Local government approval

Local councils have varying attitudes to composting toilets. Some on the north coast of NSW are known to encourage their use, while others will propose a septic system or connection to the sewer network (often because of vested financial interests).

It is up to you whether you choose to go through the approval process (you may look at application forms such as these from Coonamble Shire Council and Lismore City Council for an idea of what is involved). Below is an overview of the legal basis for the use of composting toilets in NSW.


“A person may carry out the activity specified in the following table only with the prior approval of the council.” The table referred to contains Part C – Management of Waste, Item 5, which states, “install, construct or alter a waste treatment device or a human waste storage facility or a drain connected to any such device or facility.”
What activities, generally, require the approval of the council? – Section 68, Local Government Act, 1993

A waterless composting toilet (WCT) is a sewage management facility, designed to treat human excreta and other added organic material, arising from the day-to-day activities of a single dwelling occupied by a maximum of ten (10) persons. WCTs of a larger capacity or non-domestic installations are subject to the local council but not to the NSW Health accreditation process.
Waterless Composting Toilet Accreditation Guideline – May 2005

Clause 41(2) allows exemptions where a council may grant an approval to install or construct a sewage management facility (SMF) … without a NSW Health Certificate of Accreditation. These circumstances [include] where a SMF has been designed and is to be built by the owner/occupier of the premises … [or] where the SMF is specifically designed, by a person other than the owner/occupier specifically and uniquely for those premises.
Exemption of Sewage Management Facilities – Revised October 2015

What this effectively means is you can design, build and operate your own composting toilet system, provided you satisfy your local council that you are “committed to [its] safe operation [and to] protecting public health and the environment.”

The conditions in Clause 41(2) are meant to ensure you have “researched the design, construction and use of the SMF.” This is actually not a bad thing—the outcome for you is a safe, hassle-free system producing useful compost.

Read more about composting toilets

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