Do I need a Works Approval?

In accordance with the Australian Capital Territory (Planning and Land Management) Act 1988 (Cwth) (the PALM Act), any alteration to buildings or structures, demolition, landscaping or excavation works within the Designated Areas require the prior written approval of the National Capital Authority (NCA) or a 'Works Approval'. There are no exemptions for ‘Works Approval’ under the PALM Act.

In summary, if the answer to the following two questions is ‘Yes’, then Works Approval from the NCA is required:

  • Is my proposal within the definition of ‘works’?
  • Is my proposal located within the Designated Areas?

Designated Areas

The NCA has detailed planning authority (including ‘Works Approval’ in place of development approval) in areas of the ACT, which exhibit special characteristics of the National Capital.

The Designated Areas include all major approach routes to Canberra, the Parliamentary Zone, Lake Burley Griffin and surrounding parklands, the Australian National University, Russell Defence Precinct, Duntroon and Australian Defence Force Academy.

Designated Areas also include the Inner Hills of the National Capital including Mount Majura and Mount Ainslie, Black Mountain, O'Conner Ridge, Red Hill, Oakey Hill, Mount Painter, The Pinnacle and Stromlo Forest.

The Designated Areas are shown on the map below. You can also view this map on ACTMAPi.

Definition of ‘works’

The PALM Act defines ‘works’ as:

a) the construction, alteration, extension or demolition of buildings or structures;
b) landscaping;
c) tree felling; or
d) excavations;
but excludes anything done inside buildings or structures.

This includes proposals ranging from a site redevelopment to the removal of a single tree or excavation required to installing underground services. Temporary ‘works’ such as the installation of temporary signs or fencing also require works approval from the NCA. It is also important to note that the PALM Act does not require the NCA to approve internal works or purely maintenance works.

Some of the most common types of works that require a Works Approval are:

  • construction of new buildings
  • alterations to the external of an existing building
  • removal of a dead or dangerous tree
  • excavation for telecommunications installation (just hauling through existing conduits does not require works approval)
  • installation of a sign
  • installation of solar panels
  • installation of temporary structures

Even minor matters may need a works approval. The onus is on you to find out whether an application is required. If temporary structures are related to an event and are in place for less than 10 days, the NCA’s events team will facilitate the Works Approval.

Please email the Works Approval team at if you have any questions.

How to a lodge an application for Works Approval

The NCA's role is to assist applicants through a process of negotiation and design development to achieve outcomes appropriate to those areas which embody the special characteristics of the National Capital. A broad overview of the Works Approval process is detailed here. Applications are lodged using the Works Approval eLodgement Portal.