Territory and Municipal Services


Public Land Use

The opportunities for using Canberra's public land are wide-ranging. The use of public unleased land may be for an event (such as holding a concert in a park), for an activity (such as holding a market) or for placing an object on public land (such as a waste skip or charity bin).

Information on facilities available on public unleased land can be found at the Data ACT website or in our Explore book (PDF 4.3MB) (Word 338.5KB).


Who manages public unleased land in the ACT?

The ACT Government manages all land in the Territory, except areas gazetted as national land. Please contact the National Capital Authority for enquiries about the use of national land including Commonwealth Park, Federation Mall, Kings Park, lawns of Old Parliament House, Lake Burley Griffin, Aspen Island (Carillon) and the Rose Garden.

Some land such as school grounds, sports grounds and other venues such as the National Arboretum, Exhibition Park in Canberra, Canberra Stadium and Manuka Oval are managed by individual areas and should have enquiries directed to them in the first instance.

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Why do I need to apply do use public land?

Under the Public Unleased Land Act 2013 a permit is required to use public land that may impact on its amenity or on other people's enjoyment of it.

How long can a permit be issued?

The length of time that a permit is valid varies, depending on the nature of the application. Permits for longer term activities such as outdoor dining areas and displays of motor vehicles can be issued for up to two years.

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The application process

There are three stages of the application process:

  1. Apply for a permit

    It is recommended you contact the Land Use Unit on 6205 8794 or via email at publiclanduse@act.gov.au prior to submitting your application to ensure the land space is suitable. The application requires that you provide details including the time, date and purpose of the proposed activity or event.

    The fastest way to apply for a permit is using the online version of the application to use a public place form, but you can also download the application to use a public place form (Word 785KB) (PDF 156KB)

    If you submit your application online, you will receive a receipt immediately with a unique identifying number. If you submit your application by post, you will receive a phone call or email.

  2. Assessment of application

    Following the initial review of the application you can expect to receive a follow up email within two business days if further information is required. These requirements vary according to the complexity of the permit. They may include submitting a map detailing the area you wish to use, a risk management plan, details of any objects associated with the event and, in some circumstances, evidence of public liability insurance coverage.

    The assessment period allows 28 days for consideration after receipt of all required documentation. This time period may be extended if consultation is required with stakeholders or approval is needed to be sought from other agencies.

    Large-scale events may require an assessment period of up to six months.

    It is important to plan ahead as much as possible to leave suitable time for the application to be assessed.

    Once a decision has been made on the application, the Land Use Unit will provide an approved permit with terms and conditions.

  3. Final approval

    Once a decision has been made on the application, the Land Use Unit will provide an approved permit with terms and conditions

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How long will it take to approve an application for an event?

The processing time for smaller events (those with less than 100 people, such as weddings and private functions) that are expected to have minimal impact on the surrounding environment or other activities in the area is 28 days following the receipt of all required information.
The processing time for larger events such as markets, festivals, rallies or organisational activities that may impact on the surrounding environment or other activities in the area can be up to six months. This is to allow sufficient time for consultation with other agencies and/or the general public as well as the possible adjustment of the application according to feedback.

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Events

The ACT has a wide range of public unleased land in parks, nature reserves and outside suburban shopping centres which is used on a daily basis by the people of Canberra and surrounding regions.
This land can be used to undertake a variety of activities such as weddings, barbeques, festivals, corporate functions, sporting events and community activities. These events may at times impact on the daily use of unleased land and potentially conflict with other events if the application process hasn't been followed.
It is important to balance the community's ability to hold events on public land while ensuring the amenity of the area and also maintaining the rights of other members of the community to use public spaces.

