Which QLD Councils follow the State Gov. Policy on Buffer Areas?

Those of you who have been following the debate will be well aware that our primary message all along has been that Logan City Council should implement Planning Policy 1/92 and its attendant ‘Guidelines’ with respect to ensuring there are sufficient buffer areas surrounding horticulture in Greenbank.  If you are not familiar with these guidelines please see the Category ‘Queensland State Planning Policy and Guidelines’ on our home page.

In an effort to find out how other councils in Queensland deal with this problem I sent off a generic e-mail enquiry letter to numerous councils on August 23rd.  The responses I have received thus far I have graded as follows. If I think that from what they say they are – in fact – attempting to follow SPP1/92 I will give them a ‘yes’. If they appear to be waffling, (or I haven’t yet had time to wade through their respective planning policies) I will give them a ‘maybe’. Those I deem to be flagrantly ignoring State Guidelines I will grade as ‘no’.

A copy of the e-mail letter I sent to them all appears below:

To Whom it May Concern,

Hello, my name is Kim Downs.  I live in Greenbank and have become involved in a little stoush that is brewing out here.  In essence, for over a decade (most of which time we were part of the old Beaudesert Council) hydroponic greenhouse-style intensive farms were allowed to spring up on small acreage blocks barely 50 metres wide and a hundred metres long.  This has caused an incredible backlash from residents who suddenly found themselves living cheek by jowl with these industries.  Many people in this situation suddenly experienced health problems.  Pets and poultry began dying, horses sickened, omnivorous birds dropped out of the sky and displayed obvious neuro-toxic effects and so on. This is still the situation out here in this neck of the woods.

 In essence I’m trying to find out if other councils have adopted the state government’s guidelines: ‘Planning Guidelines: Separating Agriculture and Residential Land Uses’ which was developed to provide technical advice to minimise conflicts between farming activities and residential uses (Policy Principle No. 8 of State Planning Policy 1/92: Development and the Conservation of Agricultural Land)

 Specifically, the above guidelines proposed that farms and residences be separated by a buffer zone of not less than 40 metres (if the buffer zone is heavily vegetated) and 300  metres if it is across open country.  What I want to know, is if your Council has adopted and implemented these guidelines or developed alternative guidelines of their own.


Respectfully yours,

Kim Downs

The responses have been trickling in slowly. Many councils expressly forbade the copying, forwarding, or transmitting of any e-mails that emanate out of their hallowed halls. The threats are serious. So in order to avoid any potential litigation I have tried to summarise the responses I cannot print. In cases where it appears I can get away with it I have posted their response in full. Below is the feedback  I have received to date (Sept 5th, 2012)  I will continue to post or summarise responses as they come back to me.

1st Response:

Dear Kim

The Tablelands Regional Cuoncil generally relies on the Planning Guidelines when assessing agricultural buffering requirements.


Peter Pattison
Senior Planner
Urban and Regional Planning Group, Planning and Development
Tablelands Regional Council

Phone: 07 4043 4000  |  Direct: 07 4043 4373  |  Fax: 07 4096 5086
Email: peterp@trc.qld.gov.au  |  Website: www.trc.qld.gov.au
31 James Street  |  PO Box 3, Malanda, Queensland, Australia, 4885

Kim here:  This rather vague response leaves a hole big enough to drive a truck through, but at least it indicates that the Tablelands is aware of the Guidelines. I can’t really count this as an unequivocal ‘yes’. I’ll call it a ‘maybe’.

2nd Response:

I cannot copy the response from the individual below for the reasons above. In summary, the e-mail said that the Sunshine Coast Council operates under three separate planning schemes. They are ‘The Caloundra City Plan 2004’, the ‘Maroochy Plan 2000’ and the ‘Noosa Plan’. These plans can be accessed online of course. I was informed by Mr Newby that these plans ‘reflect’ SPP 1/92, as does a new plan currently under development.

 Marcus Newby | Development Planner

Planning Assessment Unit – Level 4, Maroochy on 1st

Sunshine Coast Regional Council


Ph: (07) 5475 9901

Fax: (07) 5475 9930

Website: www.sunshinecoast.qld.gov.au

Kim here:  I would count this response as a definite ‘yes’.

3rd Response:

 Dear Kim

Thank you for your request.

Council implements the planning guidelines on a case by case basis in situations where the potential for conflict between agricultural uses and residential uses are identified.  In most cases the 300m separation cannot be achieved and the recommended buffer requirement of a 40m vegetated area with a 10m wide non flammable area on either side of the vegetated area is considered. Council relies on a report from a suitably qualified and experienced agronomist to assess the requirement for a buffer and the width of a buffer depending on the nature of the farming operations and climatic conditions like prevailing wind direction.

