Fences & landscaping

Fences and retaining walls

Building certification is required for:

  • fence or a combination of screen, fences or retaining walls greater than 2 metres in height (measured above natural ground level);
  • regulated pool fence; and
  • retaining wall that does not meet the Queensland Building Regulations 2006 criteria.

We recommend you seek advice from a private building certifier to check if your project will require approval.

For fences above 2 metres in height, you will need to obtain a referral agency response from Council.

When building and repairing fences, you must comply with the Neighbourhood Disputes Resolution Act 2011 which covers fences that divide adjoining land. The Act aims to help you obtain a contribution from your neighbour for a dividing fence. The Queensland Department of Justice and Attorney General website provides more information about dividing fences, including a guide with a suggested plan of action to help avoid conflict with your neighbours.

Retaining walls

Retaining walls do not need building certification if the meet the conditions of the Queensland Building Regulations 2006, specifically:

  • there is no ‘surcharge loading’ over the ‘zone of influence’ for the wall (refer to definition contained within Schedule 1 of the Building Regulations 2006); and
  • the total height of the wall and of the fill or cut retained by the wall is no more than 1m above the wall’s natural ground surface; and
  • the wall is no close than 1.5m to a building or another retaining wall; and
  • it does not form part of regulated pool fencing

A retaining wall may require Development Approval if the property is subject to overlays in the CairnsPlan 2016 (eg Potential Landslip Overlay and Hillslopes Overlay).

Pool fencing

The standard for fencing around a swimming pool is contained in the following legislation:

  • AS1926.1 -2007 Swimming Pool Safety Part 1: Fencing for swimming pools
  • AS1926.2 -1995 Swimming Pool Safety Part 2: Location of fencing for private swimming pools
  • Queensland Development Code Mandatory Part 3.4 – Swimming Pool Barriers

Pool owners are responsible for ensuring pool barriers are maintained and damaged fencing or barriers are fixed immediately.

Refer to our swimming pools and spas web page for more information.


Generally, landscaping within private property boundaries does not need approval unless it involves removal of street trees (for example, to construct a crossover or driveway) or the property is covered by specific planning codes.

You should use the CairnsPlan 2016 Property Report Tool to assess your project against the Performance and Acceptable Outcomes of the applicable zone and overlay codes for your property such as Natural Areas or Hillslopes overlays. These codes and associated Planning Scheme Policies aim to protect and promote the character of Cairns as a tropical environment where development and society are integrated with the natural environment.

You should also check if the activity you are proposing will trigger any other Codes such as Landscaping Code or the Vegetation Management Code.

If your landscaping proposal is not compliant with any of the assessment criteria for Accepted Development, you will need to lodge an Operational Works application for Landscaping for Council approval.

Last updated: 14 December 2020