Airport Planning & Regulation

Review of the Airports Building Control and Environment Protection Regulations

This discussion paper is the first stage of a comprehensive review of the regulatory framework for building activities and environment protection at the 19 leased federal airports.

Airport Planning

All leased federal airports (except for Tennant Creek and Mount Isa) are subject to a planning framework in the Airports Act 1996 (the Airports Act). As part of the planning framework, airports are required to prepare a Master Plan that incorporates an Environment Strategy. The Master Plan is a 20 year strategic vision for the airport site which is renewed every five years. The Master Plan includes future land uses, types of permitted development, and noise and environmental impacts. The Environment Strategy sets out the airport's strategy to manage environmental issues within a 5 year period and beyond. It is the basis on which the Commonwealth measures the environmental performance of airports and the document by which airport tenants will determine their environmental responsibilities.

In developing their Master Plans airports must publish a Preliminary Draft Master Plan and invite public comment. A copy of the ‘Airport Development Consultation Guidelines’ PDF: 378 KB ReadSpeaker is available for download.

Following the public consultation, the airport must then submit a Draft Master Plan to the Minister for Infrastructure and Regional Development, for a decision. The Minister must either approve or refuse to approve the Draft Master Plan. If the Minister neither approves nor refuses to approve the Draft Master Plan within 50 business days from receiving all the necessary documents and information, the Minister is taken to have approved the Draft Master Plan.

In addition, all leased federal airports (except for Tennant Creek and Mount Isa Airports) are required to develop a Major Development Plan for major airport developments on the airport site. A draft version of the Major Development Plan must undergo public consultation before being submitted to the Minister for Infrastructure and Regional Development for a decision.

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Airport Master Plans

The Government has produced a guide PDF: 376 KB ReadSpeaker to assist airport lessee companies to understand and comply with the new requirements of the Airports Act 1996 for Master Plans. The guidelines outline the objectives of the master plan amendments and explain how the changes to airport master planning complement other airport planning initiatives and legislative requirements.

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Community Aviation Consultation Groups and Planning Coordination Forums

Community Aviation Consultation Groups and Planning Coordination Forums were established as per requirements from the previous government. Guidelines for Community Aviation Consultation Groups PDF: 297 KB ReadSpeaker and Planning Coordination Forums PDF: 289 KB ReadSpeaker are now available.

The Government expects leased federal airports to establish Community Aviation Consultation Groups to provide for effective consultation with members of the community. These Groups are to be independently chaired and should engage broad community representation. While they are not decision making bodies, Community Aviation Consultation Groups provide for effective and open discussion of airport operations and their impacts on nearby communities. The activities of the Groups complement other planning measures, including a new requirement for airports to seek public comment on a Major Development Plan for any development likely to have a significant community impact.

Major capital city airports are also required to establish Planning Coordination Forums. The purpose of Planning Coordination Forums is to support a strategic dialogue between the airport operators and senior local, state and federal government authorities responsible for town planning and infrastructure investment. Effective discussions in Planning Coordination Forums support better integration of planning for the airport and for the surrounding urban and regional community.

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Community Impact Guide

The Commonwealth Airports Amendment Act 2010 (the Act) commenced operation on 18 December 2010. The Act includes a new Major Development Plan ‘trigger’ that is activated by any development on leased federal airport land that is likely to have a significant impact on the local or regional community, regardless of size or cost (the ‘community impact trigger’).

The pervious government indicated that this community impact trigger would be supported by a guidance document. The guide is now available PDF: 224 KB ReadSpeaker. The purpose of this document is to provide greater detail on development factors that may require the consultation and scrutiny of a Major Development Plan process as a result of the new community impact trigger.

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Airport Regulation

All leased federal airports are subject to the following regulations:

Certain leased federal airports are subject to further regulations:

  • Economic Regulation which includes reporting on the prices charged for aeronautical services and facilities, financial statements and quality of service information (Adelaide, Brisbane, Melbourne, Sydney and Perth Airports)
  • The Parking Infringement Notices Scheme (Brisbane, Gold Coast, Hobart, Launceston, Melbourne, Perth, Sydney and Townsville Airports)
  • Administration of the Liquor Licensing Regime (Sydney, Bankstown and Camden Airports)
  • The Slot Management scheme (Sydney Airport)
  • Curfews (Adelaide, Sydney, Gold Coast and Essendon Airports)

Regulator Performance Framework PDF: 405 KB ReadSpeaker

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Airport Management Agreements

Airport Management Agreements (AMAs) allow airport-lessee companies to enter into agreements with qualified companies who are in a position to exercise control over substantial parts of airport land. Further information is available in section 33 of the Airports Act 1996. The Department is giving close consideration to submissions for large subleasing arrangements. It is likely these arrangements will not be considered acceptable in the future. Subleases to a trustee of a trust require appropriate approval.

Environment Management at Airports

The Commonwealth has an integrated regime to protect the environment at leased federal airports. Airport operators are required to implement their Airport Environment Strategy. While the airport operator has the main responsibility of protecting the environment, everyone operating or working at an airport needs to be aware of their environmental obligations. The Department oversees this through Airport Environment Officers (AEO). They are responsible for the day to day oversight of the operation of the Airport (Environment Protection) Regulations.

Building Control at Airports

Building and construction activities at leased federal airports must be approved by the Airport Building Controller (ABC). The ABC is appointed under Commonwealth law to administer the airport building control regime. The Airport Lessee Company must also approve the activity from a planning and airport operational perspective.

Building control at leased federal airports is going online!

The volume of building activity at many leased federal airports is growing, resulting in an increase in documentation and transfer of information such as plans and drawings. To address this growing volume, the process for applying and obtaining approvals for all building activities on leased federal airports is moving from a paper-based to an online web-based system called ‘ABC Online’.

ABC Online will manage all applications, fee payments and other information associated with building activities on airports, including building and works permits, demolition authorisations, certificates of compliance, determinations of minor works and exemption notifications. The system will make it easier to track the progress of building activity applications.

When is it coming?

ABC Online is planned to be released to all leased federal airports in 2017.

Watch this space for updates on ABC Online.

For more information, contact the Airport Building Controller for your airport as per the contact list above, or email the Department via

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Relevant Legislation and Regulations

The following Legislation and Regulations are relevant to the planning and regulation of leased federal airports:

  • Airports Act 1996
  • Airports Regulations 1997
  • Airports (Building Control) Regulations 1996
  • Airports (Control of On-Airport Activities) Regulations 1997
  • Airports (Environment Protection) Regulations 1997
  • Airports (Ownership Interests in Shares) Regulations 1996
  • Airports (Protection of Airspace) Regulations 1996
  • Sydney Airport Demand Management Act 1997
  • Sydney Airport Demand Management Regulations 1998


  • Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (the Department of the Environment is responsible for administering this piece of legislation)

The following Legislation and Regulations are relevant to airport curfews:

  • Adelaide Airport Curfew Act 2000
  • Sydney Airport Curfew Act 1995
  • Sydney Airport Curfew Regulations 1995
  • Air Navigation (Coolangatta Airport Curfew) Regulations 1999
  • Air Navigation (Essendon Airport) Regulations 2001

A copy of the updated Legislation and Regulations can be found at

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Noise Enquiries and Complaints

Airservices Australia handles aircraft noise enquiries on dedicated phone lines:

DIAL: 1300 302 240 (cost of local call from anywhere in Australia)

Links to Airport Environment, Safety, and Planning Sites

Civil Aviation Safety Authority
Airservices Australia
Department of the Environment
Sydney Airport Community Forum (SACF)

International Civil Aviation Organization (United Nations)

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Last Updated: 3 February, 2017