Australia: NSW Coastal Planning Guidelines

Last Updated: 29 September 2010
Article by Charmian Barton and Paul Vergotis

On 20 August 2010, the NSW Department of Planning released the final NSW Coastal Planning Guideline: Adapting to Sea Level Rise to provide guidance on how sea level rise is to be considered in land use planning and development assessment in coastal NSW.

The Guideline

The Guideline applies to all coastal areas of NSW, including the NSW Coastal Zone, as well as Sydney Harbour and Botany Bay. The term 'coastal areas' is used broadly to include the coastline, beaches, coastal lakes, bays and estuaries, as well as the tidal reaches of coastal rivers. It also includes other low-lying land surrounding these areas that may be subject to coastal processes in the future as a consequence of sea level rise.

A risk-based approach has been adopted to strategic land use planning and development assessment in coastal areas. It takes into consideration the NSW Government's Sea Level Rise Policy Statement (2009) that specifies sea level rise planning benchmarks of an increase above 1990 mean sea levels of 40cm by 2050 and 90cm by 2100, and also states that responsibility for coastal protection work rests with landowners.

The Guideline is structured around six coastal planning principles that must be applied in decision-making processes in coastal areas:

Principle 1 - Assess and evaluate coastal risks taking into account the NSW sea level rise planning benchmarks.

Principle 2 - Advise the public of coastal risks to ensure that informed land use planning and development decision-making can occur.

Principle 3 - Avoid intensifying land use in coastal risk areas through appropriate strategic and land use planning.

Principle 4 - Consider options to reduce land use intensity in coastal risk areas where feasible.

Principle 5 - Minimise the exposure of development to coastal risks.

Principle 6 - Implement appropriate management responses and adaptation strategies, with consideration for the environmental, social and economic impacts of each option.

Identifying coastal risk areas - Principles 1 & 2

The sea level rise planning benchmarks must be used in coastal hazard and flood studies to identify immediate and future hazard lines based on the NSW Government's:

Coastline Management Manual (1990)

Floodplain Development Manual (2005)

Coastal Risk Management Guide: Incorporating the sea level rise benchmarks in coastal hazard assessments (2010)

Flood Risk Management Guide: Incorporation the sea level rise benchmarks in flood risk assessments (2010).

Coastal erosion hazards often depicted on maps as immediate, 50 year and 100 years lines, which show areas of potential impact, must now consider sea level rise planning benchmarks by identifying hazard lines, as well as future hazard lines to 2050 and 2100. Similarly, flood studies, which generally depict the 1 in 100 year average recurrence interval (ARI) and the probable maximum flood (PMF) lines on maps, must also model the impact of sea level rise to 2050 and 2100.The 100 year ARI is equivalent to the 1% annual exceedance probability (AEP), which represents a 1% chance of such a flood occurring in any given year.

Section 733 of the Local Government Act 1933 (NSW) provides councils with an exemption from liability for advice provided or action undertaken relating to coastal hazard if it is done in good faith, which includes, but is not limited to, acting substantially in accordance with the principles in the Coastline Management Manual or Floodplain Development Manual, which have been gazetted.

Planning certificates issued under s 149 of the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act 1979 (NSW) must include reference to coastal risks where there is an adopted policy that restricts development of the specific parcel of land.

Strategic and land use planning in coastal areas - Principles 3 & 4

The Guideline states that the following factors should be considered as part of the strategic planning process:

  • incorporating coastal risk studies into strategic planning.
  • considering the effects of protection works on land use capability.
  • accommodating new growth in coastal communities.
  • managing existing developed areas in coastal communities.
  • maintaining foreshore access, amenity and open space and protecting coastal environments.

These coastal risk strategic planning considerations should directly inform the preparation of planning proposals, Local Environmental Plans and Development Control Plans. The aim of coastal land use planning is to avoid, and potentially reduce, land use intensification in coastal risk areas to prevent creating or exacerbating risks to property or life due to sea level rise.

