Strategic Planning Projects

Outdoor Lighting Policy

Detailed Conditions for the Planning, Design and Development of Lighting within Designated Areas of the National Capital Plan


The National Capital Authority

The National Capital Authority (NCA) is established under the Australian Capital Territory (Planning and Land Management) Act 1988. The statutory functions of the NCA establish the Australian Government's continuing interest in the strategic planning, promotion, development and enhancement of Canberra as the National Capital.

The functions of the NCA provide an enduring framework to secure the planning and development of Canberra as the capital; to accommodate the Seat of Government and associated national and cultural requirements; to provide national public places for all Australians to visit and enjoy; to enhance the unique character and symbolic meaning of the capital; and to develop appreciation of the capital as a reflection of our democracy and national life.


This policy has been prepared to guide the range of considerations necessary when installing or renewing outdoor lighting in the nationally significant areas of the Australian Capital Territory. It seeks to ensure that the planning, design and operation of lighting balances the needs of people and the environment. Importantly, the policy strengthens the role that lighting plays in our understanding and appreciation of the National Capital and Canberra's urban landscape.


This policy provides a planning and design framework that can be implemented over time by parties responsible for lighting installation, operation and management. It intentionally allows flexibility in lamp and fitting selection, to encourage design innovation and advances in technology. Land managers, developers, property owners, asset owners, independent lighting designers, or any other person involved in the design or operation of lighting will be expected to address this policy within proposals involving lighting works. The policy will form a framework for the creation of lighting plans where required by heritage management plans.

Legislation and standards

This policy has been developed to supplement the provisions of the National Capital Plan (the Plan). This policy should be read in conjunction with the Plan and any other legislation and/or standards relevant to the design, development or operation of outdoor lighting installations, including but not limited to those outlined below.

  • Australian Standards applicable to the design, installation and wiring of outdoor lighting systems. The identification of all relevant standards and their interpretation, is required to be demonstrated in any design proposal.
  • The Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (EPBC Act) is applicable to any environmental impacts caused by lighting installation works or operation.
  • Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA) requirements. CASA has the power to control the operation of outdoor lighting where it may affect aircraft safety or navigation.


This policy applies to any proposed lighting works within the Designated Areas of the National Capital Plan. The policy will form part of the formal assessment process undertaken by the NCA, when considering works approval applications that include outdoor lighting.

The Designated Areas map include all major approach routes to Canberra, the Parliamentary Zone, Lake Burley Griffin and Surrounding Parklands, the Mount Majura Nature Reserve and Stromlo forest.

Executive summary

Lighting in the National Capital enhances the experience and understanding of the city's unique urban landscape through night time illumination. The objectives and strategies set out in this policy are to be addressed in any design proposal for outdoor lighting, within Designated Areas of the Plan.

Key Issues

The key issues present in outdoor lighting design and operation, which must be addressed in all future lighting proposals.



Five key objectives for the effective management of key issues in outdoor lighting in accordance with the future development of outdoor lighting in the National Capital.


Strategies and requirements

The mandatory strategies and design requirements that support the achievement of the policy objectives.

Policy Objective 1: Lighting must reinforce the planned urban geometry of the National Capital, its heritage and its relationship with the landscape.


  1. Express the key geometric elements of the Griffins' formally adopted plan for the city through lighting design and distribution.
  2. Create a clear hierarchy of built environment illumination in Central Canberra.
  3. Maintain subtle illumination of the topography of the city.
  4. Conserve significant heritage lighting fabric and design elements.

Policy Objective 2: Lighting must contribute to the creation of a high quality public realm.


  1. Ensure the scale and character of lighting is appropriate to the location.
  2. Ensure the form, material and finish of lighting hardware is appropriate to the location and co-ordinated with other street and park furniture so as to form an integrated, cohesive palette of materials and fittings.
  3. Ensure the colour and form of the physical environment is accurately rendered.

Policy Objective 3: Lighting must provide a safe night time environment for residents of, and visitors to the National Capital.


  1. Maintain a well-connected movement network of public paths, roads and spaces.
  2. Ensure Australian Standards for illumination are met.
  3. Effectively manage glare.
  4. Create integrated lighting designs that enable the human eye to adapt to changes in light levels.

Policy Objective 4: Minimise the obtrusive effects of artificial lighting on the natural environment.


  1. Manage light pollution through the selection and placement of lighting hardware.
  2. Minimise energy use.
  3. Ensure the installation and maintenance of lighting infrastructure does not have a detrimental effect on landscape.
  4. Minimise the impact of lighting operation on wildlife health.

Policy Objective 5: Provide opportunities for celebration and commemoration through lighting.


  1. Ensure that temporary lighting contributes to an awareness of the National Capital through appropriate celebratory or commemorative subjects.
  2. Integrate lighting with commemorative works.


This policy sets a framework for the effective management of the key issues in outdoor lighting, guided by a set of policy objectives. These objectives are in turn supported by a series of strategies and design requirements. Any lighting proposal within Designated Areas of the Plan will be assessed against this policy. The framework of this policy is detailed below.

Key Issues

Artificial lighting is installed to provide illumination at night that supports night time human activity. The provision of artificial light provides enormous community benefit. Poorly-considered lighting can however result in unintended adverse impacts. The design and operation of lighting must address the key issues:

  1. Urban context – the historic and symbolic context of the National Capital, its plan and its setting
  2. Place-making – the role of lighting in place-making and the built environment
  3. Safety – the fundamental importance of safety in lighting
  4. Environment and sustainability – consideration of the environmental impacts of lighting
  5. Celebration and commemoration – events and commemoration in the National Capital.
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