I note the guidelines are aimed at providing guidance and should not be read as rules as each situation is different and unique. People owning rural land have a reasonable expectation that they can use the land for rural production and generally in regional areas the residents are more tolerant and accept farming operations closer to their homes.

I trust the above is helpful.


Chris Du Plessis MPIA CPP

Manager Planning & Land Management

South Burnett Regional Council

PO Box 336


07 4189 9100

707 4162 4806



Kim here:  This is an interesting response. Cognizant that the 300 mtre open field buffer area is often unfeasible they have settled on the 40 metre heavily vegetated buffer concept with the additional proviso that there is a 10 metre wide non-flammable buffer on each side. I would count this as a partial ‘yes’ in attempting to implement SPP1/92.

 4th Response:

 Hi Kim

In response to your enquiry and from information received, Council offers the following advice regarding setbacks and buffers to the Agricultural Activity.

Under the Pine Rivers Plan the definition for Agriculture is defined as:

 “The use of premises for the growing of crops, pastures, flowers, fruit, vegetables, forestry trees where the maximum number of trees in the plantation is 50, turf or plants for fee or reward.

The term includes a roadside stall not exceeding 100m² GFA used for the storage, display and sale on a casual basis of agricultural produce grown solely on the premises.

The term does not include retail sales of agricultural produce grown elsewhere, bulk garden supplies, domestic horticulture if undertaken in conjunction with a detached house, farm forestry or a retail nursery as herein defined.”

The proposal for Agriculture in the Rural Residential Zone is self assessable when complying with the acceptable solutions of the applicable codes (Chapter 4, Part 6).  Under the Agriculture Code (Chapter 6, Part 1, Division 3) (copy attached), the acceptable solutions are set out in Table 6.1.3A.

The proposal for Agriculture would be Self-Assessable development and would not require town planning approval if all of the Acceptable Solutions of all of the applicable codes are complied with.

If you require any further information please contact me on 5433 2764.



June Magann

Assistant Development Planner

Development Services

Strategic Planning & Development

Moreton Bay Regional Council  I  Caboolture District

2 Hasking Street, Caboolture, Qld 4510

P: (07) 5433 2764

F: (07) 5433 2193


Kim here:  A rather complex answer. To be honest, I haven’t had the time to search out and read all the various planning policies from all the councils. But noteworthy to me was that this response made no mention of SPP1/92 at all. I’d have to count this as a ‘no’ for the moment.

I note that the notion of farms being ‘self assessable’ relies heavily on farmers doing the right thing;  there appears to be little oversight.

5th Response:

Dear Kim

The planning provisions for Southern Downs aim to reduce conflict between rural and residential uses by discouraging subdivision of rural land.

Council does often deal with applications to realign boundaries of rural land to create smaller allotments.  Approvals for these types of development are subject to the following standard conditions which derive from the State Planning Policy 1/02 Development and the Conservation of Agricultural Land and its associated guideline.

Fencing, Landscaping and Buffers

  • Treed buffers of 40.0 metres in width are to be provided along and within the boundaries of proposed Lots …….   Within this buffer area, existing native vegetation is to be retained and allowed to naturally regenerate. The trees planted within the buffers are to be suitable to grow to heights of between 3.0 metres and 20 metres.  The trees are to be planted prior to the signing of the Plan of Subdivision.  The treed buffers are to be maintained so they form an effective buffer in accordance with the Queensland Department of Natural Resources Planning Guidelines – Separating Agricultural and Residential Land Uses.
  • The treed buffer referred to in Condition ……. shall be planted and maintained in accordance with the approved Landscaping Plan.  A bond for the amount of $………. shall be submitted to Council prior to approval of the Plan of Subdivision.  The bond must be in the form of cash, bank cheque or irrevocable bank guarantee.  The bond shall be returned 12 months after the Plan of Subdivision is registered in the Office of Registrar of Titles/use commences subject to the satisfactory establishment and maintenance of the treed buffer. Should the buffer not be provided or maintained in accordance with the conditions of this approval, Council may call up the bond to undertake the planting to satisfy the requirements of this approval.  The terms and conditions of the bond include details of its purpose and intended use.  Council or its agents must be allowed access to the site to undertake any works required in accordance with this condition.

Easements and Covenants

  • A statutory covenant for the continued maintenance of the treed buffers is to be provided over proposed Lot ……..  The covenant documentation is to be prepared by Council’s solicitors at the developer’s cost.  The covenant documentation is to be submitted to Council for approval prior to the signing of the Plan of Subdivision.

Council cannot require these buffers unless we are conditioning a development approval. The use of historical lots for “as of right” uses would not trigger an application to Council, and I think this may be the situation you are describing.


