Steffan Harries

State Assessment and Referral Agency (SARA)

Some applications require input from the State Government due to it potentially affecting a state interest.

The state government intervenes in the evaluation of development applications when they impact state interests, such as state heritage sites, state transport corridors, or the removal of specific vegetation. The team responsible for assessing these applications is called the ‘State Assessment and Referral Agency’ aka ‘SARA’.

What is the State Assessment and Referral Agency (SARA)?

Achieving favorable development outcomes in Queensland relies on effective planning and a well-executed development process. SARA (State Assessment and Referral Agency) was established to streamline the state government’s involvement in assessing and making decisions during the development process. Typically, local government serves as the assessment manager and oversees the development assessment process. However, the state government assumes an assessment role for specific development proposals, particularly those that impact significant heritage values, transportation infrastructure, or certain types of vegetation.

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Frequently Asked Questions

In most instances, if you’re proposing a new use, or intensifying your existing one (e.g. subdividing your land) and you are within 25m of a state-controlled road, you’ll likely need a referral to SARA.

Yes. SARA offer pre-lodgement meetings just like Council’s do. Learn more about the pre-lodgement process here.

How does SARA work?

The Department of State Development, Manufacturing, Infrastructure and Planning, acting through SARA, serves as the designated decision-maker for development applications that require assessment by the state government. In various proposals, technical agencies, which are state government agencies with specialized expertise, may be involved depending on the nature of the proposal. When the state government needs to assess a development proposal, SARA seeks advice from the relevant technical agency. SARA relies on the input from technical agencies to inform and guide its decision-making process, ensuring that the proposal aligns with the state’s policy objectives as outlined in the State Development Assessment Provisions.

When do you need to contact SARA?

To determine whether a development proposal necessitates state assessment prior to submitting an application, you can refer to SARA’s online mapping system and the Planning Regulation 2017. The mapping system displays the relevant locations for state assessment, such as heritage sites, state-controlled roads, specific vegetation, and coastal areas. By using the mapping system in conjunction with the Planning Regulation 2017, you can ascertain if state assessment is required. If you require guidance on utilising the mapping system, determining the need for state assessment, understanding the assessment process, or discussing your proposal prior to application submission, you can seek advice from your local SARA office. Additionally, if the assessment manager is the local government, they may indicate in the confirmation notice whether the application needs to be referred to SARA.

Who contacts SARA and when?

While SARA assumes responsibility for numerous referral agency triggers, it’s important for applicants to note that there are additional entities beyond SARA that hold jurisdiction over their respective referral agency triggers. The jurisdictions of all referral agencies, including those outside of SARA, are outlined in Schedule 10 of the Planning Regulation 2017. It is advisable for applicants to consult this schedule to understand the specific referral agencies and their corresponding jurisdictions.

This all sounds pretty complicated though, that’s why Steffan Harries can organise all of your SARA referrals for you before and during the development application process.

Having a prelodgement meeting with SARA

SARA provides a complimentary pre-lodgement service. Although pre-lodgement is not a formal part of the development assessment (DA) process, it can significantly facilitate the application process, particularly for complex developments. It is advisable to consider requesting a pre-lodgement meeting or seeking pre-lodgement advice prior to submitting your development application. This proactive step will help identify any potential issues or additional information needed, ensuring a smoother application process.

Is your project near some state assets? For example, a railway line, or a state-controlled road? You might need a state referral!

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