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Sustainable development

Planning for people, not for profit 


Developers have been getting away with bending and breaking the rules for years by abusing their connections with the LNP-controlled Brisbane City Council and Labor State government. Big developers are getting rich off high house prices and rents. At the same time, the rate of housing construction has slowed, and many newer homes are not only unaffordable, but uncomfortable and unsustainable.

The Greens support sustainable, well-designed development that strikes the right balance between creating enough housing for a growing population, preserving green space and community amenity, and ensuring new development is accompanied by adequate public infrastructure.

But when decisions about building design and scale are primarily shaped by developers’ desires to maximise profits, communities get stuck with substandard housing that costs more to maintain and operate long-term, and creates negative flow-on impacts for the wider community.

The Greens want to overhaul and update Brisbane City Plan 2014, and end the special treatment for big, well-connected developers. In doing so, we can create walkable, leafy, mixed-use, medium-density neighbourhoods where public services and infrastructure keep up with our communities’ changing needs.


The Greens’ Plan for sustainable development and design includes:

  • More trees and green space within new developments; new multi-residential projects will be required to set aside a minimum 20% of site area for deep-planted trees, up from 10% today. 
  • Consistent and binding planning rules, including making height limits, boundary setbacks and site cover maximums binding, not negotiable.
  • Creating cooler, more comfortable homes by making it mandatory for all bedrooms to have a window, and ensuring new buildings meet air-flow, insulation, and shade requirements to maximise natural cooling, as well as liveability benchmarks for natural light, space, and noise. 
  • Making big developers pay their fair share towards the cost of local infrastructure, including new public parkland to provide recreation space for residents and minimise the urban heat island effect. 


More trees and green space in new developments

In rapidly-developing areas where many homes don’t have private backyards, preserving and creating green space is more important than ever. So the Greens want to increase the percentage of site area within new developments that developers are required to set aside for deep-planted trees (the LNP currently only require a minimum of 10% site area for trees).

Green spaces, particularly with trees that provide shade cover, also work to lower ambient temperatures, offsetting the urban heat island effect. Setting aside space for more deep planted trees also reduces dangerous flooding by reducing concreted surfaces to let rainwater drain away naturally. (1)

Trees keep our streets cooler and more comfortable.

New green space requirements will include:

  • Medium and high-density developments will be required to set aside at least 20% of site area for deep-planted trees at ground level.
  • For new, low-density detached-housing developments, at least 25% of the site must contain deep-planted trees at ground level. 
  • For developments which do not include a residential component (i.e. commercial and industrial projects), at least 25% of the site area must contain deep-planted trees at ground level.
  • Areas which count towards deep planting minimum ratios must be open to the sky (not covered by building awnings), and have no artificial infrastructure directly beneath the roots.

The Greens will also better protect existing street trees and native trees on private land, by tightening the rules which allow big developers to destroy existing vegetation. 


Consistent and binding planning rules

Council’s outdated Brisbane City Plan 2014 is not fit for purpose. Rather than updating the plan to accommodate “gentle density” and walkable, mixed-use medium-density development, the LNP Council has opted to create more loopholes for big developers. 

Ad hoc upzoning, such as the LNP Council’s Kurilpa Temporary Local Planning Instrument or TLPI (which was also approved by the Labor State government), pushes up land values and gives huge financial benefits to property speculators and well-connected developers, while failing to make them pay their fair share towards infrastructure or include any genuinely affordable public housing. 

Across the city, height limits, minimum boundary setbacks, and open space requirements in local planning rules are increasingly being waived to deliver windfall profits to developers who have close ties to politicians.


Neighbourhood-based planning 

The Greens will revitalise whole-of-neighbourhood-based planning, relying on community consultation, expert advice, and a long-term outlook. 

Neighbourhood plans can deliver more “gentle density” with guaranteed new public services and infrastructure like libraries, parks, swimming pools and public transport infrastructure. 


Neighbourhood democracy

No-one understands their neighbourhoods like the people who live there, so local residents should be directly involved in consultation and planning. 

Most residents are not opposed to new development, but want it to be supported by investment in public infrastructure and services.

Developers seeking to maximise their profits without contributing to public infrastructure often try to discredit local objections to new projects, but residents have a right to be concerned about overcrowded schools, dwindling public greenspace, and inadequate public transport infrastructure. 

By involving local residents in the planning process and educating the public, we can ensure that development results in better outcomes by identifying key issues and concerns before they become big problems. 

Meaningfully involving residents at the planning stage, where neighbourhood planning rules are democratically agreed upon, can reduce neighbourhood opposition to sustainable development projects while ensuring unsustainable projects can’t proceed.


Clear and binding rules

The Greens will make key requirements like height limits compulsory, not optional. 

Building height limits, minimum boundary setbacks, deep planting requirements, heritage protections and minimum open space requirements specified in planning codes and regulations would be treated as strict and binding rather than as negotiable and discretionary ‘performance outcomes.’

Clearer and more consistent rules mean homes get built faster. When planning requirements are negotiable or optional, developers spend years trying to game the system by seeking approval for extra storeys rather than getting on with building urgently needed new homes. 

To ensure clarity of expectations, the City Plan should specify all building height limits in both storeys and metres above natural ground level. Rooftop infrastructure such as artificial shade structures, cooling units and elevator plant equipment should be counted towards a building’s height wherever the area taken up by such features exceeds 20% of the building’s total roof area (rooftop trees would not count towards a building’s height).


