There are certain conditions under which you will require council approval (in addition to engineered drawings) for your landscaping work. Acquiring council approval, in the form of a development application (DA), is not as difficult as you may have heard.
We suggest you begin by checking out the development steps provided by your local council:
Newcastle – http://www.newcastle.nsw.gov.au/Development/Building-Construction/Home-Renovations
Lake Macquarie – http://www.lakemac.com.au/development
Maitland – http://www.maitland.nsw.gov.au/PlanningDevel
We also recommend that you familiarise yourself with the relevant State Environmental Planning Policy, Subdivision 15 Earthworks, retaining walls and structural support. This is available here: http://www.legislation.nsw.gov.au/maintop/view/inforce/epi+572+2008+cd+0+N. This policy governs when council approval for structural landscaping works is required. We constantly monitor these standards and we’ll let you know when you require council approval if we believe it is necessary.
The State Environmental Planning Policy also provides some exceptions from DA approval. In other words, if your retaining wall meets the requirements listed here then you do not require DA approval. Here’s the relevant link: http://www.legislation.nsw.gov.au/#/view/EPI/2008/572/part2/div1/subdiv15.