Subsidiarity principle suggests Qld Government should let West Village proceed in current form

In today’s Courier-Mail, commenting on the Deputy Premier’s call in for State Government review of an $800 Million West End development, Steve Wardill observes that “WITH the case of the West Village development call-in, Jackie Trad was damned if she didn’t and damned if she did.” If she did not call it in, she would lose support in her electorate of South Brisbane, but, if she did, she ran the risk of appearing to be anti-development.

Political considerations will ultimately determine the conditions the Government places on the West Village development, because it is obvious on economic and policy grounds it should proceed in its current form, and that Brisbane City Council was right to ignore its own restrictive neighbourhood plan for the area when approving the development. Consider that higher inner-city population density, which this West End development would contribute to, would be consistent with State Government policy to increase active transport (cycling and walking) and to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Furthermore, there does not appear to be any reason for the State Government to get involved, because this is a purely local issue. It is not affecting the environment outside of the immediate local area as far as I can tell. A well-known principle governing the allocation of powers and responsibilities to different levels of a hierarchy, which apparently originated in the Catholic Church, is the subsidiarity principle. According to the Council for the Australian Federation:

Subsidiarity is the principle that powers and responsibilities should be left with the lowest level of government practicable. Such a devolved system means there is greater local input into decision-making and States and Territories can customise policies and services to suit local preferences.

Applying this principle would mean that local planning decisions with no State-wide significance are left to councils. This would appear applicable in the case of the West Village development.

Previous related posts include:

Heritage protection imposing high costs

Brad Rogers’s guest post – Old Queenslanders in a new city

Grattan book City Limits highlights problems with current planning and transport policies

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6 Responses to Subsidiarity principle suggests Qld Government should let West Village proceed in current form

  1. Alistair Robson says:

    The NSW Government tightened this up a few years ago. Now large developments equivalent to that one in West End would go through a “joint regional planning panel” for consideration. Of course “local government” in much of Australia is far from “local” and more “regional” or “county” size nowadays, but that’s another story. Perhaps it’s time for Parish Council’s to be introduced to bring back the “local” in local government?

    A bit of background to our NSW situation (which you guys in QLD may want to emulate) – “JRPPs were introduced in 2008 as a way of taking local politics out of development consent processes, and assisting in the determination process for large-scale development projects. They consist of two local council and three State Government representatives. The Major Development SEPP currently lists classes of development which will be referred to a JRPP.” (

  2. John Kettle says:


    Not quite sure everyone understands what subsidiarity means.

    Good article.

    John Kettle Partner

    T +61 7 3233 8962 | +61 2 8241 5600 M +61 419 646 379 E

    McCullough Robertson Lawyers

    Level 11, 66 Eagle Street, Brisbane QLD 4000 Level 32 MLC Centre, 19 Martin Place, Sydney NSW 2000 Brisbane Sydney Melbourne Newcastle

    [] [] []

  3. Glen says:

    I only ever see these decisions as proof that Australia is clearly over governed and the states are in fact a costly impediment to productivity and delivery of services.

  4. Robyn Abell says:

    Sadly you have believed developer claptrap. Have to talked to the West End Community Association? Not a mob of Greenies and hippies. The development for starters occupies 93% of the site when it is supposed to be 80%. There is no traffic management plan etc.

  5. Bob Shead says:

    Agree in theory, but given the propensity for corruption where developments are approved where not in accordance with the relevant plan, or against the recommendation of the planning department, I think some external review process is justified.

  6. “Brisbane City Council was right to ignore its own restrictive neighbourhood plan for the area when approving the development”


    Anyway, if this project and other similar developments “should proceed”, I would be interested in government applying conditions on approvals that punish not proceeding. After all, if a developer (in this case residential development, but the same principle applies more generally to mines, ports etc) claims certain benefits from the approval, they should be made to deliver what they promised in a timely manner and not let the approval lapse if market conditions change, nor should they be able to sell the asset after the approval to someone else. If you don’t deliver what you promise it is clear you have been playing a political game, not an investment game.

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