Airports Amendment Act 2018

The Airports Amendment Act 2018 came into effect on 28 September 2018.

The amendments streamline certain administrative arrangements relating to master plans (MPs) and major development plans (MDPs) to offer a more flexible, proportionate, efficiency-based regulatory approach.

The Department of Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Communications recognises airport-lessee companies are now well experienced in drafting MPs and MDPs and the basic concepts and requirements for the planning documents are well established and understood by airport-lessee companies.

The below guidelines have been drafted to assist airport-lessee companies address the implementation of the new requirements to the Airports Act 1996 (the Act) as a result of the Airports Amendment Bill 2018 coming into effect.

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 is available for download.

Following the public consultation, the airport must then submit a Draft Master Plan to the Minister for Infrastructure, Transport 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.

As part of the Master Planning process, an Australian Noise Exposure Forecast (ANEF) must be prepared for leased federal airports. Under the Airports Act these ANEFs are required to be endorsed in a ‘manner’ approved by the Minister. The current “manner of endorsement” was approved in April 2017.

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Airport Master Plans

Following the Airports Amendment Bill 2010, the Australian Government produced a guide PDF: 376 KB to assist airport lessee companies to understand and comply with the 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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Airports Major Development Plans

Under section 89 of the Airports Act 1996 (the Act), all leased federal airports, excluding Mount Isa and Tennant Creek, are required to develop and submit for the Minister’s approval Major Development Plans (MDP) for specific types of development, as well as for developments that exceed certain thresholds. Proposals to construct:

  • a new runway, extend or alter an existing runway, an exempt sensitive development, or those that are likely to significantly affect the community and environment, require approval irrespective of construction cost or building footprint;
  • a passenger terminal, or extend a passenger terminal, are subject to approval depending on building footprint; and
  • a building that is not for use as a passenger terminal, a new or extended taxiway, a new or extended road or vehicular access facility, and a new or extended railway or rail handling facility, requires approval where the cost of construction exceeds a specified threshold (currently $25 million).

Sensitive developments such as educational institutions (excluding aviation training facilities), hospitals, residential dwellings and community care facilities are prohibited, unless by Ministerial exception under section 89A of the Act.

The Airports (Major Airport Developments) Determination 2021, which came into force in March 2021, provides clarity around what costs of construction are included and excluded in the monetary threshold. All airport developments must be consistent with approved Master Plans for each airport.

The department is currently reviewing the Airports Act 1996 and regulations, including MDP provisions, to cut red tape, streamline Commonwealth processes and modernise airport planning regulations.

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Airport consultation and community engagement

Airports engage with a range of stakeholders through Community Aviation Consultation Groups (CACGs) and Planning Coordination Forums (PCFs). These groups were established in 2011 to meet the expectations of the then-Commonwealth Government.

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CACGs provide for effective consultation with members of the local community. While they are not decision-making bodies, CACGs aim to facilitate constructive and open discussion of airport operations and their impacts on nearby communities.  All federally-leased airports (except Mt Isa and Tennant Creek) operate CACGs.

Membership of most CACGs is by invitation only and generally consists of representatives from the airport, federal and state governments, Airservices Australia, and local communities. In some cases, local government, Defence and/or CASA may also be present or invited. The CACG Chair is usually independent of the airport.

The department has developed CACG guidelines PDF: 436 KB and a CACG member induction pack PDF: 211 KB.

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PCFs provide for consultation between airport operators and senior local, state and federal government authorities responsible for town planning, transport and infrastructure investment. Effective discussions in PCF meetings support better integration of planning for the airport with the surrounding urban and regional communities. All major capital city airports, and some secondary airports, operate PCFs.

Membership of PCFs is by invitation only and generally consist of representatives from the airport, federal, state and local governments, and Airservices Australia. In some cases, Defence and/or CASA may also be present or invited. The PCF Chair is usually a senior airport representative.

The department has developed PCF guidelines PDF: 289 KB.

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Review of airport consultative arrangements

In 2015, following a recommendation by the Productivity Commission, the department commissioned an independent review of federally-leased airports’ consultative arrangements. The review found that CACGs and PCFs are generally well supported by their participants and the groups are considered effective in meeting their stated aims. However, the review also recognised that one size does not fit all in relation to airport consultative arrangements, and the final report made recommendations that encouraged flexibility in airports’ approaches to community consultation.

In late 2016, the department broadened its expectations relating to federally-leased airports’ consultative arrangements. Airports are now expected to tailor their consultation activities to suit the specific needs of their stakeholders. Where existing CACG and PCF arrangements are working effectively, airports may elect to continue to rely on these established groups.  Alternatively, or in addition, airports may choose to undertake a range of other consultation activities as considered appropriate.

Further enquiries about airport consultation can be sent to the department at:

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Brisbane Airport Post Implementation Review Advisory Forum

The Australian Government announced the establishment of the Brisbane Airport Post Implementation Review Advisory Forum (the Forum) on 24 September 2021. The Forum published its Final Report on 15 December 2022 and has concluded its activities.

More information about the Forum is available at: Brisbane Airport Post Implementation Review Advisory Forum | Department of Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development, Communications and the Arts

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 previous government indicated that this community impact trigger would be supported by a guidance document. The guide is now available PDF: 224 KB. 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 (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

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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.

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 2024
  • Airports (Building Control) Regulations 1996
  • Airports (Control of On-Airport Activities) Regulations 1997
  • Airports (Environment Protection) Regulations 1997
  • Airports (Ownership) Regulations 2024
  • 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)



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