Approvals needed

Once you've decided to build, renovate, redevelop or landscape, you need to find out what approvals are required for the work or whether the work is prohibited or exempt from approval.

There are a range of pages in the Design and Build section for particular types of development, including:

Development on ACT land

You may need approval from ACT Government directorates or private sector certifiers to build or do certain things on leased and unleased ACT land.

You may also need approval to build in Jervis Bay Territory (near Nowra, NSW) as most ACT laws apply in Jervis Bay Territory.

Development in "designated areas" is under the control of the National Capital Authority. You can see these areas on the Territory Plan maps.

Building projects done for, or on behalf of, the Commonwealth may not require approvals under ACT laws, but may be subject to Commonwealth controls. Most ACT laws do not apply to the Commonwealth Government.

The Territory Plan development tables

The Territory Plan includes development tables for each zone in the Territory Plan. By using the development tables from the relevant zone, you can find whether a development is prohibited or exempt from development assessment and what track it will be assessed in: code track, merit track or impact track.

Prohibited development

Some development is prohibited in the ACT.

Exemptions from approval

Small structures - such as some garages, pergolas, decks and new homes in new estates - are exempt from either development and/or building approval, provided they meet certain criteria. Other types of approval - such as tree approvals - may still be required.

Development approval

Development approval is about the design of the development. It ensures the development is appropriate to an area and conforms with any lease requirements, Territory Plan codes, regulations or specific development conditions that may apply to a particular piece of land.

The approvals process differes according to the type, location and complexity of the development.

The ACT has a track-based system for assessing proposals that need approval:

By using the development tables from the relevant zone in the Territory Plan, you can find the assessment track that applies to a proposal.

Building approval

Building approval ensures that any planned building work will be structurally sound and safe, and conforms with the requirements of the Building Code of Australia. Exemptions from building approval may apply to some small structures.

Building approval is given by a licensed building surveyor who has been appointed as a building certifier.

Tree damaging activity approval

You must have an approved Tree Management Plan if your building will involve groundwork within the tree protection zone of a protected tree or is likely to cause damage to, or remove, any trees defined as protected trees. More information and approval can be obtained from the Territory and Municipal Services Directorate.

Use of verges or other unleased Territory land

Road verges and other unleased Territory land must not be used for the carrying out of works, including the storage of materials or waste, without the prior approval of the Territory. More information and approval can be obtained from the Territory and Municipal Services Directorate.

Works on unleased Territory land - design acceptance

Design acceptance applies to work such as the construction or upgrading of driveway verge crossings, the replacement of public footpaths, street lighting and verge landscaping. No work can be undertaken on unleased Territory land without the approval of the Territory. Such approval is given by way of a certificate of design acceptance from the Territory and Municipal Services Directorate. Unless a certificate of design acceptance is obtained, and the respective work completed in accordance with this certificate, a certificate of compliance may not be issued.

Commonwealth environmental approvals

The ACT has rules about what environmental assessments are required. The Commonwealth also requires that a person must not take an action that has, will have or is likely to have a significant impact on a matter of national environmental significance, for example National Heritage places, listed threatened species and ecological communities, listed migratory species and World Heritage properties. Development that may have a significant impact on a matter of national environmental significance requires a determination from the Commonwealth Environment Minister. More information is available from the Department of Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts.

Professional assistance

Design and building professionals must be licensed, registered or accredited to work in the ACT. We suggest you find a professional to help with preparing plans, seeking approval and construction. You should read about employing a professional before you choose someone.

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