SE QUEENSLAND REGIONAL PLAN 2004 - and Infrastructure Plan 2005 (
Revised 2005)

CPDS Home Contact Growth Management in SEQ Realistic Public Administration is the Key
Outline +

This review of the draft SE Queensland Regional Plan considers: the origin of proposals for such a Plan; apparent difficulties in preparing it; a brief outline of the draft Plan and reactions to it; and reasons to suspect that the Plan might prove unsustainable.

Brief mention is also made of the SE Queensland Regional Infrastructure Plan and Program which complemented the Regional Plan.

It is concluded that the Regional Plan and the Infrastructure Plan are likely to provide a very useful framework and stimulus for a long-overdue public debate about the underlying problems (eg in Queensland's system of public administration) that are likely to make the Plans themselves unworkable.



In January 2004 an Office of Urban Management and Infrastructure Coordination (OUMIC) was established, responsible to the Queensland Treasurer, and in June 2004 it was announced that a plan would be produced to enforce the state's SEQ 2021 regional plan to preserve green space [1].

A draft Plan identifying areas to be preserved was to be defined by October 2004 after which owners would have two years to make development applications before changes would be enforced. Advantages of this directive planning system (which it was suggested should be implemented without compensation) were described [1] as:

  • fairly balancing individual property rights and the community interest;
  • providing a method for preserving open space, ensuring timely and cost effective infrastructure and reducing travel times;
  • being fairer and more flexible than wishy-washy strategies;
  • reducing room for deal-making which can induce corruption; and
  • restraining land speculation.

The establishment of OUMIC and the development of a regional plan followed a long period of public criticism of land use management and infrastructure development in SE Queensland - which the present author has considered in Growth Management in SE Queensland.

The major themes of the latter are that:

  • problems in managing land use and infrastructure in SE Queensland can not be separated from a general lack of top management competencies in Queensland, and severe dysfunctions that have now developed in state public administration;
  • a solution is available in the medium term - but some envisaged 'solutions' (probably including OUMIC's efforts) would not work;
  • overcoming the funding constraints to overcome infrastructure backlogs will not be easy.
Preparation Difficulties

Difficulties in Preparing a Regional Plan

The latter document suggested that OUMIC faced the same difficulties as any 'central planner'. In particular any land-use 'blueprint' it produced could not involve a positive planning process (ie determining what anyone in the public or private sector would actually do) but could merely add to restrictions.

The property industry pointed this out clearly with respect to land development [1, 2]. A similar lack of engagement with 'positive-action' decisions must also apply to infrastructure development (and to the coordination amongst all land development / infrastructure efforts) because, as argued in Growth Management in SE Queensland:

  • if the 'blueprint' is imposed autocratically, a lack of cooperation (both within government and externally) will ensure that the information needed for detailed ongoing planning to be credible in internal policy debates will not be centrally accessible - and the Office responsible will fail before its 'blueprint' is put into practice; and
  • even if a coordinative / collaborative approach is adopted, progress must be impeded by the serious 'constipation' of Queensland's system of public administration and the 'loose cannon' of Commonwealth programs (eg Auslink).

Despite this it appears that the Minister responsible (and 'planners') believed that the 'blueprint' could set a positive land development and infrastructure agenda that would be imposed 'autocratically' [1]. The 'development lobby' appeared to believe that the 'blueprint' would define a large new infrastructure package for the region [1].

Whoever put forward the 'blueprint' proposal does not seem to have been very familiar with the realities of public administration or of Queensland's public administration predicament (see Growth Management in SE Queensland and Defects in Machinery for Planning and Development of Infrastructure).

Other difficulties associated with the 'blueprint' proposal seemed to include:

  • the potential moral hazard facing Ministers (or others) making judgments about which properties should be exposed to large falls in land values if compensation is not paid for sterilizing privately-owned land. The process of developing the 'blueprint' - ie announcing an intention in several months to produce a plan behind closed doors which would have huge implications for land prices [1] - seemed either naive or designed to solicit corrupt payments for a favourable outcome. [There were subsequent expressions of concern, it may be noted, when the responsible Minister resigned unexpectedly and joined the Board of a major property developer .[1] ]; 
  • the demand for compensation which could be expected from owners [1] in adversely affected areas. To make any significant difference, the latter would need to account for (say) 5-15% of the area of SEQ;
  • the limitation which any such compensation could make on the state's ability to enforce a 'blueprint' which made any significant difference (unless benefit taxes also applied);
  • the unresolved question of who should pay for infrastructure [1];
  • the conflicts of interest involved. Not all interest groups, who all assumed that the 'blueprint' would favour their requirements, could be satisfied. For example, the director of OUPIC reportedly stated that the plan's success depends on people's willingness to accept big changes that affect their daily lives [1], and this was seen:
    • by local authorities as indicating that the 'blueprint' would take the focus away from the (infrastructure) imperatives of developers and centre it on 'community';
    • by developers as indicating a commitment to a major infrastructure program - of which an obvious major feature would have to be hard decision about transport arrangements which would adversely impact on where many people live;
  • the effect which urban consolidation could have on already vexed problem of housing affordability [1];
  • the conflict with local authorities whose land may be restricted because of over-development in other council's jurisdictions [1];
  • the limited time in which a binding plan is expected to be produced [1];
  • obvious questions which arise about what (if anything) should be done in other regions.

