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Expanding your building business to Queensland: A comprehensive analysis of licensing considerations to relocate up North

Laura King
Laura King February 6, 2024

Embarking on an expansion of your building business to Queensland prompts a critical question: Is your contractor’s licence valid in this State? Equally important is the consideration of whether you are adequately prepared to relocate and avoid potential Queensland Building and Construction Commission (QBCC) breaches.

With Brisbane set to host the 2032 Olympics, a wave of anticipation and excitement has swept through various sectors, particularly the construction industry. The anticipated boom will create opportunities and significantly influence the industry’s trajectory in the years ahead, prompting interstate construction companies to consider making the strategic move to establish operations in Queensland.

In this article, I delve into the intricacies of the mutual recognition gateway, shedding light on its limitations and emphasising the significance of understanding the Mutual Recognition Act 1992 (Cth).  I also touch on changes to the NSW licensing regime set to hit in 2024 and why you should stay ahead of the curve to potentially meet these changes head on by using mutual recognition to your benefit.


Choosing the Right Gateway

Interstate contractors face two gateways when upscaling their building licence to meet the stringent licensing requirements in Queensland: (1) mutual recognition and (2) a fresh application to the QBCC.

Gateway 1:  Mutual Recognition

When utilising mutual recognition, the licence is transferred from one State to another at the same level. If this is the case, then what is the catch? When moving from States such as NSW where contractors are not currently required to hold a licence to undertake most commercial construction work, contractors do not hold the requisite licence to undertake this commercial work in Queensland.  This means that NSW contractors entering via mutual recognition will only be entitled to hold a licence in Queensland for residential work, despite extensive prior commercial building experience.

In other words, since NSW does not currently require a licence for commercial building work, contractors transitioning from NSW to QLD will only have scope to perform residential work in QLD.

It is also important to note that mutual recognition is governed by the Mutual Recognition Act 1992, which essentially means that if a “residential work only” restriction is imposed on a contractor’s licence, it is not something that can be reviewed or removed by the QBCC.  This is because the restriction was imposed by the legislation, not by the QBCC themselves and as such, is not a decision open to administrative review.


Diagrammatically, this mutual recognition typically looks like this:


Gateway 2:  Application to the QBCC

Under section 31 of the Queensland Building and Construction Commission Act 1991 (the Act), an individual has the right to submit an application for the complete category of the Builder – Open licence.

If a contractor enters from interstate via a fresh application for licence from the QBCC, then it will be open to them to show the QBCC that they hold the requisite qualifications and experience to obtain a Builder – Open licence.  If successful, an interstate contractor entering Queensland via this gateway will not have a “residential work only” condition imposed on their licence. More information can be found on the QBCC website.


The verdict: What gate should you pass through to enter Queensland?

Contractors venturing into Queensland’s building industry face critical decisions regarding licensing. Whether opting for mutual recognition or a fresh application, understanding the process and requirements is vital for a successful transition into the Queensland market.

If you can meet the criteria in terms of qualifications and experience, a fresh application to the QBCC for a Builder – Open licence will ensure that your scope of work is not curtailed to “residential work only” and allow you to undertake the commercial work that you were performing interstate legally.

Certainly, navigating the QBCC’s stringent experience criteria can be a formidable challenge for contractors applying for a new licence. While mutual recognition provides a pathway around this, we are committed to assisting contractors in overcoming these hurdles, ensuring that their licensing journey is not just compliant but strategically sound.


Why you should consider moving your business to Queensland

As with most business decisions, timing is everything.  We recommend considering the move sooner rather than later, given NSW is also considering implementing a licensing structure similar to QLD (see here for more information). Further, your experience and qualifications are best placed to secure you a Builder – Open licence in Queensland if they are up to date and current within the last 5 years.

Strategically speaking, setting up a Queensland presence at this point will not only potentially benefit your business from the commercial work flowing from the Olympics, it may also assist your interstate business when NSW proceeds later this year to transfer their licensing system to a similar model to QLD.  In this way, mutual recognition may be an option for your businesses move to Queensland by showing that you hold a commercial licence in Queensland and therefore can continue to undertake work in NSW.


Win, win in our opinion!


If you need advice on how best to approach and structure your construction business when relocating to Queensland, contact Laura King at


Not intended as legal advice. Read full disclaimer.
Laura King
Laura King February 6, 2024

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