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Regulation of levee banks

The Queensland Government has introduced laws to regulate the construction or modification of levee banks. These laws became effective on 16 May 2014. If you propose to build a new levee or modify an existing levee from this date, you need to comply with this new regulation.

Levee banks

Levee banks are defined as artificial embankments which prevent or reduce overland flow. Some structures which act as levees are excluded from the definition.

Levees play an important role in floodplain management. They also have the potential to impact on neighbouring properties, the community and the catchment as a whole. It is therefore important to provide a consistent and effective method for regulating them.

Levee categories

The Water Act 2000 defines what a levee is and provides that the construction of a new levee or the modification of an existing levee is now an 'assessable development' under the Sustainable Planning Act 2009. This means that any person planning to construct or modify a levee must give consideration to the potential effects of their levee on the movement of floodwater, and how this could affect other people and properties.

The level of assessment of a levee will depend on the levee category. There are three categories which are determined by the level of impact of the proposed levee:

  • Category 1 levees do not have any off-property impacts and are subject to self-assessment.
  • Category 2 levees do have off-property impacts and have an affected population of less than 3 people and are subject to code assessment.
  • Category 3 levees do have off-property impacts and have an affected population of at least 3 people and are subject to impact assessment.

Levee documents

Applications to build a levee

Landholders will need to apply for a development approval for category 2 or 3 levees. Local councils are responsible for assessing levee applications. As assessment managers, councils are able to make decisions about levees based on their vision for their local government area and their specific planning and management needs.

The application forms to build a category 2 or 3 levee can be found on the Department of Infrastructure, Local Government and Planning website. You will need to use form 1 (Application details) and form 20 (Interfering with overland flow water and construction and modification of a levee). You may also find Checklist No 4 (Operational work) to be of assistance.

The Queensland Government is a referral agency for matters of interest to the State for category 3 levees. Information about how the State will assess category 3 levees can be found on the Department of Infrastructure, Local Government and Planning website.

Existing levee banks

The new regulatory provisions will not apply to existing levee banks as these are not documented and were constructed in accordance with the existing legislation at the time. However, the regulations will apply to proposals to modify an existing levee bank.

Levee banks under construction

The new framework will not apply to levee banks that are under construction when the framework commences. Physical construction on building or modifying the levee bank must have started for a levee bank to be considered 'under construction'. A levee bank is not considered to be under construction unless all applicable permissions have been received, land acquisitions completed and work begun.


Following Queensland's 2011 floods, the Floods Commission of Inquiry recommended that there be consistent legislation to control the construction of levees in Queensland. These regulations provide this consistent approach.

The advantages of consistent legislation include:

  • the rules are clearly stated and apply to everyone in Queensland
  • potential impacts of levees must be considered prior to construction or modification
  • levees are assessed on the same criteria across the state
  • there is a consistent process for objecting to the construction of levees.

Find out more

For more information, contact your local council, or email


Last updated: 27 January 2017

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