Building A Fence or Retaining Wall

Do I need a building Permit?

Yes you will need a building permit to erect a fence.  However, there is exceptions to this rule.  It is always best practise to contact the Building Services team to discuss the fencing you are wanting to build before you start.  There are differing regulations for front, side, rear, dividing and standards of fences and retaining walls.

Development approval is required for a front fence that exceeds 1.2m in height or 0.75m in height where it is located within 1.5m of any driveway at the front boundary; and should be obtained prior to submitting a building permit application

The Shire of Carnarvon is in the cyclone region of Western Australia, which means all fences need to be built to a structural standard to withstand cyclonic winds.  Carnarvon is in cyclonic rated region with a Wind Region D rating.

Dividing Fence

A dividing fence separates the residential land of different owners whether the fence is on the common boundary of adjoining lands or on a line other than the common boundary. A dividing fence does not include a retaining wall.

The erection and maintenance of dividing fences on the boundary are a matter between neighbour and as such are dealt with by the Dividing Fences Act 1961 which is administered by the Department of Mines, Industry Regulation and Safety - Building Commission. Please visit the Building Commission web site for more information on dividing fences

Dividing fences guide can be downloaded from the Department of Mines, Industry Regulation and Safety.

A Building Permit may be required for the construction for dividing fence and front fence. Please refer to the Residential Fence Information and Checklist(PDF, 168KB)

Before you go ahead with building your fence:

  • have you read the Dividing Fences Guide(PDF, 2MB) supplied by the Building Commission?
  • Have to discussed or notified your neighbours of your intentions to build a fence?
  • Have you completed and received a notice of Determination for a Development Application

All these steps need to be taken before you submit a building application.

Retaining Wall

A retaining wall is a wall or structure designed and constructed to support soil at a slope steeper than can naturally be supported.

While retaining walls are primarily designed to support soil, they may also be placed under a stress from other factors such as buildings, footings, driveways, swimming pools, vehicle loads and/or wind loads on dividing fences. Some retaining walls are designed to support soil only and no other contributing stress factors, these walls are termed “non-surcharged”. It is very important to ensure the wall you intend to construct is designed to support any surcharge that may be placed upon it.

A fence should not be used to retain soil unless it is designed to do so.

A dividing fence can be positioned on the higher side of a retaining wall which abuts a common boundary. Retaining walls abutting a common boundary shall be constructed entirely within one property. They are not permitted to straddle the boundary.

Responsibility for Construction

The landowner who alters the natural lie of the land is responsible to retain soil where necessary by providing a suitable retaining wall or durable embankment to ensure the natural ground level and any existing surcharge load at the boundary is maintained.

When both adjoining land owners have undertaken earthworks, and alter the ground levels, they would be jointly responsible and may need to proportionately share the cost for the construction of a retaining wall.


A building permit is required where a proposed retaining wall is

  • 500mm or greater in height and/ or
  • addition to an existing retaining wall and/or
  • In the case of tiered walls, the walls exceed 500mm in total height.
Please note:

• Development approval is required for retaining walls over 500mm and should be obtained prior to submitting a building permit application.