Pictured: Eco Village at Corrumbin in south east Queensland

By Tina Perinotto
15 July 2011 –
The Queensland government yesterday announced it had finalised its “green door” policy to fast track sustainable development approvals in a move could become a template across the nation.

Industry groups say it could help break down barriers from risk averse local authorities to ambitious sustainable outcomes.

But while the major industry bodies supported the move the Green Building Council of Australia has also called for a more rigorous approach to defining worthy projects, lest the green door opens too far and allows standards to be lowered.

Initially mooted by Premier Anna Bligh at the 2009 Green Cities conference, green door will initially be applied to between four and six projects, in keeping with limited resources available.

While the numbers are small, the Property Council of Australia Queensland and the Urban Development Institute of Australia Queensland said the lessons learnt could help smooth the way for more ambitious sustainability outcomes within the Queensland planning system and nationally.

Kathy MacDermott

“I think it could become a template around the country,” PCA Queensland executive director Kathy Mac Dermott said.

“We support it and we think it’s a good first step and we are encouraging our members to see if they’re eligible. The pilot project will help fine tune it; it will be good to get it going.”

Ms Mac Dermott also applauded the consultation process.

“I think the government offices have been very good in the formulation of this.”

Urban Development Institute of Australia Queensland’s Kirsty Chessher who manages the institute’s EnviroDevelopment rating tool also welcomed the policy.

“We think it’s a fairly good outcome,” Ms Chessher said.

“The whole purpose of green door is to go out there and find projects that that set out to achieve fantastic outcomes but because of the risk averse nature of some local government never get to the development application stage,” Ms Chessher said.

“It’s a case of ‘let’s throw the net out there and see…’

“I think the department will use qualitative and quantitative selection criteria; they will only take only take on a certain number of projects at a time. They will try to pick winners as they come through.

“We don’t know if the department has an idea of increasing resources as projects roll out, but they will try to inform potential changes to the planning system – where the planning system would have held them up – and make changes to it as they go along.”

The UDIA hoped its EnviroDevelopment tool would play a part in the process and that some of the developments using the tool would become better understood through the planning and approvals system.

Kirsty Chessher

“Our EnvioDevelopment projects still have to be approved. But we’re really encouraged by this.”

The GBCA congratulated the state government for taking a “leadership position in developing the green door policy – the first in Australia”, but GBCA Chief Executive Romilly Madew questioned if more rigorous standards could have been applied.

“We are concerned about the rigour of the proposed system and the potential for perverse outcomes,” Ms Madew said.

“Whilst we are a strong supporter of the policy intent, which is to fast-track exemplary sustainable development proposals in Queensland, we believe the opportunity to set the bar high and really drive sustainability innovation within the industry has been missed.”

The policy would be very attractive to GBCA members, Ms Madew said but based on the council’s nine years of defining integrated best practice there were some shortcomings.

“In its current form we believe the policy does not adequately define exemplary sustainable development, has not undertaken a ‘pilot’ or ‘test’ phase, nor does it have the systems in place to assess and verify potentially non- genuine claims from project developers.

“The green door seems to have opened to everyone and anyone, instead of setting high standards and driving sustainability innovation within the industry.”

Ms Madew said the GBCA would “welcome the opportunity to work with the Queensland Government to make this initiative more rigorous and more robust.”

GBCA executive director – advocacy and international Robin Mellon said key concerns of the policy were that definitions of different standards of project outcomes, such as “exemplary” or “superior” were “ill defined.”

“It all sounds wonderful but what does that mean? How do we define that? From a Green Star point of view we’re looking for metrics. A way for projects to rise above the greenwash,” Mr Mellon said.

Robin Mellon

Another point was that the system had not been tested.

“This will be the first formal green door policy in Australia but this is an opportunity we are going to miss if we put out these words such as exemplary and they are not  [rigorously] defined.”

Deputy Premier and Local Government Minister Paul Lucas, said Green Door was a state government initiative, developed in conjunction with local government and industry to accelerate the development assessment of exemplary sustainable “green” developments in Queensland.

“A truly first rate sustainable development should not only be environmentally green, but also have a demonstrable positive impact on amenity, the economy and community wellbeing,” Mr Lucas said.

“Features could include the delivery of planning and economic priorities in a particular region, a significant reduction of water, waste and energy, the creation of permanent jobs or the provision of innovative and effective sustainable transport options.”

Case managers with up to six of the most sustainable development proposals at a time across Queensland, Mr Lucas said.

Mr Lucas said consultation included 10 Green Door workshops, involving 138 participants with 30 local government officers representing 19 local governments, 66 state government officers and 42 development industry representatives.

