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Guide to Development Approval


The South Australian legislation that establishes the planning and development system and sets out the statutory procedures is the Development Act 1993 and the associated Development Regulations 2008.

The Development Act 1993 provides three pathways for obtaining development approval:

  1. Local Council Process
  2. Public Infrastructure Process
  3. Major Development Process

Local Council Process

The first pathway involves submitting an application for development approval to the council, which will consult with the Environment Protection Agency and other relevant resource protection agencies, landholders and the community in general. The council’s decision is made by an assessment panel with a majority of independent member experts, based on the council’s Development Plan and community representations.

As a result of amendments to planning schemes and zoning laws across the State in 2003, Council Development Plans provide general support for renewable energy projects.  They contain general principles for visual impact, neighbour nuisance and visual impact that are to be considered in seeking development approval. Third parties and applicants may have appeal rights depending on the scale of the project and the zoning of the site. For example, a project may be exempt from public notice if minor in nature or located on land zoned for industrial type activity. If an appeal is lodged by either an applicant or a third party when a project is notified, the appeal court would be guided by Development Plans in making decisions.

This process has been used for the majority of the State’s wind farm projects.

Public Infrastructure Process

The second pathway is the public infrastructure (Crown Development) process, established for State significant infrastructure projects. This pathway is used by Government infrastructure projects but is also available for private projects so long as they are sponsored by a Government agency.

This Crown Development pathway provides for the development applications to be assessed by the Development Assessment Commission (DAC), an independent statutory body that assesses specific development applications in South Australia.

Applications under the Crown Development sections of the Act are assessed by the DAC and a report from the DAC must be made to the Minister for Urban Development and Planning within three months of the lodgement of the application. The Minister is the decision maker for approval and there are no appeal rights.

If DAC is of the view that an application is seriously at variance with the relevant Development Plan, or where the Council opposes a development, the Minister must, if approving the development, report to Parliament on the matter. This report is for noting by Parliament only and does not delay the approval.

This process is streamlined, relatively short (time lines are prescribed) and there is no planning appeal opportunities for third parties against an approval.

The Government will make Case Management Services available to support investors through these processes. This applies not only to the development assessment process but also to native title, native vegetation, access to transmission water, roads and other infrastructure.

So far, this pathway has been used by two wind farm projects and transmission infrastructure in the State.

Click here for a Guide to Assessing of Crown Development and Public Infrastructure

Major development

The third pathway for developers is generally for large developments. Under Section 46 of the Development Act 1993, the Minister for Urban Development and Planning can declare a proposed development a 'Major Development' if it is appropriate or necessary for proper assessment of the proposed development, and where the proposal is considered to be of major economic, social or environmental importance. This triggers a thorough state-run assessment process with opportunity for public comment before any decision is made on whether the proposal warrants an approval.

The assessment process has five stages:

  1. Referral of the development application to the DAC for setting of detailed assessment level (see below) and issuing of Assessment Guidelines
  2. The proponent prepares an assessment document and issues it for a mandatory period of public and agency comment (no set time)
  3. The proponent responds to the public and agency comment (no set time)
  4. The Minister assesses the proposal and issues an Assessment Report
  5. Decision by the Governor

The three possible levels of detailed assessment which can be required by the DAC are:

  • An Environmental Impact Statement (EIS): for the most complex proposals - public comment for at least six weeks and a public meeting required.
  • A Public Environmental Report (PER):  in depth investigation required within a narrow scope, or where existing information is available – minimum of six weeks public comment and a public meeting required
  • A Development Report (DR): the least complex level of assessment, which relies principally on existing information - three weeks public comment required.

There are no appeal rights against the decision of the Governor.

Further Information about Major Developments

More information about the development application process can be obtained from the Department of Planning and Local Government (DPLG). A Guide for Wind Farm developments is also available.

Other Legislative Requirements

During development assessment, depending on the chosen site, a proponent may need to be across the requirements of all the following Acts:  

Federal Acts

Environmental Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999

Aboriginal and Torres Straight Islander Heritage Protection Act 1984

Native Title Act 1993

State Acts

Development Act 1993

Native Vegetation Act 1991

Electricity (South Australia) Act 1996

Aboriginal Heritage Act 1988

Pastoral Land Management and Conservation Act 1989

Environment Protection Act 1993

Native Title (South Australia) Act 1994

Native Vegetation Act 1991

Natural Resource Management Act 2004

Occupational Health, Safety and Welfare Act 1986

Dangerous Substances Act 1979

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