The community of Wujal Wujal, located 159 kilometres north of Cairns, has become the first Indigenous community in Queensland to adopt a Local Government Planning Scheme.
Minister for Aboriginal, Torres Strait Islander and Multicultural Affairs Glen Elmes said the adoption of the new planning scheme marks an important step in achieving improvements for the Wujal Wujal community and supporting their economic development.
Historically, planning and development in Indigenous communities in Queensland has been plagued by poor land use and development decisions. No other Indigenous local government area currently has a statutory planning scheme.
The implementation of planning schemes will give Indigenous communities a framework to help them make decisions regarding development in their communities. The schemes will also provide state and Commonwealth agencies and private developers with greater certainty when it comes to site locations and the approval process.
While there initially appeared to be a lack of community interest in a planning scheme for such a small, remote community, the community quickly got involved through conversations about housing and other needs.
As a result, the planning scheme became viewed as a tool that would enhance future developments in the area and provide a platform to facilitate growth rather than one that aims to control development pressures.
Elmes said the scheme would come into effect by the end of July 2013 and the Shire Council would manage developments in a way that met community expectations.
“The Planning Scheme focuses on identifying areas for future development that are not impacted by natural hazards, or areas of cultural and ecological significance. It gives Wujal Wujal Aboriginal Shire Council the tools to guide its decisions about residential, commercial and industrial growth into the future,” he said.
“By working together with the community, the Shire Council and other stakeholders, we are helping improve the lifestyle of community members while protecting natural surroundings. A better future for Indigenous communities is dependent on the communities taking on more planning responsibility and having greater autonomy over how the community can develop.”
The Department of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander and Multicultural Affairs funded the Planning Scheme’s preparation and the management of the contract through its Remote Indigenous Land and Infrastructure Program Office. The department worked closely with the Wujal Wujal Council in developing the plan, with input from Councillors and the community throughout the entire process.
With the government and Indigenous councils working together, it is expected that well-planned development will bring social and economic benefits for the future wellbeing of Indigenous communities in Queensland.