Following Queensland's 2011 floods, the Floods Commission of Inquiry recommended that there be consistent legislation to control the construction of levees in Queensland.
The changes to the management of levees, as recommended by the above Commission, in Queensland were first implemented through the introduction of the Land, Water and Other Legislation Amendment Act 2013.
This regulatory framework will ensure levee bank design and construction addresses potential impacts on neighbouring properties, the community and the catchment as a whole.
The Land, Water and Other Legislation Amendment Act 2013 wasthe first step in developing the legislative framework for regulating levee bank construction and modification under the Water Act 2000. As well as making new levee banks an 'assessable development' it provides a clear definition of what a levee bank is and transitional arrangements which will apply when the new framework commences.
The Regulation of Levees in Queensland: Decision Regulatory Impact Statement, which sets out the framework, was finalised in early February 2014.
Water Act 2000
Water Regulation 2002
Land, Water and Other Legislation Amendment Act 2013
Sustainable Planning Act 2009
Sustainable Planning Regulation 2009
State Development Assessment Provisions
WHAT IS A LEVEE?
In Queensland, under the Water Act, a levee is defined as an artificial embankment or structure which prevents or reduces the flow of overland flow water onto or from land.
A levee includes levee-related infrastructure, which is defined as infrastructure that is:
- connected with the construction or modification of the levee
- used in the operation of the levee to prevent or reduce the flow of overland flow water onto or from land.
There are a number of types of levees, including:
- earthen levees (these can include fill material pushed up or deposited for the purpose of diverting overland flow water)
- crib walls
- concrete walls
There are a number of exclusions to the definition. Structures in the following categories are not subject to the levee regulation:
- Prescribed farming activities, including cultivating, laser levelling or contouring, clearing or replanting vegetation. Note however that if fill is left over from prescribed farming activities, such as laser levelling or contouring, and it is subsequently used to divert overland flow water, then this will be captured under the definition of a levee.
- Irrigation infrastructure or levee-related infrastructure
- Fill used for gardens or landscaping (up to a certain volume)
- Structures regulated under other Acts. This includes roads, railways and water storages.
- Coastal infrastructure, such as groynes, used to protect life or property from the threat of coastal hazards.
MANAGEMENT OF LEVEES
Landholders will need to apply for a development approval (Operational Work) for Category 2 or 3 levees. Local councils are responsible for assessing levee applications. As assessment managers, councils are able to make decisions about levees based on their vision for their local government area and their specific planning and management needs. The Queensland Government is a referral agency for matters of interest to the State for Category 3 levees.
The above applies only to the construction of new levees and modification of existing levees.
The Water Act, 2000 defines what a levee is and provides that the construction of a new levee or the modification of an existing levee is an 'assessable development' under the Sustainable Planning Act 2009. This means that any person planning to construct or modify a levee must give consideration to the potential effects of the levee on the movement of floodwater, and how this could affect other persons and properties.
Level of Assessment
A levee that has no off property impact
A levee that has an off property impact and for which the affected population is less than 3
A levee that has an off property impact and for which the affected population is at least 3
Local government with Queensland Government as referral agency
The calculation of off-site impacts is critical to the assessment process. The onus lies with the applicant to determine the impact and category of assessment. The methods of calculating off-site impacts are discussed in the relevant guideline documents that are available on the Department of Natural Resources and Mines’ website, at https://www.dnrm.qld.gov.au/water/catchments-planning/levees.
For further information about the regulation of levee banks, please refer to the Department of Natural Resources and Mines website at https://www.dnrm.qld.gov.au/water/catchments-planning/levees or email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 13 74 68 during business hours.