement some ‘other’ plan of their own?  There just doesn’t seem to be a compelling mechanism here that binds land use planning and the delivery of infrastructure.

Now some comments.

*  A 25 year plan?  Are you kidding?  Look at how much things have changed in the last ten years.  Change is only going to get faster.  Let’s look at one of the more important drivers of housing demand – migration.  When overseas migration to Australia is high, we get a dramatic flow-on effect into the demand for urban development – and need a plan to manage it.  But if the next 5-10 years becomes dominated by certain politics which closes down the number of new overseas migrants each year, then all the huff and puff about accommodating growth may well be for nought.  Ditto when it comes to interstate migration, as well.  Is Shaping SEQ dynamic enough to accommodate these real world scenarios?

* Is a plan a decision, or a plan to make a decision, or an idea to influence a decision, or just an idea?  What is missing (in many things) are decisions, not plans.  A sense of direction is what is really needed and really, little more.  What is SEQ really about?  In an urban sense, I mean.  This plan, like its predecessors, might stop sprawl with an artificial urban boundary.  But is that it?  Is that all?

* I could accept the lofty ideal of a regional plan and even entertain – albeit with a wry smile – that it has some kind of worthy vision, if only it had some real grunt now.  Again – decisions, not plans.  Every poor mug stuck in the Planning and Environment Court cannot rely on the regional plan to help them deliver an outcome.  It’s just plain madness when the development in question complies with the regional plan!  Until that is fixed, it is hard to see the value and utility in any plan.

* A lot of conversation will, no doubt, be centred on ‘affordable housing’.  Or what Shaping SEQ calls ‘affordable living’.  And some attention to another new phrase the document embraces – ‘the missing middle’.  For both, I will give them some kudos for this shift in mindset.  But thought bubbles aren’t enough.

* Some of the chosen eleven potential growth areas look quite dubious to me.  It is a telling exercise to check out who owns/controls such parcels. And what if you own land under one of these big floating asterisks? Has your land value and development potential just been sterilised for the next five, ten or 15 years?

* Finally, market or political need?  The political left tends to make plans, big ones, with lots of virtuous words and massive stage productions.  It’s like the Oscars on steroids.  Yep, just like La La Land.  But if there’s a change of government in Queensland, this plan will probably disappear quicker than a train driver at Christmas.  And may not even be replaced.  How’s that for certainty?  Does that figure in your 25 year planning horizon?  Well, the Queensland Labor will need something to brag about come election time, plus they will need all the help they can get when it comes to fighting off an increasingly likely financial downgrade, plus the wicked right.

For your say or to just check out ShapingSEQ go here:  http://www.shapingseq.com.au/

Keen to hear your thoughts.

Until next time,

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Michael Matusik

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