Annette Doherty
Southern Downs Regional Council
t 07 4661 0300      f 07 4661 0333

Kim here:  Wow. Now this is what I was hoping to see somewhere.SPP1/92 is quoted up front and they even require the buffer areas to be planted before subdivision occurs. Big ‘yes’ from me.  Had Beaudesert Council had something similar in place to begin with I wouldn’t be typing this now. Are you listening Logan City Council?

6th Response:


In response to your inquiry can I say that the Etheridge Shire does not seem to have the same problems you would seem to be encountering.

In assessment of any application reference would be made to SPPs if the need arose. Other than that council has not developed or adopted any other guidelines in relation to intensive farming on small lots.

Sorry we can’t be of more help.


Peter Gregory

Manager Building, Planning and Community Facilities

Etheridge Shire Council

P.O. Box 12


Kim here:  Lucky Etheridge Shire. No such problems on the horizon. These comments that read like “If we encountered this problem we would ‘reference’ SPP1/92” are not satisfactory to me.  Too vague.  I’d have to count this as a ‘No’.

7th Response:

Kim,   Charters Towers is a bit different from the scenario you paint.  Here, we are more concerned about protection of large scale grazing properties from subdivision into smaller lots which do not constitute “living areas”.  The Rural zone code of the scheme does contain a performance criteria which requires “Residential and other noise and emission sensitive development are designed to protect future residents and users from the impact of traffic noise, dust and vehicle emissions and be provided with an acceptable visual amenity.  The acceptable/probable solutions require a 40 metre setback from State controlled roads, 300m separation for aerial chemical spray drift, 100m separation for ground applied spray drift,  300 metre separation from odour and 300m separation from long term (6an to 10pm) noise.  Those criteria would be applied in instances similar to what you write about.  But, because cropping of any sort in this region is so low level, the situation just does not arise……….Mike Power

Mike Power

Planning and Development Officer

Charters Towers Regional Council

Phone: (07) 47 615527

Fax: (o7) 47 615548

Email: mpower@charterstowers.qld.gov.au

Kim here:  Interesting response.  No mention of SPP1/92 but if anything their proposals are even more robust than the Guidelines.  I would have to count this as a ‘yes’ in principal if not a direct response to SPP1/92

8th Response:

I am not able to reprint this e-mail because of their stated privacy concerns. The response was from the Whitsunday Regional Council. In essence, I was informed that this council operates two Planning Schemes. These are the ‘2009 Whitsunday Shire Planning Scheme’ and the ‘2006 Bowen Shire Planning Scheme’. Within the 2009 Whitsunday Shire Planning Scheme ‘makes reference’ to the buffer areas described in SPP1/92 which is a way of saying ‘We are aware of the suggestions’ and not much more. Being assured that ‘all applications would be considered on their own merit’ and in some cases the use will be ‘self assessable’ they then admit that in such a situation the application would ‘not trigger a planning application therefore Council has no mechanism to enforce buffering or separation.’

Kellianne Wynne

Town Planner

Whitsunday Regional Council

Phone: 07 4945 0260

Fax: 07 4945 0222

Email: kellianne.wynne@whitsundayrc.qld.gov.au

Website: www.whitsundayrc.qld.gov.au

Postal Address: P O Box 104, Proserpine  Qld  4800

Kim here:  I’d have to characterise this response as being far too vague to be a ‘yes’. I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt and call it a ‘maybe’.

9th Response:

Hi Kim

Gladstone Regional Council administers 3 existing planning schemes: The Gladstone Plan 2006, the Calliope Shire Planning Scheme 2007 and the Miriam Vale Planning Scheme 2009. All 3 of these planning schemes state in their respective prefaces that the schemes appropriately reflect the existent State Planning Policies at the time of adoption, including State Planning Policy 1/92 – Development and Conservation of Agricultural Land. Within the rural codes of these schemes separation distances are provided between identified rural land uses and residential/commercial/community uses. Council’s planning schemes are accessible online at:


While I was not involved in the drafting of these planning schemes, I note that local government is under no compulsion to implement specific separation distances under the referred State Planning Policy or the Planning Guideline. Rather the language in these policies/guidelines identifies that councils “should” provide adequate buffers between incompatible land uses and the guideline provides a means for determining the separation distances.

I hope this response is of assistance to you.

Kind regards

Peter Orr
Senior Planning Officer

Kim here:  Typical language employed here.  All three planning schemes are purported to ‘appropriately reflect’ SPP/1/92. The reader is reminded that councils should provide adequate buffers and the guidelines provide the means to do this. We ‘reflect’ state guidelines which we ‘should’ follow.  No assurances here.  I’d have to count this as a ‘no’.

