Making a development application

COVID-19 Response Investment Incentive Policy

Council has adopted the COVID-19 Response Investment Incentive Policy - effective 12 August 2020 until 30 June 2022.

The Policy aims to support small scale development, such as those being considered by “mum and dad” investors, where infrastructure charges may be a barrier. In doing so, it will provide an economic stimulus for the Cairns development and construction industries and local employment across the region.

Read more and check your eligibility for the COVID-19 investment incentive.

Preparing a DA and pre-lodgement advice

It is recommended that you engage a private town planner, surveyor or building certifier for help in preparing your development application.

Cairns Regional Council can provide assistance with your planning application, including:

General planning enquiries

Council's Planning Approvals team can assist with general planning enquiries via email or phone 1300 692 247 during business hours.

There are a number of ways to gain advice about planning and development in Cairns, including the following:

  1. online tools and information via CairnsPlan 2016 Property Reporting tool and Factsheets.
  2. request for pre-lodgement advice
  3. obtain a copy of previous development applications and approvals via DA Online
  4. request for written information

Pre-lodgement advice

Council's pre-lodgement service is a free* development advice service.  It gives you and Council officers an opportunity to consider the key issues relevant to the assessment of a proposal prior to lodging an application.

The intent of this service is to resolve any issues before lodgement.  Depending on the complexity of issues involved, prelodgement advice may be given as a written response or a pre-lodgement meeting.

As a minimum, a person using this service should:

Any person using this service should accept that:

  • a pre-lodgement enables informal discussion and advice only. It does not constitute a detailed assessment and does not guarantee in any way the outcome of any subsequent assessment process.
  • advice will be given on issues detailed by the enquirer. Other issues may be raised by officers during the assessment process. The enquirer cannot rely on Council officers to identify areas of non-compliance during the pre-lodgement process.

Making a development application

Under the Planning Act 2016, a development application must be a "Properly Made Development Application".

A Properly Made application must be supported by the following:

  • Lodged with the required Development Assessment Form(s)
  • Lodged with the appropriate fee in accordance with the Building & Development Schedule of Fees ( PDF, 0.04 MB )
  • Accompanied by the written consent of owner of the land if the applicant is not the owner
  • The relevant mandatory information as specified on the application forms, such as a planning report and/or assessment of applicable codes that demonstrates how the development complies with CairnsPlan 2016
  • Clearly legible scaled and dimensioned site and floor plans.
Not properly made action notice

If an application is not considered Properly Made, the Development Assessment Rules Section 3.1 states that the assessment manager must give the applicant an Action Notice.  This notice will state the following:

  • the application is not a properly made application
  • the actions required to be compiled with to be a properly made application

The applicant has 20 business days, or any further period agreed to by Council to comply with an action notice.  Upon completion of the actions, the applicant must give a notice to the Council stating that the action notice has been compiled with.

Council will then consider whether the action notice has been complied with and issue a Confirmation Notice if satisfied that the application is properly made.

Lodging a development application

The preferred lodgement method is via Council’s Development Applications Online portal.

Council also has a Bpoint Online Payment System which allows you to pay for your development application, operational works application, landscaping application, infrastructure charges and town planning certificates or letters of enquiry via credit card.

The following is a guide to lodging a development application:

  1. Check the property designation to determine how your proposed development would be assessed against the CairnsPlan 2016.
  2. Review if the proposed use is code or impact assessable and the relevant codes and Planning Scheme Policies.
  3. Prepare preliminary designs drawings.
  4. Alternately you may wish to consider engaging a town planning consultant to assist with the preparation of the application.
  5. Finalise plans and supporting documents.
  6. Complete DA Forms and ensure all mandatory requirements of the forms have been met.
  7. Lodge your application via the methods listed below. A copy of the Development Assessment Receipt Sheet can be found online if you are lodging your application in person.

DA fees and charges:

Refer to Council's Building and development fee schedule ( PDF, 0.04 MB ) for current charges and details of any relevant conditions.

Eligible not-for-profit (NFP) organisations may be able to access relief either in full or part waiver of listed fees relating to venues, licences & approvals, plumbing applications, waste disposal and development assessment. For more information and eligibility criteria, download:

Lodgement methods:

Online (preferred)Development Applications Online Portal
In person

Over the counter at Council's main Customer Service Centre
119-145 Spence Street
CAIRNS   QLD  4870

This office is open from 8:30am to 4:30pm weekdays (excluding public holidays)

MailCairns Regional Council
Attention: Manager, Strategic Planning & Approvals
PO Box 359
EmailIf you experience any problems lodging your application through the Development Applications Online portal, you may email your application to

Tracking the progress of a DA

All development applications for development assessable against the Cairns Planning Scheme lodged after 2010 are available on Development Applications Online.

Once the application is assigned to a Planning Officer, an update regarding the progress of the application be can be provided.

