It's a very simple answer- what not to do is to let your builder handle it.
What you should, nay MUST do is handle it yourself. Yes, it will be a bit complicated but if you're reading my blog I'll explain what you need to do to make it happen for you (hopefully).
How would I know? because we got rejected because of our builder's complete lack of professionalism and now we are stuck with an 8.15 meter in our front yard and only 5 meters at the back. it's too late to apply again, we just want to start building already... can't believe it's been over 6 months since we started this and we don't even have a build start time 😔
Ok, enough crying, back to business...
Step 1: call your council, ask them what the official setback on your street is, what is the setback of your right and left neighbors and what is their procedure about setback requests. Do they accept or flat-out reject an application or do they come with a middle ground solution?
Why is this important? because our builder told us that we can go low and the council will probably come back with a different offer. We didn't know better, it's our first time building and why not trust the professionals that have experience with applying for these things? Because they don't care, they do the minimum that is required of them, they don't check to see how our council approves these things. Our council either approves or declines so when they saw our ridiculous 4 meter setback request we didn't even stand a chance. It was never going to be accepted which I found out after we got declined.
Step 2: Go to your council website and download the request for dispensation. Ask your builder to draw you plans for your request for dispensation with the setback you plan to apply for and ask them to indicate the setback of your neighbors in the drawings so you can send your plans to your neighbors and ask them to sign that they approve of your plans.
Step 3: Once you have sent all these documents to council wait a few days and give your council a phone call. Ask to speak to whoever is dealing with setback dispensations. Ask how your application is going, let them know how important it is to you so when they look at your request they'll remember that there's a human being behind it.
Hope it helps anyone..