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 located within the Designated Areas?
- Is my proposal within the Definition of ‘works’?
1.1. 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.
1.2. Definition of ‘works’
The PALM Act defines ‘works’ as:
a) the construction, alteration, extension or demolition of buildings or structures;
c) tree felling; or
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.
Some of the most common types of works that require a ‘Works Approval’ are:
- construction of new buildings
- alterations to the exterior of an existing building
- removal of a dead or dangerous tree
- excavation for telecommunications installation (just hauling through existing conduits alone 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. Please email the ‘Works Approval’ team at WorksApproval@nca.gov.au if you have any questions.
The PALM Act does not require the NCA to approve internal works or solely maintenance works.
If temporary structures are related to an event and are in place for less than 14 days, please contact the Events team on Events@nca.gov.au.
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.
2.1. Contact the NCA
Contact the NCA to determine whether a pre-application meeting is necessary by phoning 02 6271 2888 or by emailing WorksApproval@nca.gov.au. Discussions held with the NCA in the early stages of developing designs for a proposal will help identify any major issues that require resolution prior to ‘Works Approval’ being lodged.
A sketch design, which shows the development intention, may also be submitted to the NCA for consideration and comment, before proceeding with detailed design development.
2.2. What information is required for ‘Works Approval’
A checklist for information required for applications can be downloaded from the links below.
There are mandatory attachments required for all applications.
- Lessee / Land Custodian Authorisation Form
If the applicant is not the lessee or the land custodian, this document is required.
- Locality Plan
A locality plan is to be included which identifies the site and its context.
- Planning Report or Written Description of Works
For major applications, a planning report addressing the relevant design and planning matters will be required.
For minor applications, a written description of the works including construction timing, project context and an overview of the planning context is required.
Additional information will likely be required for your application, so please contact the NCA prior to lodging an application to find out what details will be required.
2.3. Lodging an application
Applications are lodged using the NCA’s Works Application Electronic Lodgement (WAeL) portal. Prior to lodging an application, please review the information provided and the WAeL User Guide.
- How do I create an account and logon for the first time?
- How do I lodge and pay for a new Works Approval application?
- What information do I require for an application?
- How do I view status of the application currently being assessed by the NCA?
- I have been asked to provide further information, how do I edit an application?
- How do I create an amendment to a previously approved application?
a. Creating a WAeL account
Creating an account with ‘Works Approval’ eLodgement is a simple process which can be completed online. Simply navigate to the WAeL Portal and click 'Register a new user'.
It is suggested that organisations create a single login for the WAeL portal and use the contact details section of the online form to identify specific project officers.
b. The Lodgement Process
The lodgement process follows six distinct steps, similar to filling out an online job application or purchasing from an online store. These are:
This step includes a description of the ‘Works Approval’ application process and description of the issues an applicant will need to consider before submitting an application. Once you have read and understand the process, check the “I understand the Works Approval process” checkbox.
Please note: Do not check the box if you do not understand the process. Please email WorksApproval@nca.gov.au or call 02 6271 2888 to get advice from the NCA Works Approval Team, particularly if you are unsure or have any questions about any data fields (for example, letter of consistency vs works approval).
Please complete all the mandatory fields related to the applicant. These details will determine which email accounts will receive information related to requests for further information and approval. These contact details may differ from the login details of the account used to lodge the application. Invoice details can be separate from the applicant details. Please ensure, the correct invoicing details are provided at time of lodgement as the NCA cannot edit invoices once generated upon submission of the application.
You are required to fill in all the mandatory fields regarding the application. This is the description of the works proposed, category of works and estimated cost of the works. The estimated cost of the works is used to calculate the applicable application fee.