Guide to Organising Public Events in the ACT

Use the online version of the application to use a public place form

Download the application to use a public place form (Word 785KB) (PDF 156KB)

Public Unleased Land Permit – Standard Terms and Conditions (PDF 170KB) (Word 78KB)

Maps

Some areas are zoned for booking purposes. Please use the following maps when applying for approval to use these areas:

Black Mountain Peninsula (PDF 777KB)
City Centre (PDF 818KB)
Eddison Park (PDF 983KB)
Glebe Park (PDF 789KB)
John Knight Park (PDF 1051KB)
Telopea Park (PDF 978KB)
Tuggeranong Town Park (PDF 867KB)
Weston Park (PDF 719KB)
Lennox Gardens/Nara Park (PDF 787KB)  Please note that a two hour time limit applies to the booking zone (ie 10:00-12:00, 12:00-14:00, 14:00-16:00 etc)

National land within the Parliamentary Triangle, Aspen Island (Carillon), Commonwealth Park, Federation Mall, Kings Park, Lawns of Old Parliament House, Lake Burley Griffin and the Rose Garden, is managed by the National Capital Authority.

Terms and conditions

Some events and activities attract fees. Fees for exclusive use of a recreation site or online camp bookings must be paid in advance. Payment for events and activities with a per-person charge must be made within 14 days of the end of the event (after final numbers are known), unless otherwise arranged. Call the Land Use Team 6205 8794 for further details.

Whenever organising an event or gathering, the organiser has wide ranging responsibilities in addition to the management of the venue, entertainment or proceedings. For further information on your responsibilities, refer to the Guide to Organising Public Events in the ACT developed by Access Canberra.

Compliance and enforcement

City Rangers investigate any matters relating to the unapproved use of unleased land in the ACT. Please call Access Canberra on 13 22 81 to report any matters of concern.

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Nature strips and rain gardens

Use this form to apply to develop or place objects on a nature strip in the ACT.

A nature strip, sometimes called a street verge, is the strip of land between a residential property boundary and the adjacent roadway and includes rain gardens. Many residents have chosen to place objects or extend their garden onto the nature strip in front of their house. However, anyone wishing to use the nature strip is required to apply for approval.

Use this form to apply to develop or place objects on a nature strip in the ACT.

Download the nature strip development application (Word 764KB) (PDF 150 KB)

Nature strip frequently asked questions

What is a nature strip?
Who looks after my nature strip?
Why do we have street trees?
Who looks after street trees?
How do I look after my nature strip?
Can I landscape my nature strip?
Can I park my car or store materials on the nature strip?
Exceptions to nature strip maintenance.

What is a nature strip?

A nature strip, sometimes called a street verge, is the strip of land between a residential property boundary and the adjacent roadway and includes rain gardens.

Nature strips provide a safe public walking area and are designed to complement your neighbourhood's natural settings. The nature strip or roadside verge is public land and is not part of your lease from the ACT Government. If you plan to do anything other than grow grass you need permission. Nature strips usually contain essential services such as sewerage, water pipes, telephone, power and gas. Unapproved works or alterations to the nature strip may result in limiting accessibility or causing damage to these services. This can prove to be a very costly exercise for those responsible. Changes such as tree plantings or landscaping require consultation and approval.

Who looks after my nature strip?

It is accepted practice in the ACT that maintenance of nature strips, including rain gardens, is undertaken by the resident or lessee of the adjoining leased land. This includes residential properties, single unit dwellings or, in the case of a units plan, the corporate bodies and commercial premises. Street trees on your verge are maintained by the ACT Government.

If you feel that you are unable to maintain your nature strip due to health reasons, organisations such as a Home Help Services ACT may be able to provide assistance. For further information call Access Canberra on 13 22 81.

What is a rain garden?

A rain garden is a bio-retention basin that has been installed in urban streets as part of water sensitive urban design measures implemented to improve water quality downstream. The rain gardens help to filter the storm water before it enters larger basins such as lakes and ponds. Rain gardens rely on bio-filtration processes to reduce stormwater pollutants.

How do I look after my rain garden?

It is accepted practice in the ACT that nature strips, including rain gardens, are maintained by the lessee. To maintain the effectiveness of the rain garden and the amenity of your street, hand pull weeds without the use of chemicals. Rain gardens are to be kept clear of debris, including litter, grass clippings and other organic martial. This will allow stormwater to be filtered as it passes through the soil profile and be utilised by trees and other plants in the rain garden.