Serious concerns about the planning arrangement were expressed by local authorities (and others) as it emerged [1] that:

  • real partnership with local authorities was not intended by the state government;
  • there could be even lower levels of ministerial participation in the Regional Coordination Committee than under previous (unsatisfactory-from-councils-viewpoint) arrangements;
  • state agencies would not be bound by the regional plan - though local authorities had agreed to yield part of their roles on the assumption that those agencies would have to comply [Comment: as noted above it was always impossible for a central planning process to generate meaningful 'positive' plans for the diverse functions of government]

The responsible Minister accepted that conflict with councils would emerge as the land use and infrastructure requirements of the plan were imposed [1].

Regional Plan

The Draft Regional Plan

When released in late October 2004, the Draft South East Queensland Regional Plan (which is outlined in Attachment A) was seen by observers to be providing for:

  • over 80% of SE Queensland to be declared a 'no-go' zone for developers [1];  
  • concentrating growth in Brisbane's western corridor and in high density suburban hubs - rather than growing towards the Gold or Sunshine Coasts [1, 2]. Higher densities were seen to be required [1] to support higher frequency public transport;
  • constraining developments near Beaudesert pending a suitability study [1]
  • new roads and rail investments as infrastructure priorities [1, 2]. This included in particular: upgrading rail connections to Gold and Sunshine Coasts; a Brisbane western bypass and an orbital road around Brisbane CBD [1];
  • constraints on water usage [1] rather than new dams  [1];
  • an intention to fund infrastructure - for which a plan would be announced in April 2005 [1]. The Treasurer indicated an intention to increase state borrowings on the basis of Queensland's sound financial position [1];

The Plan was seen by the state government as being as important as its Smart State strategy [1].

There were various positive reactions to this Plan. For example:

  • the Plan was seen to be long overdue [1], and much better than existed before because it would be enforceable [1];
  • planners regarded the proposals as sustainable [1];
  • the property industry welcomed the Plan while stressing the need for adequate infrastructure in growth corridors [1];
  • the Plan has established a framework for the first time around which growth of the region can be debated [1], and will have a similar benefit for transport systems [1];
  • some Councils welcomed the Plan - as reinforcing their efforts to control development [1]
  • the plan was seen to have made Queensland a smarter state - though it involved arrangements very similar to those which other states have already implemented. It marks a transition to forceful planning, and reflects recognition of the economic importance of cities and of past under-investment in infrastructure [1].

However others expressed concerns about aspects such as:

  • the even harder work, and the commitment, needed now to implement the Plan [1];
  • unmet environmental needs including: lack of protection of ecosystems; lack of adequate break between Brisbane and the Gold Coast; failure to reduce water / air pollution; encouraging growth in Western corridor which has air pollution / stability problems [1];
  • disjointed environmental indicators, and the lack of clear targets which could be used to assess success [1]

  • the creation of high density suburban areas [1, 2, 3]. In particular:
    • disputes about this are likely - and the effect could be to discourage migration to SEQ by removing a key attraction [1];
    • the feasibility of achieving the high densities suggested in the Plan for some areas (eg 50 lots / acre) was questioned [1].
    • Property developers labeled the plan unworkable because of the gap between plan expectations and what home buyers would accept [1];
    • a Development Corporation to acquire land was seen as necessary if high densities were to be achieved [1]
    • opposition to urban consolidation is increasing - on the basis of the high cost of building upwards; and that this is not want people want. [1]
  • constraints on the conversion of 'cane lands' to urban uses [1, 2, 3, 4, 5];
  • the state government's unwillingness to accept local Council's inputs in developing the Plan [1] or in developing infrastructure proposals [1];
  • preserving land that some Councils see as not worth preserving [1].
  • preserving poor quality agricultural land [1];
  • the Plan is oriented only to urban concerns, and does not provide for the needs of farmers who have a significant role in the region [1];
  • increased house prices that could result from higher densities [1]. A land-grab and massive price increase (which makes it hard to provide affordable properties for average purchasers) was seen to have followed similar urban footprint definition in Victoria [1], while home price / income levels are well above their long term average in Australia - a situation that does not apply in all countries and has been ascribed to tight constraints on land availability [1, 2] ;
  • the need to commit to substantial infrastructure investment - funded by government debt [1];
  • the large infrastructure investments needed in Queensland coastal regions outside the SE [1]
  • government's ability to pay for infrastructure - despite its surpluses [1];
  • the potential inadequacy of government's infrastructure investment if it bases its planning on the (low) population growth forecasts adopted by the Office of Urban Management [1]
  • the adverse effect that increased revenue required to fund infrastructure (eg from Stamp Duty / Land Tax / Council rates) would have on one of SE Queensland attractions - low living costs [1];
  • a Brisbane western bypass [1, 2] ;
  • potential lack of appeal in Western corridor, with potential very large impact on prices of coastal land; expectation of high densities; and need for firm infrastructure plans [1]
  • the lack of job creation potential in Western corridor, and the consequent need, if this is preferred location for urban development, for either (a) an economic strategy to create jobs in that region (perhaps initiated by relocation of government agencies) or (b) large additional infrastructure investments to handle commuters from the Western corridor to jobs elsewhere [1]
  • the possible emergence of inequality in the distribution of economic benefits - with high incomes in inner suburbs, while those in outer suburbs were much lower unless growth drivers and transport systems are appropriate and the region shifts its economic focus to exports [1]