Sustainable density

The Greens support the construction of new housing, but the use of ad hoc planning changes like Temporary Local Planning Instruments and Priority Development Area designations to create developer free-for-alls rapidly strains local infrastructure, services and amenities. 

“Gentle density” needs to be planned on a whole-of-neighbourhood basis with a long-term strategy for making sure amenities, services, and infrastructure can keep up. The Greens’ Brissie Bus Boost, and Streets for People plans for walking and cycling show the kind of long-term thinking we need to create more walkable, people-friendly neighbourhoods. 

The Greens will also take up other opportunities to create much-needed housing including:

  • Ensuring granny flats, tiny homes and other small secondary dwellings can be used as housing by people who are unrelated to the occupants of the primary dwelling.
  • Creating guidelines to support the use of portable dwellings such as tiny houses as housing in low-density and medium-density areas, while guarding against the clearing of trees on private properties and preserving amenity for neighbours.


More homes, fewer parking lots 

Building huge multi-storey car parks in residential buildings is a waste of money, resources and precious space on the first few floors of a building. 

Building excessive car parking actually increases traffic by encouraging more residents to own multiple cars. The same space can be used to accommodate homes, reducing the costs of delivering both public and private housing. 

The Greens would review mandatory minimum car parking requirements, with a view to reducing or removing them in areas with good public transport and walkable high streets close by. 


Cooler, more comfortable homes with mandatory bedroom windows

Even in 2024, Brisbane developers are still gaining approvals for new apartments where not every bedroom has a window to the outside. This is occurring primarily because developers are trying to squeeze too many apartments into constrained building floor plates.

New buildings not only need to minimise their contribution to climate change, but they also need to be prepared for it. Homes need to be built to last, and should be comfortable and resilient in floods and heatwaves.  

Renters and homeowners suffer when apartments are vulnerable to flooding and extended power outages. Bedrooms with no windows, natural light or airflow are ill-suited for raising a family or isolating at home during a pandemic.


Promoting natural cooling

In the heat of the summer, power outages can be dangerous for residents in apartments with limited airflow. These risks are higher for young children, older people and people with disabilities and underlying health conditions. 

Making sure big developers deliver homes with natural cooling and ventilation will not only lower emissions and reduce the cost of electricity bills for residents, but will also save lives as heat waves get worse. 


The Greens will make new homes cooler, more liveable and climate resilient by: 

  • Ensuring all bedrooms or other habitable rooms have windows and natural airflow, and closing loopholes that allow developers to skirt the National Construction Code.
  • Ensuring that Council enforces the insulation and energy efficiency measures in the National Construction Code, rather than offering loopholes to big developers. 
  • Introducing new standards for passive cooling, airflow, and insulation to ensure buildings are habitable without air conditioning during prolonged power cuts and heatwaves.


Flood resilience

While most of Brisbane’s urban footprint is located on higher ground above the river’s flood levels, too much new development has been concentrated on low-lying, flood-prone land.

In February 2022, flood waters trapped thousands of new apartment residents in their homes for days. Flooding of basements and energy infrastructure left some residents without power and garbage collection services for weeks after the waters receded.

The Greens will take an evidence-based approach to banning and restricting development in the most flood-prone parts of the city, while supporting flood-resilient development in areas that are only slightly vulnerable to flooding.

The Greens’ Brisbane City Council campaign is releasing a separate, detailed initiative proposing stronger restrictions against floodplain development.


Make developers pay their fair share

Infrastructure charges are the fees developers pay to Brisbane City Council and Queensland Urban Utilities to help cover the costs of new or upgraded stormwater drainage, mains water supplies, sewage connections, parks, libraries, public pools, ferry terminals, bridges, roads, intersection upgrades and associated infrastructure.

But the LNP Council recently announced $400 million in budget cuts to public services and projects while discounting infrastructure charges - giving tax cuts - to big developers. 

While the major political parties and wealthy developers who control the property and construction industries say that this will boost housing supply, this simply isn’t true.

In the short term, concessions for rich developers deliver windfall profits on existing projects. But in the long run, increasing developer profitability only increases the amount they are willing to bid against each other for new land to develop. (2)

The Greens will reverse the LNP’s tax cuts for developers, and create a new fit-for-purpose infrastructure charges system that ensures developers actually contribute enough money to cover the true costs of the infrastructure we need to house a growing population.


But doesn’t tightening building design standards slow down housing supply?

No. When Labor and the LNP relax building standards, reduce green space requirements, and subsidise developers with public money, it increases developer profits in the short term, but it doesn’t encourage any long-term increase in new construction.

If relaxing building standards leads to lower construction costs, developers are willing to pay more to outbid each other on new land to develop. Developers get a short-term boost to their profit margin but this quickly falls again as land values catch up.  Developers already sell homes for the maximum they can get. Reducing their costs drives up their profits, but doesn’t bring down house prices or rents

At the end of the day, we all want housing that is well-designed, sustainable, and supported by sufficient local infrastructure. It’s time we created a City Plan that delivers that.


Further policy detail can be found in the Greens' 2024 Brisbane City Council full policy platform


(1) Bartens et al. 2008; Xie et al. 2020

(2) Callavita and Mallach. 2009.