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New push to increase council spending transparency

Queenslanders will soon have clear information about how councils are spending developer infrastructure charges, with amendments proposed for the state planning system, delivering on a 2017 state election commitment.

Minister for Planning Cameron Dick said the amendments will require councils to publish the amount of infrastructure charges being collected and where that money is being spent.

“The amendments will create a better understanding of how development activity benefits the broader community, through improved infrastructure and services such as stormwater, transport, public parks and land for community facilities,” Mr Dick said.

“It will also highlight the considerable infrastructure being delivered by local councils to support regional growth.

“We made an election commitment to provide Queenslanders with easier access to information about the money collected and spent in their towns and cities, and these amendments deliver on that commitment.

“Developers pay significant amounts to local governments to build and upgrade infrastructure to support their development, so it’s important the community knows where councils are spending these funds.”

“On top of this, councils also invest in additional infrastructure to serve existing and future residents,” he said.

From 1 January 2020, councils will be required to publish online the value of infrastructure charges they receive, and how and where these funds are spent.  This will include publishing information such as infrastructure charges notices and documents used in the review, making or amendment of a local government infrastructure plan.

“From any member of the public can search for their suburb and see how much in infrastructure charges has been collected, and what infrastructure has been delivered,” Mr Dick said.

Local Government Minister Stirling Hinchliffe said the proposed changes would align with, and build on, potential amendments to the Local Government Act for transparency and accountability.

“Encouragingly, some local governments are already publishing this information online, in their budgets and annual reports, while others are in the process of providing this transparency,” Mr Hinchliffe said. 

Property Council of Australia’s Queensland Executive Director Chris Mountford said the lack of transparency around the collection and spending of infrastructure charges has contributed to community concerns that development occurs without the necessary local infrastructure upgrades.

“What is often not understood is that all new developments are required to make a significant contribution to the cost of upgrading local government infrastructure as part of their approval.

“Until now, it has been difficult for the community to see the expected correlation between growth and development, and the associated infrastructure that should be delivered by council.     

“These amendments will allow everyone from across government, industry and the community to better understand and keep tabs on how these levies are contributing to local infrastructure upgrades.”

SEQ Alliance spokesperson, Rose Adams, said increased transparency and accountability in the planning system is important.

“The community needs to have confidence in the planning system and for this to happen it needs to be one which is open and transparent,” said Ms Adams.

“We want to clearly and easily be able to see the community benefit resulting from planning and development decisions and gain an understanding of how these decisions were made.

Given the significance of the changes, local governments will be working between now and January 2020 to ensure they have necessary reporting systems in place, and to ensure this important information is up to date and accurate.

The proposed amendments have been subject to extensive consultation with local governments and key industry stakeholders, including the Local Government Association of Queensland (LGAQ), Property Council Australia (PCA) and the Urban Development Institute of Australia (UDIA).

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