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State Assessment and Referral Agency

The state becomes involved in assessing development applications if it affects a state interest. This can be state heritage places, state transport corridors or the clearing of certain vegetation.

The State Assessment and Referral Agency (SARA) is responsible for carrying out this function and uses criteria from the (SDAP).

When SARA is the assessment manager, the application is lodged with SARA.

When SARA is the referral agency, the applicant must refer the application to SARA after lodging it with the relevant local government (as assessment manager). View SARA decisions.

SARA is responsible for many referral agency triggers. However, applicants should be aware that there are other entities outside SARA that hold jurisdiction for their own referral agency triggers. Schedule 10 of the Planning Regulation 2017 sets out all referral agencies and their jurisdictions.

See our interactive mapping to help identify development assessment triggers and referrals and interpret the State Development Assessment Provisions.

Frequently asked questions

  • You can find out whether SARA is the assessment manager or a referral agency for your development application by referring to schedules 8, 9 and 10 of the Planning Regulation 2017. The department also maintains online mapping systems that can help you interpret the Regulation.

    If you have lodged an application with your local council (as assessment manager), you will receive a confirmation notice letting you know whether you also need to refer the application to SARA.

    When referring an application to SARA, there are three options:

    1. For certain applications, you can request a response before an application is made. This is known as a ‘pre-referral request’.
    2. For some low-risk development applications you can refer your application via SARA’s FastTrack5 pathway.
    3. You can refer your application via the standard statutory process under the Development Assessment Rules.

    SARA referral pathways under the Planning Act 2016 factsheet outlines some key points to consider when deciding which referral pathway is right for you.

    Accelerated assessment pathways for tidal works (private structures) factsheet includes information on accelerated assessment pathways if your development application is for a private tidal works structure (e.g. a pontoon, jetty or boat ramp).

    Some applications require additional approvals and/or permits. The Department of Agriculture and Fisheries has provided advice for applicants looking to remove or use forestry or quarry material from a development site.

    SARA offers a free pre-lodgement service. While pre-lodgement is not part of the formal development assessment (DA) process, it can create a smoother development application process, especially for more complex development applications.  It can be a good idea request a pre-lodgement meeting or pre-lodgement advice before lodging a development application. This will identify any potential issues or additional information requirements.

    If you have any enquiries regarding your application or are seeking guidance on a possible application, please contact your local SARA regional office .

  • SARA charges fees for its assessment and referral services. These fees are outlined in part 4, division 5 and schedule 10 of the Planning Regulation 2017.

    From 1 July 2022, the Queensland Government has a new mechanism for how fees are updated annually to reflect indexation.

    Referral fees and development application fees are now expressed as units, rather than dollars. The fee unit value is prescribed in the Acts Interpretation (Fee Unit) Regulation 2022. The fee unit value will be updated annually in line with the Government Indexation Rate.

    More information about this change is available at Queensland Treasury.

    It is the applicant’s responsibility to ensure the correct fees are paid. For ease of use, a schedule of fees and charges in dollar amounts is available to assist.

    Discounted fees (50 per cent concession) are available under the Regulation for government-supported community projects, and for applications by non-profit organisations. Where an application is eligible for a discount, the concession will automatically be applied by MyDAS2 at the time of lodgement with, or referral to, SARA. In all other circumstances, the full fee specified in the regulation must be paid before assessment can begin.

    Read the current Planning Regulation 2017 - Conversion of fees and charges to dollars.

  • Applicants may receive a full or partial refund of SARA fees where:

    • applications are incorrectly referred or lodged
    • fees are inadvertently overpaid
    • applications are withdrawn (refund amount subject to assessment stage when withdrawn).

    SARA will also consider refunds on a case-by-case basis for certain scenarios, such as assessment duplications.

    Applicants must make all refund requests to the SARA case officer as soon as possible after the application has been lodged or referred to SARA, and well in advance of an assessment manager decision or referral agency response. SARA will not consider requests for refunds on applications after a decision notice or referral agency response has been issued.

    For more information on fee refunds or concessions, please contact us through your local SARA regional office.

    Note: Refunds for applications under the Planning Act can either be processed back to credit cards or via EFT (based on the original payment method).

  • The easiest way to refer or lodge an application is to use MyDAS2. This is the department’s online lodgement system. This system allows you to both prepare and lodge online.

    MyDAS2 facilitates:

    • requests for pre-lodgement advice
    • online lodgement and referral of development applications with SARA
    • changes and extensions to development approvals
    • tracking through the development assessment process
    • integration with the DA mapping system
    • electronic payment of fees.

    Further information on the use of MyDAS2:

    If you are unable to use MyDAS, you can lodge or refer your development application to SARA by email or post. Please contact us through your local SARA regional office for more information, or if you require assistance with MyDAS.

    Note: you cannot use MyDAS2 to lodge a development application directly with a local government as assessment manager. You will need to give your application to the relevant local government by other means.

  • Each year SARA assesses its performance against certain key performance indicators (KPIs),and publishes a report on this website. SARA’s KPIs for 2020–21 are now available.

    View more information about SARA’s performance against KPIs for previous financial years.

Last updated: 27 Jun 2022