  • the need for the state government to take the lead in creating conditions that would attract people to Brisbane's west [1], eg to establish high level functions [1];
  • errors in the Plan's assumptions about the rate of population growth and the achievement of higher densities which imply that land shortages (and price escalation) would be likely [1];
  • there is concern about whether enough people could be attracted to Western corridor to justify infrastructure investment - and about possible inadequacies in Brisbane's northern corridor which is growing much faster [1];
  • the fact that increasing urban densities would not necessarily lead to the creation of lower-cost housing thus forcing low-income households to the urban fringes where public transport is worst developed [1
  • plan does not deal with fact that projected population growth is incompatible with maintaining current lifestyles, and erodes the ability of local authorities to impose stringent development controls [1]

In relation to criticism of the Plan, the state government argued that:

  • the western growth corridor concept would be viable because when coastal areas became too expensive, people would choose to move to the west [1]

Is the Regional Plan Sustainable?

From the present author's viewpoint its appears that the Regional Plan is idealistic and well-intended but at risk of proving unsustainable economically, administratively, practically, politically and financially.

Economically the Plan will be difficult to implement as it envisages concentrating growth in Brisbane's western corridor which is not where people seem to want to live in SE Queensland. Historically growth has occurred along the coastal zone.

Past growth: Six of the top ten Queensland LGAs in terms of recent percentage population growth rates were in SE Queensland, and all of these were coastal (namely Caloundra, Pine rivers, Maroochy, Gold Coast, Redland and Caboolture). In terms of absolute population growth Brisbane City and the Gold Coast have had the largest increases of all Australian LGAs.  (Queensland. Department of Local Government, Planning, Sport and Recreation, Population Growth: Highlights and trends, Queensland 2004 Executive Summary).

SE Queensland's growth is primarily a 'sun-state' phenomenon associated both with attractive climate and with lower (eg housing) costs. From the author's experience there is a major difference in livability between the coastal zone and the (much hotter-in-summer and colder-in winter [1]) western corridor where future growth is expected to concentrate.

If growth of traditionally-preferred low-density housing is not encouraged where people want to live then (a) political pressure for a change in the Plan will grow - and be very hard to resist as there will be clear evidence of public demand for coastal land or (b) population growth through interstate migration will decline significantly.

Given the dependence that SE Queensland's economic structure and Queensland's public finance have developed on rapid population growth, any decline in migration would have significant implications. Such a slowdown would, for example:

  • adversely affect the housing, service development and service industries which depend on rapid population growth (and are a major component of the region's economic growth);
  • public revenues and expenditure demands would both be reduced; and
  • the rapid growth of less economically valuable segments of SEQ's population [1] would be slowed.

A further economic concern about the Plan is that it envisages that Queensland's Smart State agenda is to be the foundation for economic development in the region. Unfortunately that strategy lacks economic horse-power (eg it focuses on increasing 'smart' inputs to the economy (eg research and education) while doing nothing really serious to overcome Queensland's chronic inability to use such inputs productively - see A Commentary on Smart State). And, as funding the required infrastructure with Queensland's relatively weak tax base could well prove difficult (see below), the development of a significantly more productive economy / stronger tax base may be critically important.

Administratively the Plan will be difficult to implement.

It seemed to have been decided at one stage that state agencies' policies and programs would not be bound by the Plan [1], but the draft Regional Plan itself included a view that they would be bound and that:

  • there would be a close alignment between the Regional Plan and the planning and budgeting processes of state agencies;
  • in developing plans and policies state / local agencies would be required to take note of the Plan.

The problem is that Queensland Treasury's existing processes which seek to link agency strategic planning with budgeting seem idealistic rather than practical - see Evaluation of Managing for Outcomes - and, in the author's opinion, this style of approach (which amongst other things includes a process for central strategic planning) is one source of the numerous dysfunctions which currently afflict public administration in Queensland. For example, it seems to have been centralization of planning that largely led to the Failure in Queensland's Electricity Distribution Network - as Energex was required to rigidly comply with directives formulated by people who were focused on financial goals and did not understand the need for network maintenance.

