Siting dispensation (Referral Agency assessment)

There are rules that govern the distance a house and other structures are from the front, rear and side property boundaries - known as setbacks - as well as design (amenity and aesthetics), site coverage (siting) and building heights. Within Cairns, these are regulated by a combination of CairnsPlan 2016 and the Queensland Development Code (QDC).

Council acts as a referral agency (also known as “concurrence agency”) for Development Applications that involve variations to the QDC and CairnsPlan 2016, specifically:

  • Alternative side and rear boundary setbacks to those within the QDC
  • Alternative front boundary setbacks to those within the QDC
  • Alternative site coverage provisions to those within the QDC
  • Alternative building height provisions to those within the CairnsPlan 2016 Low density residential zone code
  • Alternative site coverage and/or setbacks to those within the CairnsPlan 2016 Rural residential zone code
  • Alternative setbacks and building height provisions within the CairnsPlan 2016 Community facilities zone
  • Amenity and aesthetics impact assessment required under section 1.8 of the CairnsPlan 2016

Referral agency applications can be lodged either:

  • by a private building certifier as part of a building approval
  • as a preliminary approval before applying for building approval.

A Referral Agency response from Council does not permit construction to start; you must still obtain the Development Approval.

Making an application for a Referral Agency Assessment

An application for a Referral Agency Assessment can be lodged with Council:

  • In person at Council’s Administration building at 119-145 Spence Street, Cairns
  • Online
  • By mail to:
    Attention: Manager, Strategic Planning & Approvals
    Cairns Regional Council
    PO Box 359
    Cairns QLD 4870

All applications for Referral Agency Assessment must be lodged using the following format:

Applications for Referral Agency Assessment will be determined within a 10 business day period and will incur a fee. Refer to Council’s fees and charges.

Council may request additional information in order to assess your application. If additional information is requested, the assessment timeframe will be paused and resumed once a response is provided to Council.

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Last updated: 19 January 2021