Australia: NSW planning reforms back on the agenda

Last Updated: 25 July 2016
Article by Felicity Rourke and Noni Shannon

On Friday May 6, 2016 the NSW Planning Minister, the Hon Rob Stokes MP, announced reforms to the planning system. In many respects this will involve dusting off the 2013 reforms which were ultimately withdrawn by the O'Farrell government when the Hon Brad Hazzard MP was the Minister for Planning. This update looks more closely at what is likely to be covered in the 2016 reform package.


Minister Stokes has set out an ambitious timetable for consultation on the reforms, to culminate in draft legislation to be released in the second half of this year. He says that the amendments will focus on ensuring confidence and consistency within the planning system.

At a briefing to stakeholders on May 5, 2016, the Minister and senior staff from the Department of Planning and Environment outlined the major elements of these reforms:

  • the proposed reforms will be achieved through amending the existing Environmental Planning & Assessment Act 1979 (EP&A Act). The amendments will be 'evolutionary not revolutionary' and there will not be a standalone new Act;
  • Many of the 2013 proposed reforms received broad support and these will be adopted where they have not been implemented. Examples include: administrative changes to streamline the way in which Panels operate; clearly stating the hierarchy of State, regional and local plans; clarifying and streamlining environmental assessment provisions; and consolidating review and appeal provisions into a single new part of the EP&A Act;
  • The principle of ecologically sustainable development will remain as a driving principle for the legislation;
  • Ending the transitional arrangements for projects approved under Part 3A of the EP&A Act; and
  • There will be changes to Part 5 of the EP&A Act, with less focus on the identity of the applicant and more focus on the nature of the development.

The State Opposition, while acknowledging that the current EP&A Act requires updating, says it needs to see the detail of the proposed reforms before it can comment.

Changes to community consultation, concurrences and integration

Arguably one of the most controversial aspects of the reforms, which the Minister has foreshadowed, is a change to the process of consultation prior to DA lodgement. The Minister commented that the process of community consultation and involvement has been reactive and ad hoc in the past, and it needs to be 'fair, transparent and robust'.

The Minister says that pre-DA consultation or meetings with councils and with neighbours will minimise unnecessary conflict and "make sure that the community has a chance to shape plans before applicants have spent huge amounts of money". The suggestion of mandating consultation between proponents and neighbours, prior to the lodgement of any application, will be a significant change to the current position. It has the potential to undermine the certainty provided by having clear planning controls and to erode investor confidence.

On a more positive note, improvements are proposed to the system of obtaining concurrence or referral comments from multiple NSW government agencies. This has been an area of criticism for some time, with many proponents saying that the existing process leads to duplication and delay.

The reform process will examine how to reduce duplication in the processes of the Planning Assessment Commission (PAC), particularly in the current two-stage process where the PAC reviews a development and subsequently determines the (same) application under delegation from the Minister.

Similarly, there is to be a review of the integration of development consents and other environmental licences for State significant projects, particularly those that have retained the benefit of the Part 3A transitional provisions.

Infrastructure contributions

Reform is also being considered in relation to infrastructure contributions. The Department is "considering the mechanisms that will best ensure that the costs of key growth infrastructure for State and local government are appropriately linked to new development, and how this infrastructure can be efficiently funded and delivered in a way that enables and promotes sustainable growth".

What won't be included

Not all of the areas covered by the earlier reforms are back on the agenda. This announcement clarifies that the following topics will not be included in the 2016 reforms:

  • Introducing a code assessment track for development;
  • Land use zones under the Standard Instrument will not be changed; and
  • State Environmental Planning Policies (SEPPs) will remain.

What are the next steps?

The Department of Planning will commence round table consultation meetings in metropolitan and regional NSW immediately, with meetings starting this week and proposed to be held during May. No additional information is expected to be released ahead of these round table meetings, as they are viewed as an opportunity to seek ideas from stakeholders.

Exposure draft legislation will be developed following these consultation meetings, and the government intends to introduce and debate the amending legislation during the spring session of Parliament in 2016.

We will be following the reform process closely.

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.

Felicity Rourke
Noni Shannon
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”

Related Video
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.