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Planning and building

The Gold Coast is a vibrant and attractive city. We are working hard to maintain our enviable lifestyle and ensure our city continues to thrive in a sustainable way.

Retaining walls

The Land Development Guidelines, Schedule 6.9 of the City Plan, provides the City of Gold Coast’s (City) minimum standards for developments encompassing clearing, contaminated soils, filling, earth retaining structures, earthworks, topsoil and grassing.

Conditions of reconfiguration (subdivision) approval may further regulate the height of retaining walls and it is recommended that the original subdivision approval be investigated.

Although there is no legislation that prohibits the construction of retaining walls along a site boundary, the City recommends that:

  • a minimum clearance of 600 millimetres be made between any retaining wall and a property boundary to avoid any problems or disputed costs associated with the retaining wall, and
  • a fence should not be placed over a retaining wall

A combined fence and retaining wall of a height exceeding two metres above natural ground level and located within a setback area (one metre, if located within a waterfront setback area) will require a Referral Agency Assessment application to the City and building approval from a Private Building Certifier.

How to lodge a Referral Agency Assessment application

The City acts as a Referral Agency in relation to assessing whether proposed buildings and / or structure comply with boundary setbacks, site cover and amenity and aesthetics.

All other statutory assessment functions must be carried out by the Assessment Manager (Private Building Certifier), in accordance with the provisions of the Building Act.

Online lodgement- the quick and easy option

Submit online SmartForm

Development applications can also be mailed to Mr Dale Dickson, Chief Executive Officer, City of Gold Coast,
PO Box 5042, GCMC QLD 9729, or lodged in person at any of our customer service centres.

Call the Planning Enquiries Centre on 07 5582 8708 for help with any enquiries regarding application lodgement.

Information notes are provided and should be read in conjunction with:

Lodgement requirements for Referral Agency Assessment applications

A Referral Agency Application (RAA) Express Application is an initiative that allows for low risk applications to be determined in a five business day period and will incur a reduced application fee if it meets certain criteria. A set of information notes is available to applications to advise of revised lodgement requirements relating to a Referral Agency Assessment Application.

These notes detail the format which the application should take as well as the express option for the application subject to qualifying criteria, that enables the application to attract a lesser application fee and a shorter assessment period.

The notes also contain common questions with answers to assist in understanding information and process relating to making the application.

For more information, download the Revised lodgement requirements for Referral Agency Assessment Applications (RAAs).

Types of Referral Agency Assessment Applications

Referral Agency Application

The City, as a referral agency, is responsible for self-assessable development, only as designated by the Gold Coast Planning Scheme 2003, to regulate the design and siting of buildings and structures on the Gold Coast.

Any building setback that requires a variation to the standard building regulations requires the endorsement of the City as a referral agency by way of a referral agency assessment application. Any requirement given by the City as a referral agency must be included in any development permit for building work given by the assessment manager (private building certifier).

Amended applications

An amended referral agency assessment application is only application where a change is proposed to an aspect of the development that has already been endorsed by the City as the referral agency and included in a formal referral agency response. Should a new aspect of development be required for assessment that has not already referred to by the City in the referral agency response, a new referral agency assessment application is required together with an additional application fee.

Retaining walls vary in cost, durability, strength, occupying space and vulnerability to various hazards. Select from the drop-down headings below for more information:

How are retaining walls categorised?

Retaining walls can be categorised by material:

  • timber
  • concrete, concrete blocks, shotcrete
  • brick or stone masonry
  • boulder.

Or by type of construction such as:

  • sleeper wall (timber or concrete)
  • crib wall (timber or concrete)
  • reinforced walls (concrete or shotcrete)
  • weight walls (boulder or mass concrete or masonry).

What are the advantages and disadvantages of the different types of retaining walls?

  • Timber walls are vulnerable to vermin infestation (white ants) and weathering.
  • Dampness causes timber to rot significantly while it increases the strength of young concrete and lime mortar.
  • Boulder retaining walls and crib walls occupy large spaces.
  • The stability of a boulder retaining wall is highly dependent upon the skill of excavator operator in choosing the right boulder for the right location.
  • Footings for reinforced concrete or reinforced concrete block retaining walls can be extended either in front or behind the wall. This can be extremely helpful in circumstances where space is limited in one direction such as retaining walls at property boundaries.
    • Seek advice from a Registered Professional Engineer of Queensland (RPEQ) to find the most suitable retaining wall for the conditions on your property.

      Do I need to obtain a building approval for a retaining wall?

      You do not need to obtain a building approval if the wall satisfies all three following conditions:

      • the retaining wall has no surcharge loading (for example, a driveway above the retaining wall will impose a surcharge loading on the retaining wall)
      • the retaining wall is not located within 1.5 metres of a building or another retaining wall
      • the height of the retaining wall measured from the adjacent natural ground level is less than one metre.

      If the retaining wall cannot satisfy all of the above conditions, it is considered an assessable development requiring a building approval.

      What if I don’t obtain an approval for my retaining wall?

      If you construct an assessable retaining wall without first obtaining a building approval you have committed an offence against the Building Act 1975. There are heavy penalties for offences against this legislation.

      What are the correct steps to build a retaining wall?

      You should take the following steps prior to building a retaining wall to avoid future problems:

      1. consult with an engineer, an architect, or a building designer to prepare a plan showing the location of the retaining wall on your property
      2. consider at least 600 millimetre clearance between the property boundary line and the closest part of the retaining wall
      3. ensure that the wall is not within 2 metres of Council underground services (sewer main, stormwater pipe or water supply main pipe)
      4. engage a Registered Professional Engineer of Queensland (RPEQ) to select, design and certify the most suitable type of retaining wall for the site
      5. advise the RPEQ if you are planning a another structure that may impose a surcharge loading on the wall (for example: driveway or building loads adjacent to wall)
      6. obtain a copy of the engineer-designed section for the wall signed and certified by the RPEQ
      7. obtain a building approval if a surcharge loading is imposed on the wall or the height of the wall is one (1) metre or greater, or the wall is located within 1.5 metres of a building or another retaining wall
      8. a building approval can be obtained from Council or from a suitably qualified private building certifier from council prior to construction of the wall
      9. engage a Registered Builder to build the wall under the supervision of the RPEQ
      10. obtain inspection certificates from the RPEQ for the construction of the wall at different stages (excavation, reinforcement, subsoil drainage and final)
      11. obtain a final certificate from the private building certifier.

      Note: Items 7, 8 and 11 are not necessary where the retaining wall is self-assessable.


      While every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of this information, City accepts no responsibility for any error or omissions. However, the City would appreciate advice should any error be discovered.

      To determine if you need approval for your earthworks, contact the Planning Enquiries Centre on 07 5582 8708 or refer to the City Plan.

      To make a complaint to the City about an existing retaining wall, please refer to our Report a problem - Planning and building compliance page and submit an online form if applicable.

      Find links to websites that may be useful in assisting resolution of problems associated with retaining walls below.

      Related information

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