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Changing the use of a property (material change of use)

This page offers information on the assessment of development applications that involve a material change of use as specified in the Planning Act 2016.

What is a material change of use?

A material change of use means a change in the way a property is used. This can be:

  • starting a new use or activity on a property
  • re-establishing a use that was previously abandoned
  • increasing the intensity or scale of an activity on a property.

Examples include:

  • establishing a tourist attraction (e.g. incorporating a farm stay tourist experience on a cattle property)
  • starting an intensive horticulture or animal industry (e.g. a feedlot).

Starting your application

If your development is complex, or if there are on-site issues, you may need a qualified consultant to develop your application.

Your local council

Generally, your first step is to contact your local council to discuss any requirements under the planning scheme.

Categorising your development

Your local council will help you determine the category of your proposed development, either:

  • prohibited
  • assessable
  • accepted under the relevant planning scheme.

The scale of the changes and location of the property will determine the type of assessment that will be involved.

Despite the category of your proposed development, your proposal may also require:

  • assessment against interests that the state may have under the Planning Act 2016. This may mean that you need to lodge your application with, or refer it to, the State Assessment and Referral Agency (SARA)
  • assessment against a state interest that does not fall under the Planning Act or the SARA process (e.g. if your proposed development falls within a regional interest plan area under the Regional Planning Interests Act 2014)
  • assessment by other entities such as the Queensland Fire and Emergency Services (refer to the Planning Regulation 2017)
  • assessment against Commonwealth legislation such as the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (e.g. if land use activities could potentially impact on threatened species).

Your assessment manager

If your development is assessable, your local council will let you know if they will be the assessment manager for your application, or if you need to contact SARA through your regional SARA office.

The council or SARA may also direct you to the Department of Natural Resources, Mines and Energy (DNRME), if for example, your development requires:

  • clearing native vegetation
  • taking or interfering with water in a watercourse, lake or spring, artesian or sub-artesian water, or overland flow
  • excavating or placing fill within a watercourse, lake or spring
  • removing in-stream material (e.g. sand, gravel, rocks or soil).

Working with SARA

If your local council has advised you to speak with SARA, we recommend that you contact SARA to ask for pre-lodgement advice or a pre-lodgement meeting. This will enable you to understand the constraints, opportunities, potential alternatives and costs associated with the assessment process.

The role of SARA

SARA delivers a coordinated, whole-of-government approach to the state's assessment of development applications.

SARA works with technical agencies, such as Department of Transport and Main Roads, DNRME, Department of Agriculture and Fisheries and the Department of Environment and Science, to ensure all technical aspects of your development are appropriately assessed against Queensland legislation.

The State Development and Assessment Provisions (SDAP) sets out matters of interest to the state under the Planning Act. The SDAP outlines how a development application will be assessed under SARA and provides the assessment criteria and codes, guidelines, policies and legislation specific to the assessment of your development.

Channel your questions about interests the state may have through SARA in the first instance, rather than direct to another agency. Find further information about SARA or contact your regional SARA office.

Costs involved in development assessments

The Planning Regulation sets out the assessment fees for SARA. In addition to paying the assessment fees, you are also responsible for the costs involved with developing appropriate plans and complying with legal requirements.

Local councils will have a separate fee schedule for assessing applications.

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