Queensland Rural Workers’ Accommodation Initiative
The Queensland Government recognises the importance of rural workers’ accommodation in facilitating all aspects of the agricultural supply chain and to support the many regional and local economies that rely on rural industries.
Providing convenient and affordable housing options is not just about rural workers being close to work but also providing services and appropriate accommodation that keep and attract rural workers in our communities. As such, requirements for rural farm accommodation will vary depending on the agricultural commodity being grown and its seasonality.
To assist Queensland’s economic recovery and support small to medium sized businesses and recognising the shortage of housing and specifically workers’ accommodation, the Queensland Government has developed the Queensland Rural Workers’ Accommodation Initiative (the Initiative) ( 1.3 MB).
The Initiative supports repurposing existing underutilised facilities as an interim solution for rural workers’ accommodation, where on premises nominated by the Planning Minister and used for accommodating employees for the Initiative. The Initiative and associated amendments to the planning framework also allow for small scale rural workers’ accommodation to proceed without a material change of use development approval, when meeting certain criteria.
The Initiative provides an interim policy response to the shortages of appropriate accommodation for rural workers across Queensland, while longer-term accommodation planning solutions are being worked through with local government for accommodation both on-farm and within local towns.
An amendment to the Planning Regulation came into effect on 16 December 2022. The Amendment Regulation will be in effect for a three-year period (until 9 December 2025) unless revoked earlier or extended by the Planning Minister.
More information about these changes is available from out FAQs below.
Frequently asked questions
Part A – repurposing underutilised facilities
The Initiative seeks to assist in the repurposing of underutilised facilities for accommodation to meet unprecedented demand for accommodation in the rural sector and take pressure off existing housing stock. The amendments to the planning framework provide that particular development for accommodating employees of rural uses for the Initiative is accepted development where:
For building works and operational works:
- The development is carried out on premises nominated by the Planning Minister under Part A of the Initiative
- The development is for accommodating rural workers for the purpose of the Initiative
- Any building work complies with the standard building provisions under the Building Act 1975 and stated in the Nomination Notice given by the Planning Minister
- Any building work does not involve the construction of a new building for sleeping accommodation.
For carrying out a material change of use:
- The premises have been nominated by the Planning Minister, and the use must be for accommodating employees of a rural use for Part A of the Initiative, and
- Any building works stated in the Nomination Notice issued by the Planning Minister have been completed.
Development approval will still be required if the proponent wishes to reconfigure (i.e., subdivide) their land, as this may constitute a ‘new development’ rather than a repurpose of an existing facility.
Nominated Premises will obtain the benefit of the exemption under the planning framework while the Initiative is in effect.
No existing lawful use rights will accrue for premises beyond the cessation of the Initiative.
Part B – Rural workers’ accommodation
The changes to the Planning Regulation also allow certain rural workers’ accommodation to proceed without requiring planning approval. For development to attract the exemption under the Planning Regulation, rural workers’ accommodation must comply with all of the following requirements:
- Premises are in a rural zone (defined by the local government planning instrument)
- Premises are not less than 25ha
- Does not result in an accommodation with a total capacity to accommodate more than 20 employees of the rural use across the premises on which the accommodation use is carried out, premises on which the rural use is carried out, and adjoining premises owned by the same person
- Does not involve new or changed vehicular access between premises and the road
- No part of the premises is in a flood hazard, bushfire hazard and a landslide hazard area (as identified in a State or local government planning instrument).
The material change of use exemption applies to ‘rural worker’s accommodation’ which is accommodation for employees of a rural use, if the premises and the premises where the rural use are carried out are owned by the same person.
A proponent may still require other development approvals under the Planning Act 2016 for development for rural workers’ accommodation, for example building works approval to ensure compliance with appropriate building standards including the relevant fire and safety standards.
Any development for a material change of use that commences in the three-year period, may have existing use rights to operate lawfully after the cessation of the provisions.
Changes to the Planning Regulation came into effect on 16 December 2022. The Queensland legislation website was updated at this time.
The exemption provided by the Planning Regulation is temporary and will end on 9 December 2025, unless revoked earlier or extended by the Planning Minister. The Initiative is intended to provide an interim solution to accommodation shortages for rural workers while longer-term solutions are being worked through with local government for accommodation both on-farm and within local towns.
If you would like the Planning Minister to consider the suitability of a site for approval for rural workers’ accommodation under the Initiative (Part A), you may send details of your proposal to QRWA_initiative@dsdilgp.qld.gov.au.
In assessing the suitability of premises as accommodation for rural workers, the Planning Minister will consider the information provided by the proponent about the premises and any works required for the premises to be fit for purpose having regard to the matters set out in Part A of the Initiative.