A rain garden (or bio-retention basin) in an urban street which features a street tree and trimmed vegetation.
A well-maintained rain garden with weeds and leaf litter removed.
A rain garden (or bio-retention basin) which features a street tree and is overrun with weeds and leaf litter.
A poorly maintained rain garden overrun by weeds and leaf litter.
Weeds should be removed by pulling them out by hand and leaf litter should be removed to allow water to pass through the soil.
A rain garden (or bio-retention basin) in an urban street which features a street tree and trimmed vegetation.
A well-maintained rain garden with good vegetation cover and no weeds.
A rain garden (or bio-retention basin) which features a street tree and is overrun with weeds and leaf litter.
A poorly maintained rain garden. Lawn clippings have been deposited in this garden, resulting in a decline in native vegetation and the introduction of weeds. Lawn clippings also slow the rate at which water passes through the soil.

Community Gardens

Community gardens are an increasingly popular community-based activity for growing food collectively and locally. The ACT Government has developed the Guide to Community Gardens in the ACT to assist members of the public who are considering establishing a community garden.  The Guide provides the policy context for community gardens and outlines the approval process and the criteria that should be considered when assessing proposed sites for new community gardens. In most cases TAMS is responsible for issuing and managing licences for community gardens on public unleased land.

Why do we have street trees?

Street trees are aesthetically pleasing, enhance property values and contribute to a range of environmental benefits. A specific tree type is generally selected for each street and this provides the street with its own landscape character.

Who looks after street trees?

The ACT Government is responsible for all maintenance of street trees (excluding wattles) whether they are formal Government plantings or private plantings. It is common practice that the maintenance of shrubs and wattles is conducted by the adjacent lessee.

Parks and Territory Services (PATS) periodically checks and carries out any necessary pruning, removal and replacement of street trees planted on your nature strip. If you wish to remove any trees that you or a previous lessee have planted on the nature strip, you are required to obtain written approval from PATS prior to removal.

If you have an enquiry about a street tree, please contact TAMS via Access Canberra on 13 22 81. If necessary the tree will be assessed and any required action taken. If you do not have a street tree and would like one planted, contact PATS via Access Canberra on 13 22 81. Remember that you are required to seek approval if you wish to plant any trees on the nature strip.

How do I look after my nature strip?

Grass or ground covers should be maintained at an acceptable level and should not exceed half a metre in height to ensure it does not cause a line of sight problem or a fire hazard.

Foliage on the nature strip, or foliage growing out from your lease that overhangs a public footpath, must be pruned to maintain a minimum height of 2 metres above footpaths and to be in line with the edge of the footpath (this includes hedges and groundcovers). For safety purposes it is a requirement that pedestrians must have access to the entire width of the footpath.

A strip of grass or stable surface must be maintained at a minimum of 1.2 metres wide from the back of the kerb to facilitate garbage/recycling collections as well as pedestrian access directly off the roadway, even if a footpath exists near your lease boundary.

Foliage or structures must not interfere with the line of sight of motorists, pedestrians or cyclists when using, entering or exiting an intersection, driveway or footpath.

You may landscape your nature strip however approval is generally required.    

Can I landscape my nature strip?

Approval is not required to grow grass on your nature strip, however any further landscaping requires approval. Use the Nature Strip Application Form above so PATS staff can assess your proposal. When planning your landscaping options, consider the following:

  • Landscape developments may include garden beds, rockeries, paving, shrubs, ground cover plants, tan bark or similar materials. Trees will only be approved if they match the landscape character of the street.
  • Mulches, compacted granite or similar ground treatment must be stable and properly contained. Road drains at your home empty into our streams, lakes and the Murrumbidgee River without treatment. Care must be taken to ensure that the road, drains and footpaths are protected from such matter for environmental and safety purposes.
  • You must also take into account the mature size of plants, to ensure they will not cause an obstruction for pedestrians or line of sight problems for motorists. Shrubs should not exceed 0.5 metres in height.
  • Temporary protective fencing in areas where newly seeded soil or turf is located is permitted with approval, if constructed and maintained in a safe condition. Permanent fencing is not permitted.
  • Watering systems are generally discouraged and may only be installed with approval from PATS. Preference is given to landscape types suitable to the ACT such as dryland grasses and drought hardy plants.
  • Will you be restricting or limiting access to in ground services by altering ground levels, constructing walls or planting trees and shrubs above them?