Development assessment in coastal areas - Principles 5 & 6

The Guideline outlines a process for considering sea level rise in the preparation and assessment of development applications in coastal areas. The process involves an assessment of the risk relating to the location and type of proposed development, and an assessment against the following planning criteria:

  • avoid or minimise exposure to immediate coastal risks (seaward of the immediate hazard line);
  • provide for the safety of residents, workers or other occupants on-site from risks associated with coastal processes;
  • avoid adversely affecting the safety of the public off-site from a change in coastal risks as a result of the development;
  • avoid increasing coastal risks to properties adjoining or within the locality of the site;
  • ensure infrastructure, services and utilities on-site maintain their function and achieve their intended design performance;
  • accommodate natural coastal processes including those associated with projected sea level rise;
  • ensure coastal ecosystems are protected from development impacts; and
  • ensure existing public beach, foreshore or waterfront access and amenity is maintained.


As a consequence of sea level rise, there is likely to be an increase in the frequency, duration and height of coastal flooding in low lying areas, resulting in emergency evacuations and likely property and infrastructure damage. Areas where tidal waters currently flow back up the stormwater system during king tides will also be subject to more frequent tidal inundations under changing climatic condition. The Guideline aims to address these potential risks from sea level rise in coastal areas as part of the land use planning and development assessment process.

For developers, this means considering potential sea level rise when preparing proposals. Failure to do so could result in a refusal or challenge to an approval. Councils should undertake strategic planning to identify areas exposed to sea level rise, and develop policies to guide future decision making. Consent authorities will also need to ensure that sufficient information is provided with development proposals on sea level rise before reaching a determination.

© DLA Phillips Fox

DLA Phillips Fox is one of the largest legal firms in Australasia and a member of DLA Piper Group, an alliance of independent legal practices. It is a separate and distinct legal entity. For more information visit

This publication is intended as a first point of reference and should not be relied on as a substitute for professional advice. Specialist legal advice should always be sought in relation to any particular circumstances.

To print this article, all you need is to be registered on

Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.

Some comments from our readers…
“The articles are extremely timely and highly applicable”
“I often find critical information not available elsewhere”
“As in-house counsel, Mondaq’s service is of great value”

Mondaq Advice Centre (MACs)
Up-coming Events Search
Font Size:
Mondaq on Twitter
Register for Access and our Free Biweekly Alert for
This service is completely free. Access 250,000 archived articles from 100+ countries and get a personalised email twice a week covering developments (and yes, our lawyers like to think you’ve read our Disclaimer).
Email Address
Company Name
Confirm Password
Mondaq Topics -- Select your Interests
 Law Performance
 Law Practice
 Media & IT
 Real Estate
 Wealth Mgt
Asia Pacific
European Union
Latin America
Middle East
United States
Worldwide Updates
Check to state you have read and
agree to our Terms and Conditions

Terms & Conditions and Privacy Statement (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd and as a user you are granted a non-exclusive, revocable license to access the Website under its terms and conditions of use. Your use of the Website constitutes your agreement to the following terms and conditions of use. Mondaq Ltd may terminate your use of the Website if you are in breach of these terms and conditions or if Mondaq Ltd decides to terminate your license of use for whatever reason.

Use of

You may use the Website but are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the content and articles available (the Content). You may not modify, publish, transmit, transfer or sell, reproduce, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, link, display, or in any way exploit any of the Content, in whole or in part, except as expressly permitted in these terms & conditions or with the prior written consent of Mondaq Ltd. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information about’s content, users or contributors in order to offer them any services or products which compete directly or indirectly with Mondaq Ltd’s services and products.


Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the documents and related graphics published on this server for any purpose. All such documents and related graphics are provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers hereby disclaim all warranties and conditions with regard to this information, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. In no event shall Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers be liable for any special, indirect or consequential damages or any damages whatsoever resulting from loss of use, data or profits, whether in an action of contract, negligence or other tortious action, arising out of or in connection with the use or performance of information available from this server.

The documents and related graphics published on this server could include technical inaccuracies or typographical errors. Changes are periodically added to the information herein. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers may make improvements and/or changes in the product(s) and/or the program(s) described herein at any time.


Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including what sort of information you are interested in, for three primary purposes:

  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, newsletter alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our information providers who provide information free for your use.

Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) do not sell or provide your details to third parties other than information providers. The reason we provide our information providers with this information is so that they can measure the response their articles are receiving and provide you with information about their products and services.

If you do not want us to provide your name and email address you may opt out by clicking here .

If you do not wish to receive any future announcements of products and services offered by Mondaq by clicking here .

