A dividing fence is a fence that separates the properties of adjoining owners.

The fence may be comprised of any material, a ditch, an embankment or a vegetative barrier (e.g. hedge). It does not include a retaining wall or the wall of a building.

The cost of a dividing fence includes the cost of all related fencing work including preparation of the land, the design, construction, replacement, repair and maintenance of the fence.

Local Council Approval

Where the fence is not identified as Exempt Development (with minimal impact on the local environment), an approval will be required. That approval could be Complying Development if the fence meets the predefined criteria, alternatively a Development Application will be required to construct the fence. 

Costs of a Dividing Fence

Adjoining owners must share the cost of the fence, except that:

  • An owner must pay the additional cost if they want a fence of a higher standard than is required;
  • An owner will have to pay the full cost if the existing fence is damaged, either deliberately or negligently, by the owner or by someone else with the owner’s permission. If the fence is damaged by a tenant, the owner must pay for the work even if they plan to claim the cost from the tenant;

  • Public authorities with control over Crown lands, parks, reserves etc do not have to contribute to fencing costs. However people living next to such properties may be able to negotiate with that authority for a contribution.

  • Common trusts are subject to the Dividing Fences Act 1991, and are liable for contributions to fencing.

A sufficient dividing fence is defined as a fence which separates the properties, e.g. a paling fence in a residential area, or a wire and steel star post fence in a rural area. 

Resolving fencing disputes

The Department of Lands is the authority charged with the administration of the Dividing Fences Act 1991. The Department sets fees, makes appropriate regulations and arranges for any necessary amendments to the Act.

For more information on dividing fences and dispute resolution, please see relevant legislation here or visit the Law Assist website for further assistance:

  • Who should pay for the fence?

  • What type of fence is needed?

  • Where should the fence go?

  • How to seek an agreement with your neighbour.