Can I park my car or store materials on the nature strip?

Approval is required for the temporary storage of building materials and any other objects on nature strips or other public unleased Territory land.

Download the application to use a public place for construction activities form (Word 787KB) (PDF 72 KB).

Please be aware that the following activities or items are prohibited:

  • parking or storing any type of vehicle or trailer on your nature strip (registered or unregistered or parts thereof);
  • storing or placing any substance, material or objects on nature strips without written approval from PATS;
  • installing pavers or concrete or similar materials across nature strips without written approval from PATS;
  • erecting stone or brick walls or similar structures across nature strips without written approval from PATS;
  • pruning or removing any street trees; and
  • allowing foliage to obstruct pedestrian access to footpaths or nature strips within 1.2 metres from the back of the kerb.

Exceptions to nature strip maintenance

In certain circumstances the nature strip may be maintained by the ACT Government. Examples of this include:

  • Where a nature strip fronts unleased Territory land such as a laneway or park, the lessee is only responsible for maintaining the nature strip in line with their property boundary not the laneway or park land.
  • Shopping centres where an alternative arrangement has been made with PATS.

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Temporary storage of materials

The temporary storage of material in a public place requires approval. The storage of materials refers to an object temporarily located in a public place, such as skips, construction fencing, signs, tables and chairs. This doesn't include a registered vehicle.

Download the application to use a public place for construction activities form (Word 787KB) (PDF 72 KB).

Commercial waste and charity bins

Commercial entities and charitable organisations wanting to place a bin in a public place for the collection of customer waste or charitable donations require approval.

For further information on how to apply, contact the Land Use Unit on 6205 8794.

New Code of Practice for the management of charity bins

Following extensive consultation with local charity groups and a six month trial where a range of measures were successfully tested, a Code of Practice for the Management of Charity Bins on Public Land was finalised.

The code required charity bins to be relocated from neighbourhood centres to group centres where illegal dumping can be more easily managed. In addition, charities are required to clearly label their donation bin with the name of their charity, a list of items that can be donated and information on how the items will be used.

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Outdoor cafe permit

An outdoor cafe permit is generally required where a public place is to be used as an outdoor cafe.

The Office of Regulatory Services (ORS) is responsible for the administration of outdoor cafe permits in accordance with the Public Unleased Land Act 2013.

For further information, please refer to the ACT Government information portal.

Long term licence for use of public land

Any person, business or community group that wishes to use public land or unleased Territory land continuously for a period longer than two years is required to enter into a licence agreement with the Land Custodian and the ACT Planning Authority (ACTPLA) in accordance with Section 302 of the Planning and Development Act.

Examples of activities that require a licence include community gardens, stock grazing, car parking, boat storage, sports club activities, quarrying, and commercial tourism activities.

The licence application form prompts the applicant to provide a map showing the boundary of the land to be used, a description of the activity, and the reason for wishing to use that particular site. An application fee will apply, subject to an annual review of the amount. In some instances, a site rental may also apply. Depending on the nature of the project, special conditions may be negotiated. The applicant will also need to provide evidence of current and suitable insurance cover.

Applicants are urged to discuss their proposal with the land custodian prior to lodging an application with ACTPLA. In cases where PATS is the land custodian, please contact the PATS Senior Development Officer via Access Canberra on 13 22 81.

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Fees and charges

Parks and City Services Administrative Fees

Further information

Email: publiclanduse@act.gov.au
Phone: (02) 6205 8794
Post:
Land Use Unit, Parks and Territory Services, Stromlo Office, GPO Box 158 Canberra ACT 2601
Fax: (02) 6207 2544 - Land Use Unit
Hand deliver: Stromlo Office, 500 Cotter Road Weston ACT 2611

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