The likely consequence of Treasury / OUMIC (with a consultative committee) trying to define a SEQ Infrastructure Plan and Program must frequently be a perceived gap between (idealized) 'central plans' and pragmatic requirements. Prospective operational plans can only realistically be developed by those with operational skill and knowledge. It is impossible for 'central planners' to acquire the detailed technical information required to unilaterally get get the 'right' answers - and this is why 'central planning' (eg of an economy) is in bad odour generally (see discussion of why An Office of Urban Management and Infrastructure Coordination could Work - but Probably Won't and why Focusing on projects is a bad way of developing infrastructure or the public sector).

The net effect of this attempt at central planning for SE Queensland is likely to be a substantial worsening of the 'constipation' of Queensland's system of public administration which led the present author to suggest that Realistic Public Administration is the Key.

In addition to infrastructure, the regional growth management strategy outlines many very ambitious / idealistic outcomes and principles / strategies for achieving these (eg affordable housing, a diverse economy). These are expressed in simplistic terms and in practice those matters are the responsibility of other agencies (who presumably wrote most of the 'words' quoted in the Plan). Quite apart from the feasibility of achieving the nominated goals (eg safe / healthy communities) the agencies responsible will not be able to be constructively influenced in an ongoing basis by the Plan (because it is the specialist agencies that have all the relevant information).

In the author's experience (if those with professional competencies are allowed to express an opinion) the role of those who attempt 'central planning' tends to be steadily downgraded and eventually terminated because:

  • disputes arise with those having specialized expertise in which the 'planners' are seen to be idealistic and impractical; and
  • 'planners', in seeking to make and coordinate prospective operational plans or policies, tend to duplicate (and thus conflict with) the functions of Cabinet.

Furthermore, unlike situations such as Energex, the Regional Plan deals with many functions where (despite the coercive pressures [1, 2, 3, 4] that often seem to be applied) those with specialized competence may not be able to be prevented from effectively expressing an opinion.

In particular other levels of government cannot be constrained from preempting the Plan (eg the Federal Government with its Auslink proposals; and the Brisbane City Council with tunnel proposals).

Practically it may prove that what has been proposed is difficult to implement because of competing / conflicting requirements - which is an unavoidable hazard with any 'central plan'.

For example, it has been proposed that higher suburban densities be created especially near transit routes. Property developers have reasonably pointed out that acquiring sufficient land in established suburbs to achieve this would require government support with land resumption [1]. However the areas that would be most suitable for resumption will be where existing properties are most run-down (ie areas that tend to house lower-income households). If the displaced lower-income households are not simply to be forced to move to the urban fringe, then there would need to be provision in the high-density redevelopment of their area for 'affordable housing'. The problem is that another way of describing 'high density affordable housing' is often slum. There are many examples around the world where urban re-development has created areas with massive social problems.

Politically the Plan may tend to be eroded by pressure from those (a) adversely affected or (b) not adequately consulted in preparing the Plan - see above. An apparent failure to guard against the possibility of moral hazard in preparing the Plan provides an obvious focus for such pressure.

One observer suggested that little is likely to happen unless the Treasurer forces the plan through [1]. Various local political leaders expressed frustration with what they saw as the state governments tendency to back down when opposition is encountered to any plan proposals [1].

Financially the Plan is at risk (despite the Treasurer's reported optimism [1]) because it is simply impossible to guarantee that the large capital investments required can be publicly financed (see Growing Pressure for Increased State Taxation). The latter referred to: the rapid growth in Queensland's spending without corresponding state tax increases; numerous funding 'black holes' (ie unmet needs); escalating wage costs due to skills shortages; expectations of reduced taxes; apparent 'creative' capital accounting and dubious stripping of GOC assets and revenues; dependence of revenues on a transitory economic boom; Queensland's limited scope to increase its revenue from state taxes (or to borrow much for infrastructure on the basis of state taxes without significantly increasing them); and the uncertain prospects of increasing / maintaining federal funding.


  • the Plan envisages that infrastructure and services provision should lead development, and given reputed large infrastructure backlogs in the region this implies a simply huge rate of investment;
  • there seems no guarantee that compensation may not emerge as a major issue. Property values have in some cases been dramatically affected by the Plan [1, 2];
  • the 'loose canon' of a financially-dominant Commonwealth Government, which now appears to believe that it can fix Australia by over-riding state jurisdiction in detailed policy decisions, makes any State Government proposals financially uncertain (see Federal-State Fiscal Imbalances).

While some have seen involvement of the federal government as the solution of the financing problem [1] it needs to be recognized that (a) a significant cause of the lack of effectiveness of state administrations is the planning / management distortions that arise from reliance on insecure federal funding and (b) the involvement of multiple jurisdictions makes efforts to develop infrastructure very complex and potentially dispute-ridden (as demonstrated by problems in health and education). 

