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Retaining Walls: Regulations You Should Know

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You might want to build a retaining wall for any number of reasons. You may be doing some landscaping and think a decorative retaining wall would be perfect in your sloping garden. On the other end of the scale, you may need a retaining wall to level the ground before you erect a structure. Before you start digging, there are some important regulations you should know about.

Australian Retaining Wall Regulations

Retaining walls do two important things that make them subject to regulations throughout Australia:

They alter the landscape. This can affect water runoff and potentially alter the landscape around them. Retaining walls must bear the load of the earth and objects built or placed on top of them.

Regulations take both of these things into account. While the regulations are not uniform in every state and territory, a couple of things they all have in common include:

Retaining walls over a certain height must get council approval before they can be built. In most states, one metre is the maximum allowable height before council approval is needed. Exceptions are WA, where 500mm is the maximum allowable height, and the Northern Territory, where permission is needed to build a retaining wall that can affect the structural integrity of a building or if the wall is attached to the building. Retaining walls that are to be located near an adjoining property must receive council approval. This often includes walls of any height. In many states, any retaining wall built within 1.5 metres of a property line must receive a building permit. In South Australia, retaining walls over 200mm in height and within 500mm of an adjoining property must receive a council permit.

Getting Council Permission to Build a Retaining Wall

Retaining walls are complex structures that must be able to bear a heavy load and drain water without the drainage undermining the surrounding environment. For this reason, retaining walls that require council approval must be designed and/or built by structural engineers or building professionals licensed by their state building authorities to build retaining walls.

Specific regulations vary from state to state and even different councils within a state may have additional regulations. If you're planning on building a retaining wall, check with your local council first.

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