10th Response:

In short Townsville City Council has not adopted the State Policy. Acceptable uses and buffer zones are set out in the Planning Schemes that are developed by the Council. The schemes can be viewed on the Council website www.townsville.qld.gov.au


Jonathon Hughes
Development Advice Officer
Development Assessment
Planning & Development
P  07 4727 9122
F  07 4727 9052
E  jonathon.hughes@townsville.qld.gov.au
W www.townsville.qld.gov.au
Townsville City Council
103-141 Walker Street

PO Box 1268
Townsville QLD 4810

Kim here:  Again, I haven’t had time to wade through their particular planning policy though they baldly state that they do not follow SPP1/92. So, they get a ‘no’.

11th Response:

Mackay Regional Council is obliged to comply with State Planning Policy 1/92 – Development and the Conservation of Agricultural Land.

The Planning Guidelines 2 – Separating Agricultural and Residential Land Uses (August 1997) is viewed as part of the implementation of SPP 1-92, and the Mackay Regional Council apply these guidelines.  Each case is assessed on its merits regarding assessment of the application of the 300 m or 40m (if buffered) separation distances.

Council has not developed alternative guidelines.

Kind Regards,

Philip Grobler | Principal Regional and Strategic Planner | Strategic Planning | Mackay Regional Council

Phone: 07 4961 9096  | Fax: 07 4944 2411 | philip.grobler@mackay.qld.gov.au  | mackay.qld.gov.au

Kim here:  No question here. Good on ya Mackay.  That’s a big ‘yes’.

12th Response:


Thank you for your email enquiry regarding ‘Planning Guidelines: Separating Agriculture and Residential Land Uses’.

Council is still operating under the three planning schemes of the former Shires of Barcaldine, Aramac and Jericho which now make up Barcaldine Regional Council.  The Planning Schemes are available on Council’s website – http://www.barcaldinerc.qld.gov.au/web/guest/residents/planninganddevelopment.shtml

Separation distances from sensitive land uses are stipulated in Schedule 2 of the Planning Schemes.

I trust this is of assistance.


Lyn Batchelor

MCS, Barcaldine Office

Barcaldine Regional Council

PO Box 191


Kim here: I haven’t checked yet so for now they get a ‘maybe’.

13th Response:

Dear Kim,

Thank you for your email to Rockhampton Regional Council dated 23 August 2012 in which you request information on Council’s application of the State government’s guidelines: Planning Guidelines: Separating Agriculture and Residential Land Uses (1997).

Currently there are four planning schemes in force within the Rockhampton Regional Council local government area. The Fitzroy Shire Planning Scheme refers to the applicable Planning Guidelines in both the Rural Zone Code and Agricultural Use Code, as does the Livingstone Shire Planning Scheme in the Rural Zone Code. In the Horticulture Development Code in the Mount Morgan Shire Planning Scheme reference is made to an earlier Guideline than the 1997 version mentioned above. As the Rockhampton City Plan area is predominantly urban there is no specific reference to the relevant Planning Guidelines. Each of the planning schemes and the applicable information can be accessed on Rockhampton Regional Council’s website via the following link: http://www.rockhamptonregion.qld.gov.au/Council_Services/Planning_and_Development/Planning_Scheme.

Please note that the new Rockhampton Regional Council Planning Scheme is currently being drafted however it is intended that the amenity of neighbouring properties will be protected from intensive horticulture activities by prescribing appropriate buffer distances and specific design and siting requirements (still to be determined) for this land use. The draft rural code also focuses on protecting and maintaining water quality from waste “run-off” that can occur from intensive horticulture activities.

If you require any additional information in relation to this matter please do not hesitate to let me know.


Dana Meyer
Planning Assistant │ Strategic Planning
Rockhampton Regional Council (Rockhampton Office)
Ph: 07 4936 8531 │ Fax: 1300 22 55 79 │ E-mail: Dana.Meyer@rrc.qld.gov.au
Address: PO Box 1860, Rockhampton Q 4700 │Web:www.rockhamptonregion.qld.gov.au

Kim here: Wow.  Four separate planning schemes in place with a 5th under draft now. Two of the previous planning schemes ‘reference’ SPP1/92, one refers to an earlier guideline, and the fourth makes no specific reference to SPP1/92. And the new policy being developed has guidelines for buffer areas that are ‘still to be determined’. Good luck wading through that mess if they ever encounter the problems that Logan Council has to deal with.  I have to give them a ‘no’ if for no other reason than they are operating with too many conflicting plans and still to determine what they want to do.

So, from 13 responses thus far, I say the following:

Five councils queried gave a big thumbs up to SPP1/92.

Five councils indicated they don’t use it.

Three councils are somewhere in between.

I’ll keep you posted as more responses trickle in.

Kim Downs

September 5, 2012


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