The difference between a “Certifier” and a “Principal Certifier”

Both Certifiers and a Principal Certifiers are required for construction projects – what is the difference, and why does it matter?

Certificates required after Development Consent

Once you have obtained a development consent, it is likely that there are conditions on the consent that require you to obtain other certificates. These certificates are described in section 6.4 of the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act 1979 (EPA Act) and include:

  • construction certificates;
  • subdivision works certificates;
  • occupation certificates;
  • subdivision certificates; and
  • compliance certificates,


A Certifier can generally issue construction certificates, subdivision works certificates, and compliance certificates. You can choose whether you would like your work certified by a private certifier  (i.e. an accredited certifier working for a private business), or the consent authority (i.e. the local council).

Principal Certifiers

Once you have received your development consent, and obtained any required certificates from a Certifier, a Principal Certifier must be appointed before the commencement of works.

A Principal Certifier does the following:

  • before construction – completes mandatory checks (like ensuring that a construction certificate has been issued, or that the principal contractor holds the correct insurances);
  • during construction – completes critical-stage inspections; and
  • after construction – issues certain certificates once construction is complete.

For building works – you can choose whether you would like your Principal Certifier to be a private certifier or the consent authority.

For subdivision works – you generally do not have a choice and must appoint the consent authority as the Principal Certifier.

Why does it matter?

  • Choice – in particular:
    • your Certifier and Principal Certifier may be different people; and
    • you can choose between a private certifier or the consent authority,
  • In some instances, the Certifier and the Principal Certifier must be the same person (e.g. once works are complete, the Principal Certifier must be the Certifier who issues the occupation certificate or subdivision certificate); and
  • The Principal Certifier for subdivision works must generally always be the consent authority (which means the consent authority will generally always be the issuer of subdivision certificates).

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Alyce is a civil engineer and a practicing lawyer, who has a desire to share her insights on the legal and practical realities of the development industry.