Telecommunication infrastructure approvals

Telecommunications infrastructure legislation is complex, involving overlapping Federal and State powers.

Both Commonwealth legislation, including the Telecommunications Act 1997, and State legislation, State Environmental Planning Policy Infrastructure 2007, determine whether telecommunications infrastructure requires approval.

Under both systems, conditions apply to the types of infrastructure which can be installed under various pathways. All infrastructure must comply with levels of electromagnetic energy set by the Australian Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety Agency standards. 

The generation of the technology, whether 3G, 4G or 5G, is not considered under State or Commonwealth legislation – only the levels of electromagnetic energy.

The NSW Telecommunications Facilities Guideline Including Broadband is a comprehensive guide to the complex legislative framework for the installation of telecommunications facilities.

Pathways for installation

As a quick reference, telecommunication infrastructure may be installed under the following 3 pathways:

1. Low impact facilities - Exempt Development

Both Commonwealth and State legislation allow the installation a ‘low impact facility’ without development consent but must include consultation with the community.

The telecommunications carrier must hold a Facilities Installation Permit provided by the Australian Communications Media Authority.

Council does not have any authority in the decision to install these facilities.

2. Complying Development

State Policy allows certain types of infrastructure to be installed with approval from a Certifying Authority as a Comply Development Certificate, under strict compliance with pre-conditions.

3. Other facilities – Development Application

Development consent may be required for facilities which are not low impact such as:

  • Designated overhead lines
  • A tower that is not attached to a building
  • A tower attached to a building and more than 5 metres high
  • An extension to a tower that has previously been extended
  • An extension to a tower, if the extension is more than 5 metres high.

The consent authority (in most cases Council) is required to assess a development application in accordance with the relevant planning legislation. Consultation is conducted with the community as per the usual development application process.

Council’s advocacy

Since 2019 Council has made numerous representations to Federal Ministers and Members of Parliament seeking a change in legislation to return to Council the authority to determine all telecommunications facilities through the development application process.

Making a complaint

The Australian Communication and Media Authority is the regulatory authority for Telecom Providers and Facilities and respond to issues regarding telecommunications infrastructure.

Complaints regarding infrastructure installations can be made through the ACMA website.

Other helpful links