Others can be expected to seek solutions to infrastructure funding in:

  • increased government debt [1] - an option which the state Treasurer seems to favour on the basis of Queensland's strong financial position [1]. This seems an uncertain option because:
    • as noted above, the 'strength' of Queensland's financial position is suspect - eg surpluses seem to be be a product of an unsustainable economic / property boom;
    • the Plan will tend to both (a) generate economic benefits (eg via better roads) which increase revenues and (b) reduce factors that have made SE Queensland attractive and led to large revenues from property taxes (eg the advantage of low costs [1] would be reduced, and development would be concentrated in less attractive areas). How this would balance is unknown;
  • privatization of government owned businesses (eg Queensland's electricity industry in which network development problems have revealed the scope for management failures under the corporatisation model that Queensland had adopted);
  • cuts in other spending - an option that has costs as well as benefits unless well targeted at outdated / ineffective programs (which presumably exist);
  • developer contributions - an option that has become contentious elsewhere [1, 2];
  • 'user pays' arrangements (eg toll roads);
  • private sector funding (eg through Public Private Partnerships) - though this can not significantly increase the funds available unless it involves a user-pays arrangement, and is likely to result in higher user charges because of the higher cost of capital (see About PPPs).

Ultimately it may be that a complete overhaul of Australia's system of federal financial relationships (eg to better match financial capacity and spending responsibilities) as well as politically painful re-ordering of spending priorities may be required to meet community infrastructure expectations.

Infrastructure Plan Regional Infrastructure Plan and Program

A South East Queensland Regional Infrastructure Plan and Program 2005-26 (of which an outline appears in Attachment B) was released in April 2005 as a complement to the Regional Plan.

Public reactions to the Infrastructure Plan suggested that:

  • the plan was a $55bn package in response to fast population growth. It details 230 projects (eg roads, rail, schools, hospitals) to be built over 20 years. It provides $24.5bn for transport; $3bn for social infrastructure (including 2 new hospitals); $2bn for water (including new dam west of Gold Coast); $11bn for electricity upgrades. Projects include: rail extensions to Gold Coast / Sunshine coast / western corridor; Toowoomba road bypass; Gateway motorway upgrade [1];
  • plan envisages master planned communities, with good public transport and local employment, healthcare and education hubs [1];
  • plan includes provisions for two new coastal hospitals, upgrades of Ipswich hospital and establishment of 7 health hubs [1]
  • the plan could be of huge benefit to Queensland [1];
  • plan reflects out-of-date thinking, is not visionary, and locks Gold Coast into dependence on road transport [1];
  • councils were excluded from development of the plan on the basis of a false claim that it would only involve state-funded projects. The resulting plan is too broad-brush for others to endorse it [1];
  • though the plan has defects it is better than nothing [1];
  • over half the road and transport proposals involved re-announcement of old projects [1];
  • Regional Plan suggests that public transport needs priority, and this is not consistent with Infrastructure Plan's concentration on road building [1];
  • rail extensions (north, south and west) are centre of government efforts to boost the role of public transport [1];
  • plan does not include western bypass [1], or much support for first two Transapex tunnels. Airport link proposal requires further investigation as issues were not simple [1];
  • faster progress is needed on an outer ring road for Brisbane [1];
  • regions to Brisbane's north that are growing faster than western corridor will face delays in gaining infrastructure [1, 2]; there are urgent backlogs now and it is unacceptable to have to wait [1];
  • market demand (not planners) will ultimately determine where infrastructure is developed [1];
  • not enough was done on water infrastructure [1, 2,], and this could put region's growth at risk [1];  there is anger and confusion about water proposals [1]; users will be required to cut water usage 25% by 2010 [1];
  • there is too little information to properly assess water development proposals [1]
  • proposed major new regional dam was downstream of a sewage treatment works [1]
  • there had been confusion about which of two possible dams would be developed [1]
  • more should be done in short term [1, 2];
  • delays were likely as construction costs increased 30% over past two years - and there is only a limited labour pool [1];
  • there was concern about high infrastructure charges [1];
  • despite guarded support for PPPs, there was no detail [1]; lack of government support for private construction of infrastructure will set Queensland back;
  • councils are left with substantial infrastructure costs without support [1];
  • there is no guarantee that the Regional Plan and Infrastructure Plan will remain consistent, as the state is only committed to Infrastructure plan for four years [1];
  • the plan will provide for a very large increase in private funding of infrastructure [1];
  • several major road projects were included in the plan with no state funding contribution [1];
  • plan does not provide for additional conservation spending [1];
  • there is no provision for environmental infrastructure [1];
  • the plan will benefit government electorally [1];
  • the political viability of the plan depends on reaction by local communities to what is, or isn't, in the Plan - noting the problems experienced by an earlier government in relation to the 'Koala tollway' [1]
  • if infrastructure becomes a political bun-fight, the Plan may turn out to be purely imaginary [1]
  • attempts to better manage SEQ growth are constrained by perceived lack of leadership in a key agency (Department of Natural Resources, Mines and Water). Critics suggested that public service has serious skills shortages, problems in recruitment and retention and unhappy employees.  [1]

