New Ground | Expert Environmental Consultants in Queensland

Reforms Pending to Queensland’s Koala Planning Provisions

The Department of Environment, Science and Innovation (DES) is undertaking a review of the 2020 koala planning regulations under the Planning Regulation 2017 to evaluate their effectiveness and identify areas for improvement. In 2023, DES released a Consultation Post Implementation Review report, inviting public feedback on the 2020 koala regulations. This consultation aimed to assess the regulations’ impact on stakeholders and gather insights on enhancing their effectiveness  (see New Ground’s 2023 blog on this for background). Following the 2023 consultation process, DES has now (May 2024) published the Decision Post Implementation Impact Analysis Statement (Decision Post IAS), incorporating new data, feedback from the consultations, and the Government’s preferred approach for refining the koala planning provisions.

The Decision Post IAS identifies ‘Option 3’ as the preferred path forward for the Queensland Government. One of the aspects of focus to this option is refining the Koala Planning Provisions by addressing loopholes in the Exempted Development exemptions (of schedule 24 of the Planning Regulation 2017) to bolster koala conservation outcomes. A significant aspect of this area for reform is reduction in the stacking of exempted development exemption allowances, which involves clarifying the cumulative application of these exemptions.

Some of the areas of reform noted in our review of the Decision Post IAS are:

Tiered thresholds for interference with Koala Habitat

The Queensland Government supports amending exemption k to introduce tiered thresholds for necessary interference with koala habitats. While the report does not outlined specific thresholds, the thresholds noted in the 2023 consultation document (up to 500 square meters of clearing on urban lots and 800 square meters on rural lots) are again noted in the Decision Post IAS as example possible thresholds. In addition, it is noted that greater onus will be placed on proponents to demonstrate that koala habitat trees are retained to the greatest extent possible even through exempt clearing activities.

Clarification of Consequential Clearing 

Clarification of the expectation that consequential clearing associated with assessable development must be considered in the calculation of impacts associated with a development proposal, namely when identifying whether a project is assessable, prohibited or exempted development under the Planning Regulation.

Alignment with Previous Approvals

The amendments will enable subsequent development applications to align with approvals from earlier stages of development. This is particularly relevant for development applications called up by development approvals obtained/properly made before the introduction of the 2020 reforms.

Notification Process and Online Tool

A new mandatory notification process is proposed. This would include an online tool for landowners to notify DES before interfering with koala habitats under exemption k, other development approvals, and various exemptions.

Review of KPA Mapping

A review of the Koala Priority Area (KPA) mapping is scheduled to commence in 2025, in collaboration with local governments and key stakeholders. This review aims to ensure the mapping remains accurate and reflective of current State conservation targets.

The implementation of these regulatory amendments is to be supported by improvements/revisions to a range of policies, tools, and guidelines, including:

  • Queensland Environmental Offsets Policy
  • Koala Sensitive Design Guidelines
  • Exempted Development Guidance
  • SDAP Code 25 Guidelines for Assessment Benchmarks

Supporting documents such as those noted above are expected to play an important role in facilitating the practical application of the new regulations; keeping stakeholders informed of their obligations under the updated requirements.

We note that, at the time of writing, the koala planning provisions have not been changed. While the Decision Post IAS does not give a date by which reforms will be made, the report does note that The Queensland Government intends to implement regulatory amendments called up by the Decision Post IAS during 2024.

The Decision Post IAS report can be accessed at:

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