Before you start building it is important to determine whether you are going to need planning approval. The earlier you consider what type of approval you may require the easier the planning process will be, as you will be able to design your development around the approval requirements and the relevant rules.
Some minor development in NSW often does not require any planning or construction approval. This is called exempt development because it is exempt from planning approval. Exempt development typically covers the minor "do it yourself" renovation work such as replacing the tiles in your bathroom or erecting a pre-fabricated structure such as a garden shed. What is considered to be exempt development is identified in the State document and will include predetermined standards outlining the size, type and location of the building work for it to be exempt of any planning or construction approval.
The State Environmental Planning Policy (Exempt and Complying Codes) 2008 contains the General Exempt Development Code.
If what you want to build falls outside of what is considered to be exempt development, it may fall into the category of complying development. Complying development is a combined planning and construction approval. Complying development is a fast track, approval process for development which meets all of the predetermined standards established in the State planning document. The standards or rules that the building must comply with are numerical, meaning that the design of the building will exactly meet the numbers in the rules. For example, a complying development height might be 4.8 m, the proposed building's height therefore cannot be greater than 4.8 m. A complying development certificate can be issued.
The State Environmental Planning Policy (Exempt and Complying Codes) 2008 contains the General Housing Code which covers complying developments.
If your building does not meet the rules of complying development then there is a final planning approval option - a development application. A development application is a planning approval which can only be approved by a local council (or, for very large, State-significant development proposals, the State Government). A development application needs to be prepared and it will be assessed in accordance with the development standards established by Dungog council.
These development standards include "merit" considerations, which means that when the application is being assessed, a building that does not exactly fit the development standards can still be approved "on its merits". Wherever a building does not meet either the exempt or complying development rules then a development application will need to be lodged. Once you have an approved development application you need to lodge an application for a construction certificate which provides the construction approval. Building work cannot commence until you have both an approved development application and a construction certificate.
The rules for exempt and complying development are different to those for a development application so you need to make sure you are designing your building in accordance with the relevant rules.