From the present author's viewpoint it appears that the Infrastructure Plan is a modest and internally coherent proposal which proposes attention to many necessary infrastructure issues. Moreover:

  • it highlights the relationship between growth management and infrastructure;
  • it proposes machinery to manage the Infrastructure Plan on an ongoing basis (ie a Regional Infrastructure and Services Coordination Group), and mentions funding issues;
  • it is complemented by various collaborative arrangements to develop strategies (eg for transport and water), as well as sub-regional forums to link with local government planning [1];
  • while it does not refer to some developments that seem likely to be required (eg a Brisbane western by-pass), there are ongoing investigations which presumably could give rise to such proposals;

Unfortunately, at the same time, the Infrastructure Plan contains apparently fatal defects. In particular:

  • it is a central 'strategic planning' exercise which is more likely to be effective in producing a glossy paper than a practical solution for reasons outlined above (eg it is impossible for central planners to take account of detailed considerations, or to mobilize the commitment of those whose initiative is vital if the thousands of difficult technical details of the plan are to be correctly worked out). Strategic plans developed in recent years have a poor record (eg SEQ 2001, Integrated Planning Act, Managing for Outcomes). The inability of senior ministers to get details of land acquisition right in relation to proposed new dam [1] illustrates the problem of managing complexity. A better strategy process would have helped operational machinery cope with the need for change, rather than simply setting out a blueprint based on planners' assumptions about what is needed (see Strategy Development in Business and Government);
  • given the serious dysfunctions afflicting its infrastructure machinery, a state government commitment to an ambitious infrastructure development program is a formula for 'white elephants' and wastage. Dysfunctions outlined in Defects in Infrastructure Planning and Delivery include: technical de-skilling of the Public Service; and fragmentation and uncertainty of planning responsibility associated with:
    • federal / state fiscal imbalances;
    • competitive service delivery;
    • an idealized budget-linked central strategic planning' process;
    • the confusion between market and policy driven development, which is intrinsic in Queensland's corporatisation model for GOCs;
    • the added complexity of public private partnerships;
    • privatization of some monopoly infrastructure;
    • repeated attempts to develop infrastructure plans both regionally and centrally - which break critical links between planning capital works and the management of other aspects of the function of which they are part;
    • federal government efforts (eg Auslink) to over-ride state plans because state activities are seen to be failing.
  • even ignoring the intergovernmental aspects and the political lobbying introduced by private sector involvement, the Plan's expectation that a committee (ie the Regional Infrastructure and Services Coordination Group) can manage the ongoing development of the Infrastructure Plan reflects a lack of appreciation of the limits to administrative coordination similar to that in the SEQ 2001 proposed regional planning process. Every aspect of infrastructure involves complex questions and requires technical skills. The Coordination Group can not control every aspect of every infrastructure function and will thus:
    • either be driven by technical specialists (at times in ways not consistent with the intent of the overall Plan) or conflict with the technical specialists in imposing the Plan's intent and thus at times lose the cooperation needed to get the technical information required to produce credible proposals;
    • tend to lose in policy disputes with agencies having greater technical competencies - and thus increasingly to be seen as the problem rather than the solution;
    • be at risk of conflicting with the role of Cabinet in seeking to resolve integration between functions (and amongst agencies each of whom has their own Minister);   
  • there seem to be practical defects in the Infrastructure Plan, eg:
    • a high priority is attached to public transport development (which is undoubtedly a desirable goal) - but similar past intentions have not resulted in any car-to-public-transport shift [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8)]. Moreover experience in Sydney and Melbourne suggests that a shift of jobs from the CBD to suburban centers significantly reduces public transport usage [1];
    • the Plan nominates a goal of creating self contained areas (in terms of employment and residences) presumably to minimize the transport task - but employment opportunities in the Western corridor, where population growth is to be concentrated, seem uncertain [1];
    • physical resource constraints are already driving up construction costs due to high rates of capital investment [1, 2, 3, 4];
    • the Plan makes no apparent mention of the need to upgrade run-down assets (as compared with building new facilities) that was a feature of the Institution of Engineers' Infrastructure Report Card [1];
    • the Plan identifies affordable housing as a key goal without suggesting how this could be achieved - though there are risks of socially undesirable outcomes;
  • the assumption that financial resources to sustain the plan will be available seems unproven - as outlined above. It can also be noted that:
    • of the $25.7bn expenditure in addition to past budget levels, only a fraction ($2bn) is seen as to be available in the next four years. Much proposed infrastructure seems to be funded on the 'never-never';
    • the Treasurer indicated that borrowing for infrastructure would depend on the state having a surplus to fund it [1]
  • the Plan left unresolved the apparent significant limitations on what can constructively be achieved through public private partnerships


It has been reasonably argued that the main contribution of the draft SE Queensland Regional Plan is that it allows long overdue debate about fundamental issues of managing growth [1] and future transport systems [1] in the region. The same will undoubtedly apply to the Infrastructure Plan.