Do not tick any fields that do not apply to your proposal, if none apply leave blank. For example, only tick the letter of consistency box if your proposal is located at:
- HMAS Harman
- Specific rural landholdings in Majura
- Block 2 Section 6 Lawson
- CSIRO Gungahlin
- Block 6 Section 66 Deakin
- Block 2 Section 14 Greenway
- Rural Block 254 Paddy's River
- Rural Block 1212 Weston Creek
- Parts of Sections 43, 44, 49 and 50 Belconnen
- Parts of Sections 20 and 21 Mitchell
Please note: The estimated cost of works should be guided by using the Building Cost Guide made by the ACT Government’s Environment and Planning Directorate’s Building (General) (Cost of Building Work) Determination available from the ACT Legislation Register.
Upload Attachments to your application
There are mandatory documents required for all applications. Attaching the documents to be submitted with the application requires the user to upload the files and assigning each file an 'Attachment Type'. Please note the following when uploading attachments:
- Attachments must be in PDF format;
- Use the 'Attachment Type' function to assign a Locality Plan, Lessee Consent form etc.;
- All attachments must use a descriptive name or label or using the following naming convention Drawing # (revision) – drawing title;
- Whilst you can upload multiple documents at one time, uploads greater than 20 Mb may cause the website to time out
When uploading supporting documents or reports please name files in a logical manner to ensure easy identification. Failure to do so may result in your appliction not passing completeness check and your application may rejected.
Review and Submit
Please review all the information. Contact details such as phone or email cannot be changed once an application is lodged. Click on the submit button and the payment page will be displayed.
There is a cost for submitting a ‘Works Approval’ application.
- Pay by credit card or direct debit within the WAeL Portal at the time of lodgement
After you have completed the application details you can pay the fee with a credit card or direct debit. This option is limited to fees below $20,000 but is the preferred method of payment for small fees.
- Pay by Invoice while the Application is being cleared for completeness
By downloading an invoice, the system will allow you to submit the application. This option allows you to submit the application prior to payment to allow for back of house financial processes to be undertaken while your application is reviewed for completeness. NCA does not accept ANY payments over the phone, payments MUST be made by direct debit only. Please see the bottom of your invoice for EFT details.
- Applications will not be completed until the required fees have been paid
The NCA is the agency responsible for the guiding the planning and design of the nationally significant parts of Canberra. The Australian Capital Territory (Planning and Land Management) Act 1988 requires that the NCA assess proposals for ‘works’ (‘Works Approval’ applications) in the Designated Areas against the relevant provisions of the National Capital Plan.
The NCA recovers costs associated with the assessment of proposals in the Designated Areas. This practice is consistent with other planning jurisdictions in Australia. Cost recovery is undertaken by the NCA is accordance with the Australian Government Cost Recovery Guidelines (CRGs).
From 1 December 2015, fees payable for ‘Works Approval’ were adjusted to ensure that they reflect costs incurred by the NCA in assessing proposals for works in the Designated Areas. The changes followed a review process and are documented in a Cost Recovery Implementation Statement (CRIS). The CRIS is updated with financial and business performance measures at the conclusion of each financial year.
The most recent version of the NCA ‘Works Approval’ Fee CRIS is available for download below.
The NCA's Service Charter includes a commitment to finalise its consideration of formal applications within 15 working days. Major projects and those which require consultation or clearance from external agencies may take longer. The NCA takes the following matters into account when assessing applications.
3.1. The National Capital Plan
The National Capital Plan (the Plan) is the strategic plan for Canberra and the Territory. It ensures that 'Canberra and the Territory are planned and developed in accordance with their national significance.' It is also the statutory planning instrument and contains detailed planning requirements for the Designated Areas and is the primary document that applications are assessed against.
3.2. Guidelines and Policies
The NCA may assess proposals against approved master plans, development guidelines or policies to ensure the best outcomes for the National Capital.
3.3. External Consultation and Clearances
The NCA will not determine an application until all external consultation and clearances are resolved. Common reasons for external clearance are:
- Land Custodian Approval;
- Development in areas listed on the Commonwealth or National Heritage lists, the applicant may be required to provide evidence of clearance or approval from the Department of the Environment;
- Where projects involve established buildings, artworks, or designed landscape areas, obligations under the Copyright Amendment (Moral Rights) Act 2002 must be met by the owner of the property;
- Consultation with ACT Government agencies may also be required on vehicular access, traffic safety, waste management, storm water drainage, leasing and lease compliance, tree preservation, and verge landscaping and management;
- To ensure a safe and cost effective project, Icon Water approval is required for structures, ground development and excavation prior to submission to the NCA. You can read more about which plans require approval here or head straight to the Icon Water Building Approval page.
