Client Update: New strategic regional land use policy in NSW
15 June 2011
In brief: A range of new initiatives introduced by the NSW Government will have important ramifications for land use in regional areas, particularly for the coal mining, coal seam gas and petroleum exploration industries. Partner Paul Lalich (view CV), Lawyer Swee Leng Harris and Law Graduate Julia Dean outline the new transitional arrangements the State Government has put in place as the first stage in the implementation of their Strategic Regional Land Use Policy.
The NSW State Government has announced that their Strategic Regional Land Use Policy (the policy) will be implemented in a number of stages. The main aim of the policy is to 'address concerns around land use conflicts in our regional areas, particularly between the coal mining and coal seam gas industries and agricultural industries'.1 Although full details about the content of the policy and when it is scheduled to take effect have not yet been released, a series of transitional arrangements have been introduced that will affect those in the mining industry.
The most drastic transitional arrangement is the introduction of a 60-day moratorium on the granting of new coal, coal seam gas and petroleum exploration licences in NSW. This took effect from May 2011. In addition, all such licences are now required to be made public for comment.
Applications for coal, coal seam gas and petroleum extraction will now also need to be accompanied by an 'Agricultural Impact Assessment'. The information required to be included in the assessment has not yet been released, but the Department of Planning and Infrastructure and the Department of Primary Industries are currently developing content requirements and these will be made available on both of their websites. Significantly, 'projects will not be supported where it is determined they would result in unacceptable impacts on agricultural lands or industries that are considered to have high strategic value'.2
As part of the transitional arrangements, the NSW Government will also be publish a draft Aquifer Interference Policy for public comment.
The State Government has highlighted two key measures that it proposes to introduce under the policy in the long term. These are:
- Strategic Regional Land Use Plans; and
- Overarching Coal and Gas Policy.
Strategic regional land use plans are to be developed for all parts of NSW. They are to be used to identify 'the best places for a range of land uses'3. At this stage, the usage is to include:
- Coal seam gas extraction;
- Conservation; and
- Urban development.
The State Government has stated that 'particular consideration will be given to conflicts about land use, where growth in the coal and coal seam gas industries has the potential to impact on agriculture'. Because of this focus, the first locations to be covered under strategic regional plans are:
- the Upper Hunter;
- New England North West;
- Central West; and
- the Southern Highlands.
The plans are to be made by government agencies and local councils in consultation with communities and stakeholders.4
A new coal and gas policy is also going to be introduced which will replace the current NSW Coal and Gas Strategy. It will be based on the content of a 1000 submissions to the previous strategy and regional forums that were held in Gunnedah, Lithgow, Wollongong and Singleton.
- NSW Government, Strategic Regional Land Use: A new approach to planning for resources and our regions, May 2011 at p1.
- Ibid. p2.
- Paul LalichPartner,
Ph: +61 2 9230 4026
- Jim ParkerPartner,
Ph: +61 2 9230 4362