HIGH-RISE DECISION: Bundaberg Regional Council CEO Steve Johnston.
HIGH-RISE DECISION: Bundaberg Regional Council CEO Steve Johnston. Contributed

Why no decision will mean yes for high-rise

THE council has refused to give an assurance that a decision will be made on the controversial Bargara high-rise before Friday's deadline.

Failing to do so would give the high-rise the go head, with the development "deemed to be approved".

Yesterday the NewMail directly asked Bundaberg Regional Council to provide the community with an assurance CEO Steve Johnston would make a decision on the development, rather than allowing it to be approved by default.

It refused.

Instead Mr Johnston confirmed if no decision was made by him on the development by close of business on Friday, it would be "deemed to be approved".

"Yes," he said when asked if that would be the outcome if no decision was reached by Friday.

He went on to confirm that a deemed approval was one of two possible courses the application process could take as of now.

"Following the council meeting on Monday there are two possible scenarios: the application could be determined under delegation by the CEO or it could be deemed to be approved," he said.

The NewsMail understands if the application results in a deemed approval, the council will only have 10 business days from Friday to issue conditions, which cannot significantly change the application, meaning it would be able to go ahead at the proposed nine storeys.

Mr Johnston again confirmed that would be the case.

While a deemed approval is within the planning provisions, it would seemingly fly in the face of its intended purpose, which is to act as a whipping stick by keeping applications on track and ensuring councils are meeting assessment time frames.

For that reason deemed approvals are uncommon because they take the decision making process out of council's hands and undermine its role.

It also potentially sets a precedent that our council is unable or unwilling to make its own decision on a controversial and difficult application.

A spokeswoman for the Department of State Development, Manufacturing, Infrastucture and Planning yesterday confirmed deemed approvals were intended to ensure applications were decided in a timely manner.

"Deemed approvals ensure timely decision making and give councils and proponents certainty around the development application process," she said.

"They are not commonly used as councils recognise that making decisions within statutory timeframes is best practice."