The cost of infrastructure needed for development could kill any profit… if it is a surprise

The cost of infrastructure needed for development could kill any profit… if it is a surprise

04 April 2022 Authored by: Diane Coffin   |   Topics: Building and construction disputes, Construction and infrastructure, Planning and environment, Property and planning law

This may seem to be an obvious statement. However, in parts of South-East Queensland, ensuring that all the costs of infrastructure are at least understood, if not actually quantified, is complicated by the separation of responsibility for water supply and wastewater networks from local governments to two entities – Urban Utilities and Unitywater.

Both Urban Utilities[1] and Unitywater[2] are statutory authorities, called ‘distributor-retailers’, that were created in 2010 under the South-East Queensland Water (Distribution and Retail Restructuring) Act 2009. Since July 2014, Urban Utilities and Unitywater are the approval authorities for connections to their respective infrastructure networks. Developers from other parts of Queensland or Australia may be unaware of this quirk of development and could be caught out.

To ensure this doesn’t happen, we suggest the use of a services advice notice (SAN).

Services advice notices

One way to test the viability and to guard against unknown costs of a proposed development that will need to connect to Urban Utilities or Unitywater networks, is to request a SAN. A SAN is a form of advice akin to a pre-lodgement meeting with a Council and may include:

  • advice about the proposed connection having regard to the policy of Urban Utilities or Unitywater
  • the charges and conditions that may apply to the connection
  • any other relevant matter about the connection

As with a pre-lodgement meeting with a Council, the more information that can be provide with the request for a SAN, the more detailed, specific and useful the resulting advice is likely to be. At a minimum, a request for a SAN should be accompanied by a detailed description of the proposed development and some suggestion about how it is intended to connect to the water supply and wastewater networks.

Although a SAN is not binding on a decision of Urban Utilities or Unitywater, where there is a subsequent application for a water approval, the advice contained in a SAN can be an invaluable source of information when used appropriately and at the correct time. The timing of when you should seek a SAN is a critical step in the development assessment approval pathway and will vary depending the nature of the development.

Water approvals

As noted, a SAN is not binding on a subsequent application for a water approval. However, if used to best advantage, the advice received in the SAN can result in time and cost savings for the project by ensuring the preferred servicing solution is proposed when seeking the water approval. The SAN can also give your project an advantage when it comes time for detailed design. Many a project has wasted time and money designing in detail a servicing solution that was later refused.


Understanding the why, when and how of SANs and water approvals can increase the chances of a successful development and dramatically reduce the likelihood of expensive surprises late in a project’s life.

If you would like us to assist by providing advice on your request for a SAN or application for a water approval, please contact our property, planning and environment team.


[1]           The Central SEQ Distributor-Retailer Authority (trading as Urban Utilities) provides water supply and wastewater services to the local government areas of Brisbane City Council, Ipswich City Council, Lockyer Valley Regional Council, Scenic Rim Regional Council and Somerset Regional Council.

[2]           The Northern SEQ Distributor-Retailer Authority (trading as Unitywater) provides water supply and wastewater services to the local government areas of Moreton Bay Regional Council, Noosa Shire Council and Sunshine Coast Regional Council.



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This publication is for information only and is not legal advice. You should obtain advice that is specific to your circumstances and not rely on this publication as legal advice. If there are any issues you would like us to advise you on arising from this publication, please let us know.