There are no timeframes associated with the Planning Minister considering proposals put forward, however, proposal will be considered in a timely manner.
The Planning Minister will give written notice to the local government authority, the owner of the premises and any occupier of the premises, if the Planning Minister decides to nominate premises under this Initiative (the “Nomination Notice”). Nominated premises will be included in Schedule 1 of the Initiative.
Where the Planning Minister determines that building works are required for an existing site and facility to be appropriate for accommodation for rural workers (that is for the facility to be fit for purpose) the Planning Minister will identify in the Nomination Notice the building works that are required to be undertaken before the premises may be used for accommodation purposes for this Initiative.
Part A – repurposing existing underutilised facilities
Any premises approved by the Planning Minister under the Initiative are exempt from a material change of use application and certain building and operational works under the local government planning scheme. All building works nominated by the Planning Minister and listed in the Nomination Notice need to comply with the relevant building provisions and need to have been completed before the use rights for rural workers is provided. Any lawful building works completed while the Initiative is in effect will remain following the expiry of the Initiative. The use rights for rural worker’s accommodation will cease when the Initiative expires.
The changes do not remove the requirement to obtain any relevant development approvals (e.g., reconfiguring a lot), or requirements under other legislation, such as fire and safety standards. It is the proponent’s responsibility for ensuring their development complies with other relevant legislation and controls.
Part B – rural workers’ accommodation
Proponents who meet the criteria contained in Part B of the Initiative do not require local government approval for the use (i.e., rural workers’ accommodation). However, a proponent may still be required to obtain other approvals (e.g., building approvals) and comply with relevant fire and safety standards for the use.
To ensure that the provisions are having the intended effect, a sunset clause is included that will cease the effect of the provisions in the regulation from three years from commencement. Any development for a material change of use that commences in the three-year period, may have existing use rights to operate lawfully after the cessation of the provisions.
A local government can continue to require material change of use approval for rural workers’ accommodation where the development does not meet the requirements set out in Schedule 6 of the Planning Regulation 2017.
Part A – Repurposing existing underutilised facilities
There is no change to the fire safety or building framework resulting from the Regulation amendments. A limited exemption for building and operational works is provided by the Planning Regulation to ensure existing underutilised facilities are fit-for-purpose for rural workers. Building works identified on the Nominated Notice are accepted development but still need to comply with the relevant provisions for the building work under the Building Act 1975.
Part B – Rural workers’ accommodation
There is no change to the fire safety or building framework resulting from the Regulation amendments.
For information about any additional requirements, advice should be sought from a building certifier. A list of licensed certifiers can be found here.
Local government have the responsibility for plumbing and drainage inspections for certification where sewage treatment is for less than 21 equivalent persons. This can be arranged through your certifier or builder during construction.
The Department of Agriculture and Fisheries (DAF) is developing a checklist to assist landowners wanting to utilise the planning exemptions for rural workers’ accommodation for Part B of the Initiative.
If development does not meet the prescribed requirements in Schedule 6 of the Planning Regulation 2017, it may become assessable development under the local planning scheme and subject to any relevant requirement or the appropriate development assessment process. These matters of compliance should be forwarded to your local council who will have a process to manage complaints for the misuse of planning regulations in their local government areas.
A maximum of 20 workers combined with the relevant provisions was considered to be an appropriate scale to manage the potential impacts on state interests, including traffic and servicing without the need for an assessment.
Producers can apply to the relevant local government to seek development approval for accommodation to suit larger cohorts of workers. Depending on the planning scheme, this may require a code-assessable or impact assessable development application.
The amendments to the planning framework limit accommodation being built only for the purposes of servicing a rural use, such as harvesting or other on-farm work. The exemptions only apply for a material change of use and do not apply to other approvals that may be required such building works approval to ensure compliance with appropriate building standards including the relevant fire and safety standards. However rural workers may be accommodated on another nearby farming property where the use of that accommodation is consistent with commercial primary production and the provisions in the Planning Regulation 2017.
No. The provision only allows for up to 20 workers on a property or premises of greater than 25ha. A premises is made up of contiguous property parcels under the same ownership. This does not prevent a farmer from using the provisions to build accommodation on a separate property elsewhere in Queensland provided they meet the same criteria in the Planning Regulation 2017.
Sustainability loans for primary producers through the Queensland Rural and Industry Development Authority (QRIDA) can be utilised to support growers with low interest loans for developing on-farm workers accommodation. These loans will help you to invest in the latest infrastructure to create a viable future for your farming business. Speak with QRIDA on 1800 623 946 or check your eligibility by reading the guidelines.
Last updated: 19 Dec 2022