A flow chart outlining the expected timeframe for a development application can be found at Development Assessment Timeframes.

Have your say on a Development Application

How to Make a Submission

Residents can support or oppose proposed development by making a formal submission, even if they do not live in the area. A submission is a written explanation supporting or opposing a development proposal.

Submissions must:

  • be in writing and signed by each person who is listed as supporting it; and
  • include the name and address of each person who signs it; and
  • state what aspects of the plan or proposed development you support or oppose and why; and
  • be received by Council during the formal public notification period.

Council needs to understand the reasons behind your submission. For example, if you think the type of development proposed for your area is unsuitable, you need to say why it is unsuitable, not simply that you do not like it.

A person who makes a 'properly made submission' is called the 'submitter'.  Once Council considers all submissions, a copy of the decision is sent to everyone who wrote a submission; or the first person on the list of 'submitters' if the submission was signed by several people.

Submissions can be made on developments that are 'impact assessable'. Normally these are complex developments, or those that Council thinks might impact on neighbours, or be potentially unsuitable for an area. Developments that are straightforward, or considered generally suitable, are listed as 'code assessable'. Residents can make a submission on code assessable developments, however, the submitter will not have any formal rights under the Sustainable Planning Act.

You can make a submission in writing to:

Attention Manager Development Assessment
Cairns Regional Council
PO Box 359
Cairns Qld 4870

A submission form is available to assist in lodging your submission. You can download and use the PDF version of the submission form ( PDF, 0.7 MB )

Submissions can also be emailed to

It is important that in addition to the information required above, the submission clearly details which development application you are making a submission about. View details of Development Applications here.

Submissions are not confidential. Submissions are made available for viewing or purchase through the public scrutiny process [s 728(1) of Sustainable Planning Act]. For more information see

After your development is approved

Post-development approval checks

Before you begin work you must:

  • get all operational works and compliance assessment approvals (applicable to the conditions of approval);
  • comply with the relevant conditions of approval, including timing requirements;
  • pay your Infrastructure Charges;
  • appoint a licensed builder and building certifier;
  • make sure that your site is safe and environmental controls are in place;
  • arrange a pre-start meeting with Council engineers.

This list is a general guide only.

Process chart

The following flow chart shows where you are now in the development assessment process.

Fees are applicable for some stages in the process. Check current fees and charges.

Council may undertake random audits of development sites to ensure conditions of development are complied with and development is in accordance with approvals.

Determine if development approval is required the application will then go through the following process.

  1. Development Application is lodged with Council - Council grants development approval subject to conditions
  2. Prior to commencement - Check conditions to see if you are affected by any of the conditions prior to commencement of works, or prior to lodgement of building approval
  3. Operational works applications lodged - Obtain all operational works and compliance assessment applications required by the conditions of approval.
  4. Obtain building approval - Appoint a building certifier to assess the building application. Approval of the building application must be obtained prior to commencement of works on site. Ensure you satisfy all conditions prior to commencement of works/or prior to building approval, or prior to commencement of building work
  5. Appoint builder - Sign a contract with a licensed builder and make sure that the builder has appropriate insurance
  6. Appoint a building certifier - Sign an agreement with an accredited building certifier to do the building inspections
  7. Pre-start meetings - Contact Council engineers from the Development Assessment Team to arrange a pre-start meeting appointment. At this time the engineer will require details of the engineering consultant (RPEQ) and timing for the construction period (if required for engineering works on site)
  8. Building or reconfiguration work - Comply with all approval conditions
  9. On maintenance - Consulting engineer to contact Council engineers from the Development Assessment Team to arrange an on maintenance inspection. Payment of on maintenance security deposit may apply
  10. Plan Sealing (for reconfiguration applications) - Lodge survey plan with council for approval
  11. Off maintenance inspection - Twelve months after the on maintenance inspection, engineering consultant to seek joint off maintenance inspection with Council’s engineers. This will determine if assets are acceptable to be handed over to Council. A final acceptance letter will be given at this time. Where any securities are held for maintenance purposes, these will be released upon final acceptance
  12. Titles Office (for reconfiguration applications) - Lodge the sealed plan with the Titles Office.
  13. Occupation and use - Make sure you comply with development approval conditions relating to ongoing use
Preparing a DA and pre-lodgement advice

Get assistance or more information from a Council Planning Officer. You can also discuss your development proposal before making an Application. More

Making a development application

A simple step by step guide to preparing a properly made Development Application. More

Lodging a development application

Guide to lodging a development application. More

Tracking the progress of a DA

Information on how to keep up to date with the progress of a development application. More

Have your say on a Development Application

The community can make a submission either for or against a Development. Learn more about the submission process and make a submission here. More

After your development is approved

You may not be able to start work straight away once your development is approved. Learn more about what needs to be done once a Development is approved. More

Last updated: 19 August 2020