Local Government Planning

ALGA is committed to ensuring the Commonwealth Government understands the benefits of the role of local government in land-use planning and long-term planning in local government areas.


Local governments have an important role in land use planning and development approval in all state jurisdictions in Australia under state legislation (there are differences in the administration of planning systems in the ACT and NT where the territory governments are responsible for planning. Councils work closely with their local communities to plan and manage development, while considering a complex array of issues, to deliver liveable communities now and into the future.

Councils develop strategic plans for the future development of their municipalities, use their strategic plans to guide the application of land use and development zones through a planning instrument, and administer the planning instrument on a day-to-day basis. In addition, councils coordinate and provide physical and community infrastructure.

Development control

Local councils administer the development assessment process and are able to grant approval, grant approval with conditions, or refuse an application. The controls regulate densities, height, external design and siting, building materials, open space provisions, and in some jurisdictions the level of developer contribution required to cover physical and/or community infrastructure costs arising from the proposed development. Local councils also have control over the demolition of buildings. However, for some specified development applications the state government may require different processes for determination of decisions such as Independent Planning Panels or approval by the state planning Minister.

Land release/supply, subdivision control and infrastructure provision

The level of control over subdivision varies between jurisdictions. Where local councils do have control, this includes discretion over engineering standards for roads, drainage, allotment size and, in some jurisdictions, water and sewerage arrangements. Although local government has a significant role in infrastructure provision, it plays a more limited role in relation to land release/supply and coordination, especially in the major capital cities.

The role of state governments is to establish a planning framework through legislation and monitor its operation and as such there is no common national planning system. However, all planning systems have common elements such as state and local policies, planning instruments to regulate the use and development of land, and process similarities such as notification, referral to agencies and judicial review mechanisms. In some areas, especially in high growth areas, formal regional planning processes may also be in place.

The Commonwealth Government has no formal role in local land use and development planning. However, it does take a national interest in the performance of cities and regions. For example, it has funded significant infrastructure and developed policies and programs that support increased economic and social outcomes.

As the national voice of local government, ALGA provides the conduit between local government and the Commonwealth Government in relation to planning, building, housing and homelessness issues

As the national voice of local government, ALGA provides the conduit between local government and the Commonwealth Government in relation to planning, building, housing and homelessness issues to ensure the needs of local communities and key stakeholders are taken into account. ALGA does this through representation of local government on relevant national bodies, providing submissions to government and parliamentary inquiries, raising the profile and concerns of local government at the national level and providing forums and opportunities for local government to guide the development of national local government policies.

Building Regulation

Local government does not determine building regulations; it administers them in accordance with the Building Code of Australia and relevant planning and building by-laws (for example relating to matters such as bushfires, water, waste management, salinity and energy efficiency).

Housing and homelessness

Many local governments across Australia are concerned about the affordable housing and homelessness challenges facing their communities. ALGA is working nationally to help address the housing and homelessness challenge by utilising the expertise and tools that some councils have developed and providing advice to the Commonwealth Government.

Local governments have both direct and indirect impacts on the provision of affordable housing and homelessness services. Direct involvement refers to the actual provision of housing by local governments acting individually or in partnership with others. Indirect involvement refers to the role that local governments play in facilitating the provision of housing by others.

Over the past decade, many local governments across Australia have prepared local housing strategies, in some cases as a result of direct state intervention through planning legislation. Local housing strategies prepared by local councils generally include an analysis of local housing need, market characteristics and proposals for planning or policy intervention.

The balance of explicit housing activities that local councils embark on depend on a range of factors, including the statutory responsibilities given to them by state/territory governments, their own initiative to meet particular needs in their local communities in response to requests or suggestions from their communities or the private sector, as well as the policies and programs of other spheres of government.