Johnston Withers

Planning Reform Series – Outline of the South Australian planning reforms under the Planning, Development and Infrastructure Act 2016.

Published on Monday 24 February, 2020 by Andrew Mitchard

Laws & Acts

Since the introduction of the Planning, Development and Infrastructure Act 2016 South Australia has been undergoing a large scale modernisation of its planning system. Our planning reform series takes a look at the changes and how they will impact South Australians with plans to renovate, subdivide or develop land.

A man sitting at a desk drawing some building plans with a pencil in his hand and a ruler next to him.

Planning affects all South Australians and the introduction of the Planning, Development and Infrastructure Act 2016 (“the PDI Act”) is an overall positive reform that will ensure South Australia grows in a way that makes our state an enviable place to live.

With a heavy focus on modern design, energy efficiency, technology, aesthetics, the environment, community living, health and wellbeing, the reforms are designed to put people and communities at the centre of planning policy and minimise the confusion to the everyday South Australian when navigating our development rules.

Our government has recognised the way in which we assess proposed developments including new infrastructure, roads, housing, community and business facilities needs to be straightforward, transparent and easy to understand for all involved. They have recognised the need to reduce red tape while ensuring we support developments that deliver benefits for South Australia and for people who live, work and invest here.

The reforms provide opportunity for more public involvement and information upfront in one central location, the SA Planning Portal with state wide public and council conversation encouraged and easily visible.

Our current system operating under the Development Act 1993 has been superseded and began a phase-out in April 2016, when Parliament passed the PDI Act.

The PDI Act affects how development policy is formed, how development applications are assessed, and how the community is consulted on planning proposals.

A key component of the new system is the introduction of a Planning and Design Code (“The Code”). The code will be outlined in a new ‘rule book’ for all development in South Australia. The code assigns new development rules and zoning throughout the state and will replace the policies currently outlined in the different Development Plans.

Essentially The Code will replace all 72 local government Development Plans to become the single source of planning policy for assessing development applications across South Australia. In some cases The Code creates updated land use zoning that differ from the zoning currently applied to South Australian land.

The state government rollout of The Code was broken down into three phases and has been underway over the last 8 months. Draft Policies for each phase and Development Assessment Scenarios can be found on the SA Planning Portal.

An outline of the three phases of rollout shows the approach taken by the government to provide for consultation and reform of draft policies affecting the most densely populated areas of our state.


Phase one was rolled out on 1 July 2019 affecting outback areas located in the state area known as Land Not Within a Council Area (LNWCA).This outback area includes 70% of our state, comprising the most arid and wild coastline areas of South Australia. This is an area where development and planning policy is heavily focused around our traditional land custodians, mining, energy, and food production.

Phase one has been relatively smooth, however, these areas were already managed by the state government and so the introduction of the reforms across the Outback had minimal impact to councils and did not arouse much commentary from private planning professionals.


Phase two is now nearing the end of the consultation period and the PDI Act will come into effect on in July 2020 for all rural councils with small towns and settlements. This excludes regional towns and cities in rural areas.

Areas and councils that fall within the Phase Two zone can be found the SA Planning Portal.

The Department of Planning, Transport and Infrastructure are working with relevant councils to convert existing development plans to the Planning and Design Code.

Public consultation in relation to phase two has been open since 1 October 2019, and all South Australians are afforded an opportunity for their say on the draft Planning and Design Code during a public consultation period.

While submissions have closed in the phase 2 public consultation process in relation to the Planning and Design Code for Phase Two (Policy), Planning and Design Code for Phase Two (Maps) and Historic Area Statements for Phase Two, there remains an opportunity for public submission for both the Practice Guideline for Local Heritage and Character Overlays and the Practice Direction for Site Contamination Assessment details on how to upload submissions are available at the SA Planning Portal.


Phase Three of the rollout includes urban council areas and councils with regional towns and cities. The Planning and Design Code will become operational in these areas in September 2020.

Areas and councils that fall within the Phase Three zone can be found on the SA Planning Portal.

Being the most densely populated areas the consultation period that was open on 1 October 2019 has seen many submissions and the State Planning Commission have released a Code Amendment Update Report midway through the period highlighting some key proposals for improvement to the Code. These midway reports together with the draft Phase Three Code can be found on the SA Planning Portal.

The public consultation period will end on 28 February 2020 and is currently still open for Planning and Design Code for Phase Three (Maps), Historic Area and Character Area Statements for Phase Three, Practice Guideline for Local Heritage and Character Overlays and Practice Direction for Site Contamination Assessment. Details on how to upload submissions are available on the SA Planning Portal.

South Australians who wish to see how certain land will be treated under the new statewide zoning are able to find this information on a number of publically assessable overlay maps. A user friendly public access site allows a member of the public to insert an address or location identified and view an overlay of the Planning and Design Code zones and other development applications that have been lodged and are currently undergoing the assessment process under the PDI Act.

Under the new Planning and Design Code South Australians are promised protection of our resources, the environment, and important agricultural areas. There will be limitations to unrestricted development in certain areas ensuring the sustainable future of our state. Such limitations include the Environment and Food Protections Areas that will be discussed in the second part of our planning reform blog series.

There is good news for home owners completing renovations and simple improvements. Outbuildings such as back yard sheds will in many cases no longer need planning approval. Carports, pergola and verandah development applications will undergo a much simpler process than that which is currently in place.

There will be online access to planning applications, from the ability to submit your development application online to the SA Planning portal, watching your development application as it goes through the application process, add and respond to planning queries and requests for further information online and receiving instant notification of approvals. The new online system will generally simplify and speed up the application processes.

Residents will be able to enquire on the status of Development occurring in their area as this will all be available on a central point on the SA planning portal. There will also be a “Facts and figures” available for public view on the portal so we can all see what is happening in developments both public and private across South Australia.

A modern planning system is fundamental for South Australia, and Johnston Withers Lawyers and Conveyancers will continue to stay abreast of these changes so that we may provide our clients with the best legal support for all Property Law, Conveyancing and Commercial matters.

This article is not to be considered as specific planning advice and members of the public should seek further information from their local council, state planning assessment commission or their private planning consultant.

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Johnston Withers Lawyers Andrew Mitchard


Andrew Mitchard

Managing director

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