Below are some of the questions I am commonly asked.  As council requirements and building codes can, and do, change frequently the below should only be used as a guide. They cannot take into account the individual circumstances of your project. 

Q: Do all building/alteration projects require formal approval?

A: No. A project can be an “Exempt Development”, these do not require approval. As long as they meet specific criteria Exempt Developments include simple pergolas, decks, painting a house, barbeques and sheds. 

Q: My project is a bit more complex than Exempt. What sort of development will it be?

A:  More commonly a project can be a "Complying Development".  Complying Developments are straightforward development proposals such as home renovations or addition or a new home up to two stories. Providing the proposal meets specific criteria, it can be determined by council or private certifier without needing a full development application.

It is important to note that for both Exempt and Complying Developments there are strict criteria that must be met.  Drafting of plans will usually still be necessary for Exempt and Complying Developments.  


For more information on Exempt and Complying Developments please go to:

Q: When is Approval needed?

A: Anything that is not specifically an "Exempt Development" needs approval.  Specifically, approval is required for any building work involving: the development of new structures, alterations or extensions and changes in ground levels. These include:

  • Swimming pools and spas:  

  • Barriers, garden sheds;

  • Verandahs & pergolas;

  • Gazebos;

  • Garages;

  • Workshops;

  • Dwellings;

  • Commercial buildings including fitouts or refurbishments of Industrial buildings; and

  • Changes to ground levels (e.g. cutting and filling soil) Retaining walls.



Q: If I need Approval what is involved? 

A: Approval is obtained by lodging an application through your local council or having it certified by a private certifier. For Lake Macquarie and Newcastle councils the process is best described as:

1. submit your plans to local council;  

2. have plans submitted to and approved by Mine Subsidence (if needed);  and

3. have plans submitted and approved by relevant Water authority.


Your local council will usually have detailed processes set out on their web site.  

Lake Macquarie Council  

Newcastle Council ​

Q: What is needed after Approval is given?

A: After development consent has been given, a construction certificate must be obtained before any building work can start. The certificate verifies that :

  • The construction plans and specifications are consistent with the approval and comply with the Building Code of Australia.

  • All required contributions and fees have been paid.

  • All development consent conditions have been met.

Q: Who can issue me a Construction Certificate? 

A:  A Construction Certificate can be issued by an accredited private certifier or a consent authority.  Certification can, usually at your option, be done by a private certifier or by council (a consent authority). 

Q: What are the Building Codes  and where do I find them?

A: The Building Code of Australia (BCA) is a set of technical provisions for the design and construction of buildings and other structures throughout Australia. The BCA is produced and maintained by the Australian Building Codes Board (ABCB). A certified builder will be aware of the current codes and how they affect your project. For more information please refer:  

Q: I have an existing structure on my property does it have to meet the current Building Code for that structure?

A: No. In summary, only new structures have to meet the current code.  The two exceptions are:

  • if there are safety or structural issues with the structure; and

  • where repairs or alterations have been carried out. 

Q: What is a BASIX and why do I need one?

A: A BASIX is an assessment of a proposed design that considers the environmental impacts against sustainability targets. Many developments require a BASIX to be submitted with plans.  For more please refer: 

Q: What is a Statement of Environmental effects and why do I need one?

A: A Statement of Environmental Effects is a short report that recognises and explains the likely impacts of the proposal and how you will minimise these impacts.  The statement includes written information that cannot be readily shown on your plans and drawings. Refer to: 

Q: Why do I need a Structural Engineer?

A: Structural engineers can make sure that the building components (walls, roof beams etc) in your house are capable of supporting the forces caused when you do a renovation.  You might need a structural engineer if your building has one or more of these elements:

  • Reinforced concrete columns;

  • Earth retaining walls;

  • Roofs in cyclone affected areas;

  • Footings in clay soils or on soft or sloping sites;

  • Steel floor beams and roof girders; and

  • Suspended concrete slabs.

Q: Why do I need a Geotechnical inspection/report?

A:  If there is chance your project may be affected by rock or unstable earth, you will need a geotechnical Inspection or report.   Geotechnical engineering is concerned with the engineering properties and behavior of earth materials (soil and rock). A geotechnical survey will assess the suitability of a site for your proposed project.

Q: Why do I need a survey?

A: The system of private property and property ownership depends upon knowing exactly where boundaries lie between properties. A survey will confirm that a project is undertaken in the correct location.  It would be embarrassing and costly to build your house, extension or retaining wall only to find out it is not in the right place!