3.4. Public consultation requirements
The National Capital Plan sets out specific requirements for public consultation of dual occupancy residential development on detached house blocks and for telecommunications facilities which are likely to have a high visual impact in the Designated Areas. There may also be public consultation requirements for all proposals which are assessed as not having a 'low' impact in accordance with the NCA's 'Commitment to Community Engagement'
Adjoining neighbours are also consulted on single dwelling residential development in the Designated Areas.
3.5. Parliamentary Zone development
The Parliamentary Zone - the place of the people is the physical manifestation of Australian democratic government and the home of the nation's most important cultural and judicial institutions and symbols.
Because of this significance, works proposed within the Parliamentary Zone require the approval of the National Capital Authority and also require the approval of both Houses of Federal Parliament.
Works related to maintenance and repair and that are of temporary or minor nature do not require parliamentary approval.
The parliamentary approval process is coordinated by the Authority, but is separate from, and in addition to, the Authority's approval.
Once the NCA makes a decision on a ‘Works Approval’ application, the applicant and any submitters to proposals released for public consultation, will be promptly notified. There is no provision for planning appeal relating to the merits or otherwise of development proposals approved or not supported by the NCA. There is however, opportunity to challenge the decision administratively. This provides the opportunity for recourse under the Administrative Decisions (Judicial Review) Act 1977 to determine whether a processes undertaken to inform a decision of the Authority has been made correctly.
5.1. Viewing the status of a previously lodged application
The WAeL system allows users to view, in real time, the status of applications. The users will receive notification via the portal and to the contact officer’s email address when applications changes status.
To view the status of an application simply login to WAeL and view the status column next to your application details.
5.2. Submitting further information requested by the NCA
Further information required by the NCA will require attaching further documentation or amending the application details.
In order to lodge further information and resubmit the application:
- Login to WAeL
- Click 'Edit' on the application you wish to change
- Navigate to the 'Attachments' tab
- Upload the files required
- Navigate to the 'Review and Submit' tab and press Submit Application
5.3. Submitting an amendment to an approved application
Lodging an amendment follows largely the same process as submitting a new application. Select 'New Amendment' to begin the process and enter the ‘Works Approval’ number of the original approval.
The WAeL User Guide is a helpful resource including screenshots on how to lodge an amendment.
If the original approval was provider before 1 September 2017, the WAeL system will not recognise the original approval and a new ‘Works Approval’ application will be required. Please contact the NCA on 02 6271 2888 or email WorksApproval@nca.gov.au to discuss requirements.
5.4. Withdrawal of applications
The NCA reserves the right to withdraw inactive applications without notice if:
- no correspondence has been received from the applicant for a period of three months; or
- no contact has been made with the NCA by the applicant for a period of three months.
6.1. Browser compatibility
The WAeL system works on all major browsers (Chrome, Firefox, Internet Explorer) however, there are some know issues with saving attachment types on old versions of these browsers. The NCA recommends Internet Explorer 11 and above, Firefox build 54 and above, Chrome build 58 and above.
The WAeL system uses the Westpac Payment Gateway 'Qvalent' to process Works Approval fees. Some browsers may not be able to access Qvalent and Westpac applications after
9 October 2017 unless you support the encryption standard known as 'TLS 1.2'. Further information on browser compatibility and 'TLS 1.2' is available by contacting the NCA Works Approval Team on 02 6271 2888 or emailing WorksApproval@nca.gov.au.
6.2. Problems registering account
If you experience errors or do not receive an email when registering an account, please contact the NCA on 02 6271 2888 and advise the email address you used to register.