Understanding development

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.

Development types

Reconfiguring A Lot

Creating lots by subdividing another lot, amalgamating two or more lots, rearranging boundaries, creating an easement to give access from a road, dividing land into parts by agreement.

Material Change Of Use

Start of a new use, re-establishment of a use that was abandoned, or a material increase in the intensity or scale of the use of the premises.

Material change of use applications will need to identify the proposed use. Use definitions can be found in Schedule 1.1 of the CairnsPlan 2016(CairnsPlan 2016).

Operational Work

Covers a range of different activities, such as:

  • extracting gravel, rock, sand or soil from a place where it naturally occurs;
  • forest practices and clearing vegetation;
  • excavating, filling or other work in, on, over or under the premises that materially affects the premises or its use;
  • placing an advertising device on a premises;
  • operations relating to taking or interfering with water;
  • roadworks on a local government road.

Building Work

Building, repairing, altering, underpinning (vertical or lateral support), moving or demolishing a building or other structure.

Plumbing Or Drainage Work

Domestic and commercial plumbing and drainage works, including on-site sewerage facilities.

Levels of assessment

The Planning Act 2016 defines levels of assessment for development. The table below provides an explanation of whether or not approval (via the lodgement of a development application) is required for the different levels of assessment.

Level of Assessment

Council Approval Required

Accepted development

All development other than assessable or prohibited development or identified as such in a planning scheme.

No, if the proposed development complies with all of the Acceptable Outcomes from the applicable codes under CairnsPlan 2016.

If accepted development does not comply with one or more of the identified Acceptable Outcomes of the applicable code(s), it becomes code assessable.

Assessable Development

Yes, development permit

Will be either:

  • Code assessable, requiring a detailed assessment against the applicable codes. This also includes development which is 'accepted development' but does not meet all of the Acceptable Outcomes.
  • Impact assessable, being development which could result in impacts requiring significant assessment (against the entire planning scheme, to the extent relevant), and/or involving land uses which require public notification.

Prohibited Development

No, application/request cannot be made for prohibited development (listed under Schedule 10 of the Planning Regulation 2017).

Applicable zoning and overlays

To determine whether approval is required for a proposed development, the parts of CairnsPlan 2016 which apply to the site / property need to be identified.

1. Determine the property's zone

CairnsPlan 2016 divides the city into 'zones' to indicate areas of preferred land use (e.g. community facilities, industry, rural residential, conservation). There are also Local Plans applicable in some areas which cater for specific needs in localised areas.

2. Determine if any overlays apply on the property

Overlays may apply on all or part of the property. Overlays indicate areas where provisions exist to manage natural hazards (e.g. bushfires, flooding), preserve values (e.g. heritage, environmental/biodiversity) and manage the built environment (e.g. infrastructure, airports, transport).

Last updated: 19 August 2020