Who decides?


Information in this topic is worded in a general way to suit the circumstances in all Australian states and territories.

You will find an explanation of words in italics in 1.2 Planning language.


The states and territories have main responsibility for administration of the planning system in Australia as set out in each state or territory's planning legislation. Each state or territory has developed its own distinct planning system, policies and processes.

In general, the states and territories have responsibility for the planning legislation, and for planning on a broader basis than the local council area, through state/territory planning policies and regional plans.

Much of the responsibility for town planning at a local level, including the preparation of strategic land use plans and land use controls, and making decisions on development applications, has been delegated by the states to local councils. The extent of this delegation varies across Australia. The ACT does not have local councils and councils with the NT do not have planning functions.

The planning authority for making planning decisions can vary. For most development applications the planning authority is the local council. The council town planner prepares a report and recommendation on the development application and submits it for inclusion on the agenda of the council meeting for consideration by the democratically elected councillors. In some councils, the agenda item is dealt with by a planning committee of council. Councillors do not have to accept the advice given to them by their town planners, but in most cases they do.

In many cases elected councillors have delegated their responsibility to decide some development applications to qualified senior staff. Typically, delegated responsibility applies for straight-forward applications that fully comply with the planning scheme and where there were no significant community submissions received against the proposal.

Contact your local council to check how town planning decisions in your area are made.

An increasing number of decisions on development applications are being escalated from the local council level (ACT and NT are not relevant in this context) to be handled by local decision panels, regional panels and other state-level bodies. Contact your state planning department for information about when this can occur in your state or territory

Related topics:
1.2 Planning language
1.6 Legal framework for planning decisions
3.6 Appealing a planning decision
3.7 Special Cases

More on-line resources:

Planning scheme and development applications:
• Your local council’s website

General town planning information:

Planning Institute of Australia
Planning Aid (UK based, but useful resources)
American Planning Association (US based, but useful resources)
The Urban Land Institute

Planning legislation, planning process, and planning instruments in each state or territory:

We will build this list over time and invite you to contact us with suggested links you are aware of that can be added to this page.

Want to know more?
Is there something more you want to know about this topic? Contact us with your ideas for future inclusion in TOWN PLANNING FOR EVERYONE resources.

©The Planning Academy 2011
Last updated: 9 Dec 2013

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