July 6, 2020
by Anne Miller
Newspaper publishers who have turned their backs on regional Queenslanders by shutting down printed newspapers are being rewarded by the State Government with tweaks to Development Assessment rules.
When News Corp closed a string of printed newspapers across Queensland recently, developers and Councils were left in a bind because old legislation specified that compulsory Development Application notices must be printed in a newspaper circulating within the local area.
This is a nice little money earner for newspapers.
southburnett.com.au has been lobbying for eight years for this legislation to be changed to allow Development Applications advertised in online newspapers to fulfil the legal requirements.
Of course, we’d like the advertising dollars … but there is also the small matter of readership.
People may regret the loss of printed newspapers, but realistically News Corp would not be axing print editions if the readership was still there to attract advertisers.
Sadly for fans of newsprint, online news readership now dwarfs print news readership by about 10-to-1.
For a while it appeared this legal discrimination against digital media was about to change.
Treasurer Cameron Dick announced on Monday that if a newspaper had gone digital, public notices could be placed online.
However, a State Government fact sheet shows the State Government is still preferencing printed publications over their digital counterparts.
According to the fact sheet, the new arrangements require:
1. If there is a hard copy local newspaper circulating in the locality of the premises the subject of the development application – this must be used to publish the notice about the application.
2. If there is no hard copy local newspaper circulating in the locality of the premises the subject of the development application but there is an online local newspaper for the area – this must be used to publish the notice about the application.
3. Where there is no local newspaper in the locality – any of the following may be used:
• Publish a notice in a state-wide or nation-wide newspaper (hard copy or online)
• Publish a notice on the assessment manager’s website
• Give a notice to surrounding residents within an agreed area
What this means is a developer must place an advertisement in the Toowoomba Chronicle, which has a small circulation in the South Burnett, ahead of southburnett.com.au
And the dollars flow out of the region.
Unfortunately, we know developers have used this ruse before, even when there was a print newspaper – the South Burnett Times – circulating locally.
One major development on the outskirts of Kingaroy was advertised with small signs on site and an advertisement in the Chronicle, which almost no one in Kingaroy saw.
But it was all perfectly legal!
What it certainly was not – and will not be while these rules remain – is a genuine attempt to keep the public informed.