The Plans' role as a focus for debate will be doubly valuable as the reasons that the Plans are unlikely to be sustainable (which have more to do with dysfunctions in public administration than they do with land-use and infrastructure details) should now finally start to be publicly considered.

November 2004, and modified May 2005

Outline Regional Plan

Attachment A: Outline of Draft South East Queensland Regional Plan

Foreword: The region has an affinity with outdoor recreation, and is rapidly gaining population. The assets that make the region attractive need to be protected while growth occurs. The Plan will have statutory effect. It has been prepared in consultation with many others, and feedback is solicited 


Context: SEQ is growing rapidly. The Plan will guide growth to 2026. It is based on current forecasts - but will be reviewed regularly. It is the preeminent plan for the region - and represents an agreed state government position. The Plan's main intent is sustainability

Legislation: The Plan is prepared under the IPA 1997 (as amended). It is a statutory instrument, It is currently a draft, but provisions exist for Draft Regulatory provisions that come into effect immediately.

SEQ Region: encompasses 18 LGAs


Growth: Growth is rapid. Recent debate has focused on loss of open space. Sustainable use of resources also is significant - especially for water. Power capacity is available, but distribution networks are stretched.

Development trends: Most growth has been on the coast. Urban densities are low. Rural lands have been fragmenting. Given these trends most future growth will be of low density. Infill development can provide 20-30% of future demand.

A different future: Alternatives considered include: focus on western corridor growth; and urban consolidation. Advantages are seen in higher densities and also in reducing pressure on coast.

A new approach: This would be based on managing rather than responding to growth - and leading growth by timely provision of infrastructure and assisting job creation. Strengths of the basic approach were seen to include: protection of landscape and rural production; defining future urban growth; statutory regulation to prevent unplanned development; recognition as the pre-eminent plan for the region; support for SEQ Infrastructure Plan and Program; and linkage between Regional Plan and state agencies infrastructure and service delivery programs and budgets.


Identifies long term aspirations (eg safe communities; diverse employment opportunities; sustainability; environmental protection).


Strategic directions: These include: supporting regional landscapes; accommodating future growth; enhancing community identity; more compact urban areas; western corridor growth; integrating land use and transport.

Settlement Pattern: All areas are allocated to one of 5 categories: Regional Landscape and Rural Production: Urban Footprint; Investigation Areas; Rural Living Areas


Natural environment, resources, rural: Ecological sustainability principles apply. Desired regional outcomes (healthy and diverse landscape) will be achieved by principles and strategies for: (a) Diverse landscape (b) Nature conservation (c) Protecting coasts / waterways (d) Maintaining air quality (e) Managing natural resources (f) Supporting rural production (g) Protecting scenic amenity (h) Outdoor recreation and tourism (i) Regional integration. Specific arrangements and plans are envisaged for (a) Regional Landscape and Rural Production Areas; (b) Nature Conservation; (c) Rural Production and Natural Resources; (d) Publicly accessible open space; (e) Environmental and natural resource programs;

Urban form: Desired outcome (compact urban pattern) will be achieved by principles and strategies related to (a) Urban pattern (b) Urban growth management (c) Regional activity centre network (d) Rural centres (e) Integrated planning of development areas (f) Housing mix and affordability.  Specific proposals exist for (a) urban structure; (b) population capacity; (c) efficient land use; (d) Activity centres (of various types); (e) transit oriented developments; (f) local growth management strategies; (g) greenfield development; (h) rural residential development; (i) inter-regional impacts; (j) principles for sub-tropical environment;

Strong communities: Desired outcome (cohesive, inclusive and healthy communities with sense of identity) will be achieved by principles and strategies related to (a) Sense of place and identity (b) Cultural heritage and development (c) Safe and healthy communities (d) Affordable housing (e) Access to services (f) Addressing disadvantage (g) Support for rural communities (h) Social planning

A diverse economy: Desired outcome is a strong, resilient and diversified economy with growing prosperity, competitive advantages. SEQ is state's economic engine - and is mainly service oriented. Regional economic development initiatives are underpinned Smart State Strategy which promotes use of knowledge, creativity, innovation. Principles and strategies address (a) Diverse knowledge-based economy; (b) Land and infrastructure for economic development (c) Raising productivity (d) Accessible employment (e) Development of skill, science and technology (f) Economic activity (including a specific Western Corridor Economic Development Strategy)

Integrated Transport:  Desired outcome (a connected and accessible region - with integrated transport system) will be achieved by principles and strategies related to (a) Integration (b) Connecting people place and activities (c) Sustainable travel and equitable access (d) Effective investment (e) Efficient transport.  Specific arrangements are defined in relation to: (a) public transport (b) national, state and inter-regional linkages (c) transport infrastructure to support the Plan (d) Sunshine / Gold Coast (e) Greater Brisbane and western corridor (f) freight