The Green Door advisory committee includes:

  • Adam Beck, manager sustainable communities, Green Building Council of Australia
  • Mike Roberts, assistant director, Planning and Environment, Housing Industry Association
  • Tracy Haynes, planning and development senior advisor, Local Government Association of Queensland
  • Greg Tupicoff, Queensland President, Planning Institute of Australia
  • Kathy Mac Dermott, executive director, Property Council of Australia, Qld
  • Rosemary Kennedy, director, Centre for Subtropical Design, Queensland University of Technology
  • Brian Stewart, chief executive and general counsel, Urban Development Institute of Australia Qld Branch
  • Darryl Patching, Environment Institute of Australia and New Zealand
  • Jim McKnoulty, member of the Premier’s Council on Climate Change greendoor@dlgp.qld.gov.au

List of relevant government policies

Ecological processes Water sensitive urban design

Water sensitive urban design principles are set out in the Queensland Best Practice Environmental Management Guidelines 2009 which aims to minimise impacts on the natural water cycle and protect the health of aquatic ecosystems and environmental values by demonstrating inter-disciplinary cooperation among the fields of water supply, sewerage, groundwater and stormwater management to reduce potable water use and enhance water quality.

www.derm.qld.gov.au/services_resources

Healthy waters

The Healthy Waters State Planning Policy 4/10 sets out the state interest in ensuring that water environmental values can be protected and maintained in waterways through appropriate land use planning, assessment of development and provision of infrastructure. This includes achieving and maintaining water quality, physical and chemical properties as well as managing the frequency of storm water flows and the ecological properties of waters such as biodiversity and the functioning of the aquatic ecosystem.

www.derm.qld.gov.au/services_resources

Waste

The goals of the Queensland’s Waste Strategy 2010–2020 Waste Avoidance and Recycling Consultation Draft, June 2010 are to:

avoid and reduce waste optimise recovery and recycling develop sustainable waste industries and jobs foster sustainable partnerships.

www.derm.qld.gov.au/services_resources

Renewable energy

The Queensland Renewable Energy Plan, June 2009 is a comprehensive economic and industry development strategy aimed at accelerating the growth of the renewable energy sector in Queensland. The primary objective of the plan is to increase the deployment of renewable energy infrastructure in Queensland.

www.cleanenergy.qld.gov.au

Biodiversity

Building Nature’s Resilience: A draft Biodiversity Strategy for Queensland articulates for the first time Queensland’s plan for conserving biodiversity over the next 10 years.

This strategy frames the delivery of a whole-of landscape approach across the state, and across sectors, irrespective of tenure. It focuses the objectives, strategies and priority actions on three areas:

1. Building resilient ecosystems by building protected areas, conserving species and managing extent and condition.

2. Combining our efforts by recognising the key players in biodiversity conservation and building partnerships to achieve it.

3. Managing adaptively by collaborating to use scientific evidence and advice, and applying this to the planning and management of Queensland’s natural systems across sectors.

www.derm.qld.gov.au/services_resources

Economic development

The Q2 Strong Target Delivery Plan 2010—2011 government strategies, See:

www.industry.qld.gov.au

Transit oriented development

Applying the transit oriented development principles outlined in the Queensland Government’s transit oriented development guides will contribute to a prosperous and sustainable future through good planning and proactive growth management. The principles respond to population growth, climate change, community diversity and housing affordability. Transit oriented development, as an approach to delivering a compact settlement pattern, limits urban sprawl and traffic congestion and provides public and recreational spaces, employment opportunities and accessibility to public transport whilst encouraging physical activity.

www.dip.qld.gov.au/tod-guide

Affordable housing

The Queensland Housing Affordability Strategy aims to ensure that land and housing is on the market quickly and at the lowest cost.

www.dip.qld.gov.au

Adaptable housing

The Australian Government’s Liveable Housing Design Guidelines recommend the inclusion of key easy living features that aim to make homes easier and safer to use for all occupants including: people with a disability, ageing Australians, people with temporary injuries, and families with young children.

www.fahcsia.gov.au

Increased land for nature conservation and public recreation

As mentioned earlier in this information paper, one of the Queensland Government’s green Q2 targets for 2020 is to secure 50 per cent more land for nature conservation and public recreation. This is to be achieved partially through the Queensland

Greenspace Strategy.

www.dip.qld.gov.au/greenspace

Crime prevention through environmental design

The Crime Prevention through Environmental Design Guidelines for Queensland aim

to reduce opportunities for crime and incivility.

www.police.qld.gov.au/programs/crimePrevention

Conserve and enhance places and areas of significance

The Queensland Heritage Strategy establishes a framework for managing Queensland’s heritage. The strategy aims to provide decision makers and the community with certainty about heritage conservation and responsibilities, providing for sustainable and managed growth that respects our past. The conservation of heritage places and their integration within new and evolving communities is a critical aspect of sustainable development.

www.derm.qld.gov.au/services_resources