Information Collection and Use

We require site users to register with Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to view the free information on the site. We also collect information from our users at several different points on the websites: this is so that we can customise the sites according to individual usage, provide 'session-aware' functionality, and ensure that content is acquired and developed appropriately. This gives us an overall picture of our user profiles, which in turn shows to our Editorial Contributors the type of person they are reaching by posting articles on Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) – meaning more free content for registered users.

We are only able to provide the material on the Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) site free to site visitors because we can pass on information about the pages that users are viewing and the personal information users provide to us (e.g. email addresses) to reputable contributing firms such as law firms who author those pages. We do not sell or rent information to anyone else other than the authors of those pages, who may change from time to time. Should you wish us not to disclose your details to any of these parties, please tick the box above or tick the box marked "Opt out of Registration Information Disclosure" on the Your Profile page. We and our author organisations may only contact you via email or other means if you allow us to do so. Users can opt out of contact when they register on the site, or send an email to with “no disclosure” in the subject heading

Mondaq News Alerts

In order to receive Mondaq News Alerts, users have to complete a separate registration form. This is a personalised service where users choose regions and topics of interest and we send it only to those users who have requested it. Users can stop receiving these Alerts by going to the Mondaq News Alerts page and deselecting all interest areas. In the same way users can amend their personal preferences to add or remove subject areas.


A cookie is a small text file written to a user’s hard drive that contains an identifying user number. The cookies do not contain any personal information about users. We use the cookie so users do not have to log in every time they use the service and the cookie will automatically expire if you do not visit the Mondaq website (or its affiliate sites) for 12 months. We also use the cookie to personalise a user's experience of the site (for example to show information specific to a user's region). As the Mondaq sites are fully personalised and cookies are essential to its core technology the site will function unpredictably with browsers that do not support cookies - or where cookies are disabled (in these circumstances we advise you to attempt to locate the information you require elsewhere on the web). However if you are concerned about the presence of a Mondaq cookie on your machine you can also choose to expire the cookie immediately (remove it) by selecting the 'Log Off' menu option as the last thing you do when you use the site.

Some of our business partners may use cookies on our site (for example, advertisers). However, we have no access to or control over these cookies and we are not aware of any at present that do so.

Log Files

We use IP addresses to analyse trends, administer the site, track movement, and gather broad demographic information for aggregate use. IP addresses are not linked to personally identifiable information.


This web site contains links to other sites. Please be aware that Mondaq (or its affiliate sites) are not responsible for the privacy practices of such other sites. We encourage our users to be aware when they leave our site and to read the privacy statements of these third party sites. This privacy statement applies solely to information collected by this Web site.

Surveys & Contests

From time-to-time our site requests information from users via surveys or contests. Participation in these surveys or contests is completely voluntary and the user therefore has a choice whether or not to disclose any information requested. Information requested may include contact information (such as name and delivery address), and demographic information (such as postcode, age level). Contact information will be used to notify the winners and award prizes. Survey information will be used for purposes of monitoring or improving the functionality of the site.


If a user elects to use our referral service for informing a friend about our site, we ask them for the friend’s name and email address. Mondaq stores this information and may contact the friend to invite them to register with Mondaq, but they will not be contacted more than once. The friend may contact Mondaq to request the removal of this information from our database.


This website takes every reasonable precaution to protect our users’ information. When users submit sensitive information via the website, your information is protected using firewalls and other security technology. If you have any questions about the security at our website, you can send an email to

Correcting/Updating Personal Information

If a user’s personally identifiable information changes (such as postcode), or if a user no longer desires our service, we will endeavour to provide a way to correct, update or remove that user’s personal data provided to us. This can usually be done at the “Your Profile” page or by sending an email to

Notification of Changes

If we decide to change our Terms & Conditions or Privacy Policy, we will post those changes on our site so our users are always aware of what information we collect, how we use it, and under what circumstances, if any, we disclose it. If at any point we decide to use personally identifiable information in a manner different from that stated at the time it was collected, we will notify users by way of an email. Users will have a choice as to whether or not we use their information in this different manner. We will use information in accordance with the privacy policy under which the information was collected.

How to contact Mondaq

You can contact us with comments or queries at

If for some reason you believe Mondaq Ltd. has not adhered to these principles, please notify us by e-mail at and we will use commercially reasonable efforts to determine and correct the problem promptly.