Assessment pathways

A development application's journey through the approval process is determined by its assessment pathway.

The new planning system's assessment pathways enable better assessment processes for development applications.

About this instrument

Development assessment is the process of granting development approval that is required for new buildings or structures, changing or demolishing buildings, a change in land use, or the division of land.

The new PDI Act 2016 will ensure that we enhance professionalism in decision making, spread decision making to a broader range of authorities and provide more opportunity for councils to work together.

It will also introduce assessment processes that flex with the complexity of the proposal, meaning quicker decisions for smaller developments and clearer, performance based, pathways for the assessment of larger developments.

New infrastructure and developments such as roads, housing and community and business facilities have the potential to bring enormous benefits for South Australia and for people who live, work and invest here.

How we assess proposed developments therefore needs to be straightforward, transparent and easy to understand for all involved. We need to reduce red tape while ensuring we support developments to deliver on real benefits for our community.

The Planning, Development and Infrastructure (General) Regulations 2017 have replaced the Development Regulations 2008 to guide the assessment of all development applications lodged under the new system.

The new legislation shifts the focus to the needs of applicants, improving development outcomes and better options for decisions to be reviewed.

Three new assessment pathways will increase certainty for simple developments and provide a tailored approach for more complex development applications. The system will provide applicants with an early ‘yes’ or ‘no’ to their proposed development rather than an infinite and costly ‘maybe’. Delays will be shortened, red tape reduced and investment encouraged.

Homebuilders and small businesses need certainty when they apply for approval of development that is expected in a zone. The new assessment pathways will deliver faster approvals, with fast tracking of deemed-to-satisfy development applications, and more consistent planning rules for performance-based assessment. The new legislation will also ensure that decisions are made and the planning rules are applied by accredited professionals.

The assessment pathways will be largely implemented in conjunction with the switching on of the Planning and Design Code.

Accepted development

Accepted development includes minor and standard applications which will need no approval or building consent only.

For example, a shed will require no planning or building consent and a shop fit out would require building consent only.

Exempt development also covers what types of development does not require any form of assessment.

Code assessed development

Code assessed development includes applications which will be assessed on their merit against the Planning and Design Code and are either deemed-to-satisfy development or performance assessed development.

Simple developments such as a detached house in a residential zone will be fast tracked as a deemed-to-satisfy development application. More complex applications such as a multi storey building will be subject to performance based assessment.

Impact assessed development

Impact assessed development is likely to be major developments such as a new port or a new foundry.

These developments are subject to an Environmental Impact Statement which will include a full analysis of a wide range of environmental, social or economic effects associated with the development and how those effects are to be managed.

A key part of assessing proposed developments is selecting the best authority to make decisions about proposed developments. Which authority is best placed to make that assessment and decision will be based on the scale and potential impact of a development.

Under the new legislation, a range of authorities will be able to assess development applications and make decisions.

The Minister

For the South Australian Government, the Minister is primarily responsible for assessing development applications for essential infrastructure across South Australia and crown development applications including facilities associated with power, water, waste, education and our ports. Excluding restricted developments, the Minister is also primarily responsible for major development applications which require a full analysis of a wide range of possible impacts.

The State Planning Commission

The State Planning Commission is now South Australia’s principal planning and development assessment body. The Commission comprises experts across a range of disciplines including economics, urban design, construction, social and environmental policy and public administration.

The Commission is primarily responsible for assess development applications for restricted development occurring outside of local council areas or directed by the Minister, for example on matters of state significance or for delayed application.

Assessment panels and Assessment Managers

Assessment panels will now make decisions on more complex developments.

This will increase professional decision making, support local decision making and councils working together and also reduce political representation on assessment bodies.

Each Assessment Panel will have an Assessment Manager who is an Accredited Professional. The Assessment Manager will help support, advise and coordinate the work of the Assessment Panel and will also be responsible for the assessment of certain types of applications as a decision authority in his/her own right. The Assessment Panel may review an assessment decision made by the Assessment Manager, if requested to do so by an applicant.

Accredited Professionals

An Accredited Professional assesses development applications as prescribed by the regulations.


The majority of development application decisions are made by local councils in their role as custodians of their local areas and as assessment authorities.

Councils are responsible for granting final approvals for development that occur within its area. There is no change until a comprehensive review is undertaken of current council delegations and procedures to assist determination under the assessment pathways.

Councils are now also assisted with the establishment of Council Assessment Panels.


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*The PDI (General) (Development Assessment) Variation Regulations 2019 have become the PDI (General) Regulations 2017.