Property Zoning

Your Sunshine Coast Property Zoning and the proposed new Planning Scheme


The council implements planning schemes that are focused on the land (slope, bush fire hazard etc.), land use, infrastructure and valuable features of an area while factoring in population and growth, including employment growth among other things. The planning schemes result in your property being categorised in a certain zone and consequently determine its ability to be built upon and/or subdivided. People seeking to rely on a current zoning of property for future development need to be vigilant about any planning scheme amendments or reviews because a failure to respond to council proposals in strict time frames drastically reduces the chance of successful recourses available.

Current Planning Scheme

The current Sunshine Coast Planning Scheme was adopted on 2 May 2014 and covers the Sunshine Coast local government area with the exception of designated priority development areas such as Caloundra South and Maroochydore City Centre, with minor and major amendments occurring since then. Under section 25 of the Planning Act 2016 (Qld) (“Planning Act”) a local government is required to review its planning scheme within 10 years after the planning scheme was made or, if the scheme has been reviewed, within 10 years of the last review.

As of an ordinary meeting on 28 January 2021, the Sunshine Coast Regional Council has resolved to put in place a new scheme by 2024 and is beginning to work towards this now. It is possible that the new scheme may rezone your property to something undesirable to you (or more desirable).

Council Consultation Requirements Regarding New Planning Schemes

Section 18 of the Planning Act states that if a new planning scheme is to be instated (or the scheme amended), a local government must follow a process stated in a notice made by the chief executive which must consider the Minister’s guidelines and must include:

  1. the local government publishing a public notice about the proposal at least once which states that any person can make submissions about it to the local government;
  2. the instrument being available for inspection and/or purchase for a consultation period of at least 40 business days after the publishing of the public notice;
  3. a communications strategy implemented;
  4. all properly made submissions need to be considered and responded to;
  5. the Minister must be given a summary of submissions and responses; and
  6. the proposal must be published in a public notice once finalised.

For reference, the Minister’s guideline with respect to the current Sunshine Coast Planning Scheme 2014 (statutory guideline 04/14 published on 9 October 2014 which correlates to section 117 of the then in effect Sustainable Planning Act 2009 (Qld)) required a few minor additional consultation requirements. Stage 3, Step 6 of the guideline reiterated the general public consultation requirements (at the time notification was required to be in the newspaper circulating in the local government area and not simply a ‘public notice’) with the addition of the notice being required to:

  1. be placed on the local government’s website;
  2. include the details of where the proposed scheme is available for inspection and purchase;
  3. include the requirements for making a properly made submission;
  4. include contact details for information about the proposed scheme; and
  5. the local government must display a copy in an obvious place in the local government’s public office and have a copy of the proposed scheme available for inspection and purchase and for download on the website.

It is not currently a legislative requirement to individually notify each property owner about amendments to planning schemes or new planning schemes which could include a rezoning of your property and you cannot lodge an action against the Sunshine Coast Regional Council for a failure to personally advise you. The Sunshine Coast Regional Council need only duly exercised its consultation obligations under the legislation. Therefore, we advise to regularly check the Sunshine Coast Council website for proposed amendments or new planning schemes so that you appropriately respond.

The easiest recourse against the council’s zoning of a property is to lodge a submission in a consultation period, prior to an amendment or new scheme being put in place. A submission would need to address each reason that the Sunshine Coast Regional Council has given you for the current zoning of the property and would require the engagement of a Town Planner, as well as other possible experts (e.g. ecologists, geotechnical engineers etc.).

Grace Period

The Planning Act allows for a 1 year grace period for caught out property owners. Section 29 provides that you can lodge a ‘superseded planning scheme request’ within 1 year of the new scheme to the council to request that they accept, assess and decide a development application under a superseded planning scheme or apply the superseded planning scheme to the carrying out of development that was accepted under the previous scheme (section 29(4)). There may be council fees attributed to this and the development application must be made within 6 months of council approval.

Adverse Planning Change

There also exists a mechanism for compensation in the event that you experience an ‘adverse planning change’ as defined in section 30(2) of the Planning Act as one that reduces the value of your interest in the property. These include public purposes changes that limit “the use of premises to— (a) the purpose for which the premises were lawfully being used when the change was made; or (b) a public purpose.”[1] However there are many exceptions to prevent a finding of an adverse planning change including but not limited to changes to reduce risk from natural events (flooding, erosion, bush fires etc.), if the change relates to a local government infrastructure plan, if they reflect another legislative instrument or if it complies with regulated requirements. A claim for compensation must be lodged within 2 years of the change.[2] Please contact us for tailored advice regarding adverse planning changes.

Failure to Lodge Submission During Consultation Period

Once the scheme is amended or replaced and new zoning in effect, it becomes more difficult to change the zoning.

You can still lodge a submission that the land be rezoned through a planning scheme amendment. You can also submit a development application which includes a variation request seeking to vary the effect of any local planning instrument in effect for the property, effectively superseding the zoning (without a technical rezoning). However, the council are hesitant to make exceptions to the zones for fear of opening the floodgates.

If you are unhappy with your current property zoning, this might be a good opportunity to lodge a submission to the council for the land to be rezoned in the new planning scheme.

If you have any questions in relation to the zoning of your property or seek assistance, please do not hesitate to contact the team at Miller Sockhill Lawyers.


[1] Planning Act 2016 (Qld) section 30(3)

[2] Planning Act 2016 (Qld) section 31(6)