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The Development Assessment System (Queensland)

Arguably the most important part of the Planning Act 2016 (PA), and the most relevant part to a town planner’s day-to-day tasks is the Development Assessment System.

In terms of Development Assessment, the PA includes:

  • Categories of development and assessment
  • How to make, change, assess and make decisions on development applications
  • Development assessment rules
  • Rights & responsibilities for development approvals (including how to seek changes to development approvals)
  • The Planning Minister’s powers in relation to the development assessment system
  • Miscellaneous provisions relating to development assessment

There are three types of assessments that can be assessable under a local instrument such as a Planning Scheme (i.e. the Planning Regulation 2017):

  • Accepted
  • Assessable
  • Prohibited

Normally, a Planning Scheme will identify the level or type of assessment, and also the applicable assessment benchmarks for a development.


Certain kinds of development can be considered ‘accepted development’. These developments do not need a development application if they meet certain requirements under either the local planning scheme or the Planning Regulation 2017. Provided the applicant carries out a self-assessment of the development against the requirements, you as the town planner will not require anything in writing from the Council to commence the activity.

For example, in most Council regions, you can build a granny flat without council approval as long as you comply with their codes relating to the size and location of the building. This is an ‘accepted development’.


Assessable Development refers to a development that can only be carried out if development approval has been obtained.

There are two types of assessments:

  • Code Assessment
  • Impact Assessment

A code assessable application is a bounded assessment that must only be evaluated against assessment benchmarks (e.g. the codes) stated in the planning scheme, whilst having regard to the requirements under the Planning Regulation 2017.

The assessor must approve the development application to the extent it complies with assessment benchmarks, or if compliance can be achieved by imposing development conditions.

What is an ‘Assessment Benchmark’?

An assessment benchmark can be a traditional code, a code purpose, performance outcome, and acceptable outcome; a simple set of standards, a group of codes, or an overall outcome intended for a zone.

There is no particular level of specificity with which benchmarks must be expressed – they could consist of very detailed technical standards or broad statements of desired policy outcomes.

They have a point of reference from which compliance can be measured and the graduated in a way that is suitable to the outcome being measured. For example, an assessment benchmark about achieving a particular standard of amenity could include objectivity measurable outcomes such as heights, setbacks, bulk and colour, but could also validly be expressed as a standard of amenity consistent with the amenity of the built form on adjacent premises, as an observable point from which to objectively measure.

It would not be appropriate to express it as the development has pleasant amenity. This is because the term ‘pleasant’ is a subjective concept that varies for each observer, and there is no consistent point of reference from which to measure. The framework of a planning scheme is not considered an assessment benchmark under the PA.


    Unlike code assessment, Impact assessment is not a ‘bounded assessment’ and can be carried out against the assessment benchmarks and having regard to any matters prescribed by regulation, but also may be carried out against or having regard to any other relevant matters such as planning need or the current relevance of the assessment benchmarks in the light of changed circumstances.

    An impact assessable application can be evaluated against the entire planning scheme, without being limited by assessment benchmarks. This includes additional requirements such as public notification.


    As the name suggests, a Prohibited development is a development that is identified, as prohibited.

    Regardless of the circumstances, there is no lawful way for the Local or State Government to approve the use.

    For example, subdivisions of land within the state mapped Regional Landscape and Rural Protection Area in South East Queensland (SEQ) are prohibited.

    Development Assessment Rules (DA Rules)

    Other than setting the framework in which the proposed development is assessed, one of the most integral parts of the Development Assessment System is the Development Assessment Rules.

    Also known as the ‘DA Rules’, this document outlines the process in which a development application is applied for, assessed, changed and decided.

    We’ll go into more detail about DA Rules in a later lesson.


    Within the PA, there is also a provision for how local governments are authorized to charge for development infrastructure and impose conditions about development infrastructure. As such, requiring Infrastructure Charges that are payable as part of a subdivision.

    The PA also includes details regarding how Development offences are identified and dealt with. It explains the required procedure; statutory notices; legal proceedings; powers for development offenders; enforcement powers for inspectors and the penalties and remedying contravention.

    Want to learn more about town planning and the development assessment process in Queensland? Check out our full length (online) course:

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