Overview of the SA Planning System

South Australia's Strategic Plan

South Australia’s land use planning and development system consists of the following components:

  • Legislation (Development Act 1993 and Development Regulations 2008);
  • The Planning Strategy for South Australia;
  • Development Plans; and
  • Building rules requirements.


The two documents that provide the legislative framework establishing the planning and development system and setting out its statutory procedures are the Development Act 1993 and the associated Development Regulations 2008.

The Development Act 1993

The Development Act 1993 is the core legislation enacted by the South Australian Parliament and establishes the planning and development system framework and many of the processes required to be followed within that framework (including processes for assessing development applications).

The Development Act 1993 establishes the powers and responsibilities of the respective ‘players’ in the planning system.

The Act sets out formal roles for the Minister who has carriage of the Act, the statutory bodies it creates, such as the Development Assessment Commission (DAC) and the Development Policy Advisory Committee (DPAC) and local government (including Development Assessment Panels).

The Development Act 1993 consists of 13 Parts. The key Parts are:

  • Part 2 - establishes statutory bodies the Development Policy Advisory Committee (DPAC) and the Development Assessment Commission (DAC)
  • Part 3 - establishes the need for the Planning Strategy (Section 22) and local area Development Plans (Section 23), and the processes for amending (Sections 24-29) and reviewing (Section 30) planning policy. 
  • Part 4 - lays out development assessment processes (Sections 32-56A), including major developments (Section 46)
  • Part 6 - lays out the law surrounding the regulation of building work, and
  • Part 11 - lays out processes for enforcement, disputes and appeals.

Source: Department of Planning and Local Government

The Development Regulations 2008

The Development Regulations 2008  provide more of the detail that fills out the framework set by the Act. The Regulations are updated periodically by the Governor on the advice of the Minister for Urban Development and Planning.

The Subordinate Legislation Act 1978 establishes a process that ensures all regulations are periodically reviewed so that they are relevant and up-to-date.

All regulations expire ten years after they are made, but can be extended for up to four years. Regulations must be remade prior to expiry to ensure continuity.

Source: Department of Planning and Local Government

Other Relevant Legislation

Other planning and development related legislation administered by the

Department of Planning and Local Government includes:

  • Architects Act 1939 (soon to be replaced by the Architectural Practice Act 2009)
  • River Torrens Linear Park Act 2006

Related legislation administered by other Agencies includes:

  • Environment, Resources and Development Court Act 1993 
  • Environment Protection Act 1993
  • Heritage Act 1993
  • Water Resources Act 1997
  • Native Vegetation Act 1991
  • River Murray Act 2003
  • Natural Resource Management Act 2004
  • Adelaide Dolphin Sanctuary Act 2005

Source: Department of Planning and Local Government

The Planning Strategy for South Australia

The Planning Strategy is a non-statutory document that provides direction from the State Government on land use and development in South Australia over the medium term (a period of 10-15 years). The document is comprised of a number of volumes covering different geographic regions of the state. Each volume of the Planning Strategy must be updated by the state government at least every five years.

Under Section 22 of the Development Act 1993, the Minister for Urban Development and Planning is assigned responsibility for preparing the Planning Strategy on behalf of the State Government. The Strategy contains various maps, policies and specific strategies, covering a full range of social, economic and environmental issues.

The Planning Strategy is expressed as The 30 Year Plan for Greater Adelaide and outlines the policy framework to assist in reaching targets and objectives for the State.

“All Development Plans must align with the policy direction outlined in the Planning Strategy.
Source: Department of Planning, Transport and Infrastructure"

All Development Plans must align with the policy direction outlined in the Planning Strategy.

Source: Department of Planning and Local Government

Development Plans

What is a Development Plan?

Development Plans are key documents in the South Australian planning and development system. Each of the 68 local council areas in South Australia has their own separate Development Plan. In addition, a number of other Development Plans cover areas not situated within a Council area.

Development Plans contain the zones, maps and written rules (‘policies’) which guide what can and cannot be done on any piece of land in the area covered by the Development Plan. These zones, maps and policies provide the detailed criteria against which development applications will be assessed.

All Development Plans are available online on the Department of Planning, Transport and Infrastructure website.

More about Development Plans and how they can be amended can be found in ‘Guide to Development Plans’, produced by the Department of Planning and Local Government.

Role of the Development Plan

The Development Plan provides the basis against which development assessment decisions are made.

Development Plans highlight the particular land uses that are envisaged for various zones within each Plan area. They also contain a number of objectives, principles and policies further controlling and affecting proposed developments. These policies can cover a range of social, environmental and economic matters.

Source: Department of Planning and Local Government

Land Management Agreements

A Land Management Agreement (LMA) is a formal agreement between Council and a land owner so as to regulate the development, management, preservation or conservation of land (Section 57 and 57A of the Development Act, 1993. 

A LMA must be entered into willingly by all parties and becomes binding when it has been registered and noted on the Certificate of Title.  Once this has occurred the LMA is binding for the current and future land owners.

It is important that LMA’s are signed by both parties prior to Development Approval, and registration of the LMA can follow within 9 months pursuant to Reg. 98(B)(7).

LMA’s are not frequently entered into, however some functions may include preservation of important vegetation or the siting of future buildings.  A LMA cannot require a person to make a financial contribution for any purpose that is not directly related to an issue associated with the development.

In circumstances where a LMA has been previously registered on a Certificate of Title and the land is the subject of a development application the Council as the relevant authority may have regard to the obligations contained therein.

The Development Regulations, 2008 (Reg. 98A) require that the Council keep a register of LMA’s and that the register must be available for public inspection during normal business hours.

Amending the Development Plan

The policies and zoning in Development Plans need to be changed and updated over time to reflect new local council or State Government policy, introduce changes to zoning, or to implement a new vision for future development.

Development Plans are changed through a Development Plan Amendment (DPA) process. A DPA can be instigated by either the relevant Council or the Minister for Urban Development and Planning. The Development Act 1993 provides the legislative framework for undertaking a DPA.

The DPA process can be instigated by either a relevant council or the State Minister for Urban Development and Planning (in prescribed circumstances). The Minister must ultimately approve all amendments to Development Plans.

All DPAs, once approved by the Minister, are also referred to the State Parliament's Environment, Resources and Development Committee for review.

Information on amending Development Plans can be found in the DPTI web site.

A guide on how to read Development Plans in included in the Planner’s Tool Box on this website.

Building Rules Requirements

Applications for building rules consent are assessed against the Building Code of Australia, published by the Australian Building Codes Board. Applications may be granted building rules consent by Council or a private certifier.

Where can I find links to relevant Legislation?

You can find all South Australian based Legislation at www.legislation.sa.gov.au or on the Australian Legal Information Institute (Austlii) website at www.austlii.edu.au.

For direct links to some relevant Legislation, see the Links page on this site.