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Development Planning Guidelines

Ensure your Development Application follows the correct processes and procedures.

Your guide to responsible development on Wadjemup

Wadjemup / Rottnest Island plays an important part in Western Australia’s history. From its sensitive cultural heritage to the diverse tourism offerings, there are many factors at play, so it’s critical that any new commercial developments on the island align with and support these values. 

The Rottnest Island Development Planning Guidelines, provide a clear framework for developers to follow to help achieve this. These Guidelines ensure that any commercial developments deliver on specific criteria that continue to maintain and enhance the visitor experience on the island, while aligning with the vision of the Rottnest Island Management Plan 2023-2028 (RIMP).

Development Planning Guidelines

The Development Planning Guidelines outline the criteria and process for the submission and assessment of Development Applications on Wadjemup. The aim of these Guidelines is to provide developers with comprehensive design plan requirements prior to submission, which ensures that consistent information is provided that allows Rottnest Island Authority (RIA) to deliver an accurate and efficient assessment of the Development Application.

How the Guidelines are maintained

These Guidelines have been prepared and adopted in accordance with the Developments and Improvements Policy, and follow the principles laid out in the RIMP. They are reviewed every three years to ensure they remain up to date as policies and priorities evolve. 

Here is what is covered in the Guidelines.

Development Plans

To ensure a consistently high standard of application, the Development Plans Guideline states the requirements for your application for development or improvement, including a style guide for any development plans, and design proposals and concepts. This enables RIA to undertake an accurate, efficient, and fair assessment.

Sustainable Development

When making your application, you must be able to demonstrate that your development or improvement ensures environmental, social, and economic sustainability, and will protect the natural and cultural environment for future generations. This Guideline provides the criteria to achieve this, outlining how each development proposal must demonstrate:

  • An objective of minimising energy demands and contribute to reducing Wadjemup’s carbon footprint
  • Efficient use and conservation of water
  • That any landscaping includes native vegetation
  • Recognition of the importance of the island’s rich Aboriginal, colonial, European, maritime, and military heritage
  • Cost-minimisation post-construction.

Cultural Heritage Places

Wadjemup is an important place for Noongar people, and many parts of the island are protected under the Aboriginal Heritage Act 1972 as culturally significant areas. The Cultural Heritage Places Guideline provides rules that ensure all developments, demolition, and improvements on Wadjemup remain respectful of the island’s recognised cultural significance, and do not adversely affect, damage, or destroy the spaces.

As such, any development on Wadjemup must be approved under this Act. Developers must obtain approval from the Department of Indigenous Affairs, and an Aboriginal Heritage Survey may be required for any work that disturbs the ground in any way. Developers must also obtain approval for any development of a place or building that occurs within a heritage registered place or precinct under the Heritage Act 2018

How to check your site’s heritage status

Does your application require referral to the Heritage Council of Western Australia? Check out the State Heritage Register to find out.


The Signage Guideline guides the appropriate design, location, and installation of any signage for your development. The aim is that any signage you utilise does not detract from the amenity and character of the island. Please note that any flashing illuminated signage, neon signage, third party advertising, or changeable media signage will not be supported.

Settlement Design

The buildings on Wadjemup have a distinct look and feel, so this Guideline ensures that all island development employs design principles that contribute to the unique character of the island. It provides criteria that enables your development to add to visual interest and contribute to a sense of place, while maintaining the existing personality. 

Colours and Materials

Complimentary to the Settlement Design Guideline, the Colours and Materials Guideline ensures that the island’s unique aesthetic is maintained. It lays out criteria developers must follow regarding the use of colours and materials that match the natural environment, landscape, and heritage of the island.

Environmental Management

Given Wadjemup’s unique and fragile natural ecosystem, this Guideline provides a framework so any development that occurs on the island is managed in a way that protects and enhances the existing native ecosystem, encourages rich biodiversity, and any potential impacts are managed safely and sustainably. It includes requirements for Environmental Impact Assessments, Environmental Management Plans, and Environmental Offsets.

Managing bushfire risk

Wadjemup is a bushfire-prone area, so all developments and improvements are subject to bushfire management controls. As such, your application may also need to include a Bushfire Management Plan and Bushfire Emergency Evacuation Plan.

Transport and Movement

It is important that any development on the island does not disrupt the natural or social environment. This Guideline outlines how to manage vehicle movements during your development in a way that takes into account the needs of pedestrians and cyclists, and the fragile Wadjemup ecosystem. It also ensures that only approved vehicles are used in the construction, and any impact of these vehicles is minimised.

Construction Management

The Construction Management Guideline provides a framework to follow during the construction process on Wadjemup, so that all construction, excavation, or demolition work is undertaken in a safe manner in accordance with industry legislation, codes, and standards. It includes construction and waste management, impacts to the environment and vegetation, and impacts on the health and safety of visitors, residents, and staff.

Stakeholder Community Comment Process

Where a new commercial development has the potential to significantly impact Wadjemup's environment, heritage, social values, or visitor amenity, this Guideline provides an outline of the circumstances under which a Development Application will require public and/or stakeholder comment and the procedure to follow if this is required.

Transportable Buildings

RIA recognise that during the construction process transportable buildings are a cost-effective way to provide additional floor space for your team, either for accommodation, office, storage, or other uses. This Guideline provides the acceptable criteria for using transportable buildings on Wadjemup, including choosing the right location to minimise their impact on the natural environment, the types of buildings that may be considered for use, and their transport and removal rules.

Telecommunications Infrastructure

This Guideline provides the rules for including telecommunications infrastructure as part of a development or improvement to minimise their impact on the environment, both during installation and over its lifetime, and on the island’s cultural heritage sites. It covers co-location, proximity to holiday accommodation and other businesses, and installation procedures.


Consents and permits

There are a range of permits and consents that you may need to apply for in order to safely undertake development on Wadjemup. This can include things like consent to clear vegetation, disturb the ground, prune trees, or import flora; or consent to bring a vehicle to the island and drive it, electrical permits, waste management permits, and permits for contracting and consulting. Make sure you have the necessary permits to ensure a smooth development.

Head to the Applications and Permits page to find out more