This page offers information on the assessment of activities that, alone or as part of a development, may be categorised as operational work, as specified in the Planning Act 2016.
What is operational work?
Operational work refers to work (other than plumbing, drainage or building work) that affects a property or its use. It can follow a development approval for a material change of use or reconfiguring a lot.
Operational work can be:
- extracting gravel, rock, sand or soil
- excavating or placing fill
- taking or interfering with water
- constructing or raising waterway barrier works, for example, a weir or culvert
- clearing native vegetation.
- building a road or river crossing
- constructing an in-stream or off-stream dam
- activities associated with another development approval
Where to start your application
If your development is complex, or if there are on-site issues, you may need to find a qualified consultant to develop your application.
Your local council
Generally, your first step would be to contact your local council to discuss any requirements under the planning scheme.
If your development is assessable, your local council will let you know if they will be the assessment manager for your application, or if you need to contact the State Assessment and Referral Agency (SARA) through your regional SARA office.
The council or SARA may also direct you to the Department of Natural Resources, Mines and Energy (DNRME), if your development may require:
- clearing of native vegetation
- taking or interfering with water in a watercourse, lake or spring, artesian or sub-artesian water, or overland flow; or
- excavating or placing fill within a watercourse, lake or spring; or
- removing any in-stream material (for example, sand, gravel, rocks or soil).
Categorising your development
Your local council will also help you determine the category of your proposed development. Your development may be categorised as one of the following:
- accepted under the relevant planning scheme.
The scale of the changes and location of the property will determine the type of assessment that will be involved.
Despite the category of your proposed development, your proposal may also require:
- assessment against interests that the state may have under the Planning Act 2016. This may mean that you need to lodge your application with, or refer it to SARA.
- assessment against a state interest that does not fall under the Planning Act or the SARA process e.g. if your proposed development falls within a regional interest plan area under Regional Planning Interests Act 2014.
- assessment by other entities such as the Queensland Fire and Emergency Services (refer Queensland Planning Regulation 2017).
- assessment against Commonwealth legislation such as the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (EPBC Act) (e.g. if land-use activities could potentially impact on threatened species).
Working with SARA
If your proposed development is assessable development, the assessment manager may be your local council or SARA.
If your local council has advised you to speak with SARA, we recommend that you contact SARA to ask for pre-lodgement advice, or a pre-lodgement meeting. This will help you understand the constraints, opportunities, potential alternatives and also the costs associated with the assessment process.
The role of the SARA
SARA works with technical agencies, such as Department of Transport and Main Roads, DNRME, Department of Agriculture and Fisheries and the Department of Environment and Science, to ensure all technical aspects are appropriately assessed against Queensland legislation.
It's important to channel your questions about interests the state may have through SARA in the first instance, rather than direct to a technical agency. SARA’s role is to deliver a coordinated, whole-of-government approach to the state's assessment of development applications. Find further information on SARA or contact your regional SARA office.
Costs involved in development assessments
The Planning Regulation sets out the assessment fees for SARA. In addition to paying the assessment fees, the applicant is also responsible for the costs involved with developing appropriate plans, and complying with legal requirements. Local government will have a separate fee schedule for assessing applications.
- Mapping for development assessment may help you determine some referrals that may be triggered by your proposal.
- The State Development and Assessment Provisions (SDAP) sets out matters of interest to the state under the Planning Act. The SDAP outlines how a development application will be assessed under SARA and provides the assessment criteria and codes, guidelines, policies and legislation specific to the assessment of your development
- Read more about the development assessment process.
- Find a list of requirements that may be relevant to your development.