Assessment categories

There are 4 assessment categories that can apply to your proposed development.

The assessment category will influence:

  • whether you need a development permit
  • your application requirements
  • how your application is assessed by the consent authority.

The assessment category will tell you if you need a development permit in most cases.

However, there are other factors that may change your need for planning approval.


Permitted uses are those that are:

  • preferred in the zone
  • unlikely to have a negative impact if they meet all relevant development requirements.

You don’t need a development permit if:

Establishing a permitted use

If your development is permitted, you may need a building permit if your land is within a building control area.

The steps below summarise how planning compliance for a permitted use is determined within the building approval process.

You should engage the relevant authorities early in the process to understand their requirements and avoid unnecessary delays.

Depending on your project, relevant authorities may include:

Planning requirements

You can engage a planning professional to help you identify and meet the relevant requirements, or check if you need planning approval.

Getting professional planning advice early in the process will avoid unnecessary delays at the building approval stage.

To get a building permit, you must engage a registered building certifier.

When you do, you must provide them with reports or approvals from the relevant reporting authorities.

Detailed drawings and other information should demonstrate compliance with relevant requirements.

Building works can't start until a building permit has been granted under the Building Act 1993.

Planning compliance

Even if the use is permitted, your building certifier must be satisfied that the proposed building works comply with all requirements in the planning scheme.

Depending on the complexity of the proposal, the certifier may be able to confirm planning compliance themselves, or may seek confirmation from:

  • an independent planning professional or
  • a government planner through a compliance check.

If your plans don’t meet planning requirements, you may change them to be compliant, or you may apply for a development permit.

A building certifier can only grant occupancy certification when they are satisfied that completed building works are consistent with the approved building permit documentation.

If a development permit was required, any conditions on the permit must be met before applying for the certification.

When a permitted use becomes merit assessable

A use that is normally permitted becomes merit assessable when:

  • the use needs consent because of an overlay or
  • you need to vary one or more development requirements.

Merit assessable

You need a development permit if the use is merit assessable in the zone.

Merit assessable uses:

  • are expected in the zone and
  • have a low risk of impacts to other expected uses in the zone.

If a merit assessable development meets all requirements, it is likely to be approved.

If you want to vary one or more development, subdivision, consolidation or overlay requirements, it will be considered against:

When a merit assessable use becomes impact assessable

A use that is normally merit assessable only becomes impact assessable if an overlay applies to the land and the proposal.

Impact assessable

You need a development permit if the use is impact assessable.

Impact assessable uses may or may not be suitable in the zone.

It depends on the specific nature and location of the proposed development.

The development may not be approved even if it meets all the requirements.

An impact assessable development is considered against:


Prohibited uses are usually unsuitable in a zone.

You can't get a development permit for a prohibited use unless:

  • it is ancillary (secondary) to the primary use of the land
  • you want to use a declared heritage place for your proposal and
    • you have approval from the minister for heritage or
  • an interim development control order provides different rules.

An existing use that is currently prohibited but was lawful in the past may have existing use rights.

Find out more about these factors that can change your need for planning approval.

Last updated: 17 November 2022

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