Community voice helps drive policy change
  • Thursday 05 May 2011

Sunshine Coast Council will change its policy and procedures to better manage the way community land is used by commercial operators.

The policy has been renamed the Community Land and Complementary Commercial Activity Policy and includes clear direction around the roles and responsibilities for council and permit holders.

The new approach will not only align with community expectation that such land is used primarily for the community but will also introduce an improved Expression of Interest process that provides more certainty for commercial operators, an assessment process that puts emphasis on track record and professionalism, a set permit fee and stronger compliance and monitoring activities.

The significant changes are the result of a review of the policy conducted by an independent consultant and which included a survey of community, business sectors, and interviews with a range of current permit holders or their representatives.

Community Policy and Services Portfolio Councillor, Jenny McKay, said the review and the adoption of the recommendations were a significant step forward in ensuring that the interests of both the community and business were addressed.

“The new approach still aligns with community expectations that community land should be primarily for community, not commercial, use,” Cr McKay said.

“The changes will ensure an easier, smoother process for assessing and awarding both the permits and the identification of land available for such use.

“The review also highlighted the need for better monitoring of and compliance with permits – this was highlighted in the survey by all three community sectors that took part in the review – the general community, the business sector and in the interviews with industry representatives.

“Overall, the community engagement process confirmed that there was very strong community support for the strategic intent of the Commercial use of Community Land Policy which is to prioritise community use of community land while allowing for limited commercial activity.

“Similarly, engagement with the business sector also showed that there was support for a strategic policy which regulates commercial use however, the survey also revealed that the tender process for achieving the aims of the policy had created a lot of discontent in the business community.

“Many comments from the business sector also called for increased monitoring to ensure compliance with conditions after the permits are issued.”

Council staff are currently contacting individuals directly impacted by the decision.

The Commercial Use of Community Land Policy was adopted in 2009. The aim of the policy was to ensure community use of community land remained paramount, while allowing for the operation of commercial activities in specific circumstances that also provide a benefit to the community.

As a result of the policy’s adoption, land suitable for such use, and the type of use, was identified and a tender process implemented. The tender process offered a level playing field to would be tenderers, whether they had currently or previously held a permit at these locations or within the identified commercial use categories – or not.

In September last year, Sunshine Coast Council issued 32 permits through the tender process. Council extended a further 13 permits to operators with permits in place prior to the tender process. 20 permits currently remain vacant.

At that time council also agreed that while the intent of the policy remained correct, a review by April 2011 would provide opportunities to fine tune the policy and procedures to ensure council had got it right.

With that review now completed, an implementation plan to address the recommendation will be put into action.

The Plan will include:

  • Extending existing permits that expire at the end of this month to 30 June 2013 to align with the permits awarded during the tender process.
  • Amending subordinate Local Laws to better standardise permit terms and conditions across the region.
  • Developing new procedures that will include an EOI process rather than a tender process. The main reason for this is to remove the monetary component and include a focus on the quality of the service and the track record of the operators during the assessment.
  • The use of a sliding-scale fee schedule to cover the costs of administration and regulation rather then the current “offer” process inherent within a Tenders procedure.
  • A review of the locations and activities allowable for commercial use to assess the current demand and the appropriateness of activities in various locations across the region. This will also address possible safety issues with some activities.
  • An increase in monitoring of compliance with conditions. This will cover the monitoring of locations, safety issues, equipment (replacement and standards), illegal operators and improved responsiveness to complaints.
  • The implementation of an EOI process for all tenders in 2013 with all allowable locations and activities advertised at the same time.