Infrastructure and services: Desired outcome (planned, coordinated and timely infrastructure / services) will be achieved by principles and strategies related to (a) Leading regional growth (b) Coordination (c) Managing demand (d) Infrastructure funding (e) Protecting key site and corridors (f) Water supply / Water cycle / Water management (g) Energy (h) Telecommunications (h) Community infrastructure and services. A SEQ Infrastructure Plan and Program will be released in mid 2005. Specific proposals exist for (a) water (b) wastewater (c) energy (d) telecommunications (e) solid waste (f) social and community infrastructure

Engaging ATSI People:  Desired outcome (ATSI peoples are involved, and traditional owners are engaged in business about their country) will be achieved by principles and strategies related to (a) Traditional owner engagement (b) Forming partnerships (c) Protecting culture and heritage (d) Social and economic equity


Implementation: Plan is both statutory and strategic. Implementation will require cooperation with community and coordination of state and local government plans. Key elements of the statutory process include: oversight by RCC; amending LGA plans for consistency; consideration of plan by state / local agencies in developing plans and policies; development assessment; effective regulatory provisions; and call-in power of Regional Planning minister. Planning for implementation of strategies in Part E will focus on state and local government agencies.  The SEQ Infrastructure Plan and Program will be updated annually by Treasury / OUM - with a consultative Regional Infrastructure Services Coordination Group to provide a whole-of-government approach.

Monitoring: will be an important part of the process, involving benchmarking, measuring, improved data etc

G. Draft Regulatory Provisions


Outline Infrastructure Plan

Attachment B: Outline of South East Queensland Regional Infrastructure Plan and Program 2005-26 (SEQRIPP)

Context: SEQ is growing rapidly. SEQ Regional Plan was developed to manage this. SEQRIPP outlines priorities to support Plan, based on the view that strategic infrastructure placement can lead development. It will give direction for next 20 years. Aspects of the State Infrastructure Plan are outside SEQRIPP's scope. Priorities for the region include: more compact urban form; western corridor development; sub-regional self containment. The SEQRIPP will allow: coordination with budget / agency planning; and effective planning. An Infrastructure and Services Coordination Group has been established. A regular annual process has been established to manage the plan. Funding options will be evaluated through Value for Money Framework - which allows for partnerships between public and private sectors. The federal government also has some funding role (Auslink, Australian Water Fund). Government will fund infrastructure through cash flows and borrowing. In the past cash flows have usually been relied upon - but higher levels of borrowing and private sector involvement will be needed to fund this plan. State budget will provide details of infrastructure spending and levels of borrowing, Plan involves commitment of additional $25.7m over next 20 years - including an increase of $2bn over next 4 years. Arrangements for developer contributions will be made through State Infrastructure Agreements which will be based on integrated land use plan for area. Infrastructure Plan will be updated annually.

Regional Infrastructure Priorities and Projects: Population increases will require infrastructure investment. The Plan is in three phases - with the first to 2009.

Transport is a major focus of plan - and will feature greater emphasis on public transport. Cooperative planning and investment processes are already in place between Main Roads and local government. BCC has a significant role and is considering TransApex tunnel proposals. SEQ Regional Plan emphasizes developing strategic corridors for future transport. Auslink is a new process whereby federal government invests in nationally significant land transport infrastructure - and is interested in many transport corridors in the region. Transport priorities are: supporting preferred urban development pattern; increased public transport; supporting economic activities. [Transport proposals are discussed for Western corridor; Greater Brisbane; Gold Coast; Sunshine Coast; and Freight]

Water planning will deal with integrated approach to water management cycle. Existing infrastructure meets existing demands, but must be extended to cope with growth. SEQ Councils will participate in water and sewage services. A Regional Water Supply Strategy is being prepared. Priorities for water include: increasing supply; diversifying sources; efficiency; policy framework / subsidies; review of institutional arrangements. Significant reductions in consumption of potable water are intended. Additional pipelines will be needed. Recycling arrangements will be developed. Suppliers will come from alternative sources (eg rainwater tanks). Better management to ensure water quality is needed. Governance arrangements for water supply in SEQ are being reviewed.

Energy will be supplied through a diversity of sources, while demand management will also be required. Increased electricity demand has been a major challenge. Considerable increases have occurred in generation capacity, while distribution network has faced challenges. There will be heavy investment in network. Gas is an important energy sources, and Queensland Energy Policy has been successful in diversifying energy mix towards greater use of gas.

Information and Communication technology is very important - but mainly a federal government responsibility. [A number of strategic initiatives are suggested].

Social and Community Infrastructure will have key goals including: affordable housing; efficiency / coordination; accessibility; focus on areas of greatest need - especially on urban fringes; and co-location. [Proposals are discussed for health; education; support for rural development; renewal of activity centers and development of transit centers].

Investigations of Potential Infrastructure Investments: The Infrastructure Plan is the first of an intended annual series. Future developments being investigated include: Ipswich Motorway alternative northern corridor; Southern Infrastructure Corridor; Western Brisbane Transport investigation; Gateway extension south of Brown's Plains; Sailsbury to Flagstone / Greenbank rail; TransApex investigations; inner city rail capacity; Sunshine Coast transport options