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New South Wales Government
The coast of New South Wales is used by various groups of the community for a variety of purposes. Environment planning attempts to achieve a balance between these often competing desires and needs. This is done by recognizing and weighing up the many attributes of the coastline. These include its scenic, aesthetic, ecological and recreational qualities; its social and commercial importance; and the presence of coastline hazards.
The basic aim of environmental planning (with respect to hazard management) is to ensure that the location and type of development is consistent with the risk and the impact of the hazard. In this way, the social and economic impacts of coastline hazards can be eliminated, or minimised.
Successful coastline hazard planning can provide a number of community benefits. First, public and private expenditure for evacuation, relief and rehabilitation operations can be reduced. Second, the need for expensive coastal protection works funded from the public purse is minimised. Finally, planning facilitates the equitable use of the coastline by the different community groups, e.g. ecologically significant areas can be protected, coastal housing allowed in specified areas, etc.
Local Government is responsible for local planning and decision making on the coast. This appendix describes the planning system in New South Wales.
Planning in New South Wales is carried out under the statutory control of the Environmental Planning and Assessment (EPA) Act, 1979. The New South Wales Department of Planning is responsible for the administration of this Act.
There are essentially four tiers of planning instruments under the EPA Act:
These tiers encompass firstly, statewide planning issues and principles (SEPP's), secondly, regional planning concerns (REP's) that may involve several local authorities, thirdly, local plans (LEP's) administered by a single local authority, and finally, development control plans (DCP's) outlining the detailed controls, consistent with the LEP, which apply to the land.
The local authority has responsibility for planning within its statutory area and plays the major role in the formulation and implementation of LEP's and DCP's. Planning on the coastline is merely the application of this general responsibility to a particular area characterised by special hazards. LEP's are finally made by the Minister for Planning, having regard to coastal management policies and state and regional planning concerns of the time.
SEPP's address specific issues of state and regional significance. Environmental issues subject to current SEPP's include coastal wetlands (SEPP 14) and littoral rainforests (SEPP 26).
SEPP's generally take precedence over other planning instruments. They can be implemented through LEP's, regardless of existing zonings, by direct imposition on development proposals.
In principle, an SEPP could be used to address coastal erosion problems, but would only be appropriate where statewide issues of management were involved.
REP's have wide scope and form. They address broad issues on a regional basis and provide a consistent regional framework for local planning. REP's often encompass a number of local government areas with similar demands, opportunities or constraints with regard to planning issues. The EPA Act requires that LEP's are consistent with the provisions of REP's.
An REP may address single environmental issues or regional planning strategies.
To date, single issue REP's have been published for wetlands and tourism. As yet, no single issue REP has been formulated for coastline hazards, but it is possible. To date coastal management issues have been referred to in more general REP's for coastal regions. As a single issue plan, an REP could address particular problems of coastal management that extend across Local Government Authority (LGA) boundaries.
As a planning strategy, an REP could integrate coastline hazard management with other aspects of coastal planning and development, e.g. scenic protection, environmental protection, wetlands and regional development priorities.
There are two parts to the preparation of an REP. First, an environmental study may be undertaken to provide background information on the existing situation, likely changes, the way in which change can best be managed, environmental constraints, etc. Second, a plan is prepared on the basis of this study.
LEP's are the means used to prescribe land use policies and controls for an LGA. They supercede Town and Country Planning Schemes and Interim Development Orders made under previous planning legislation in New South Wales.
While LEP's focus on development control by land use zoning, they are not limited to this traditional function. For example, they may deal with the protection of heritage items, urban conservation, environment protection, local works and area protection programs.
Under Section 117(2) of the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act, 1979, the Minister for Local Government and Minister for Planning may make directions which councils are required to consider when preparing new LEP's. Issues such as conservation of environmental heritage, provision of open space and floodplain development have been the subject of previous Section 117(2) directions. In the case of floodplain development, the direction provides statutory effect to the guidelines and principles contained in the Floodplain Development Manual.
Local councils are responsible for preparing LEP's. Where directed by the Minister, councils may be required to undertake a Local Environmental Study to identify the opportunities and constraints for various land uses. Before the Minister approves an LEP, it must be consistent with State policies and regional plans and the necessary public participation procedures must have been followed.
LEP's are commonly formulated for the following reasons:
The implementation of any strategy for the control of coastline hazards would most likely involve either a new or an amended LEP.
Councils may wish to develop an LEP that either indicates a special zone for the hazardous shoreline areas or nominates special planning controls for such areas. An advantage in identifying a special zone in an LEP is that specific objectives can be described and related to coastline hazards.
The land use categories employed in an LEP are discussed in some detail in Appendix D3.
If a hazardous area is zoned residential or other urban use, development consent should be a requirement if it does not already apply. The need for such consent should be incorporated in the LEP.
Other issues that can be incorporated in an LEP include the acquisition of any undeveloped land as a management measure and the requirement that properties at risk should be severely limited in scale and have maximum protection, if avoidance of the hazards is not possible.
An LEP should be a reasonably flexible planning instrument that can cater to changing circumstances without requiring unnecessary amendment. As such, LEP's are often not appropriate for the imposition of specific land use controls. DCP's are a useful means of exercising control in those cases, or where the council wishes to specify details of actual developments. A DCP is also used if council wants to give more formal status to its policies for a particular type or aspect of development.
The DCP is the most specific of the four planning instruments, and enables the implementation of specific land use controls aimed at particular coastline hazards at nominated locations along the coastline.
A DCP is the appropriate instrument to introduce detailed planning provisions. Redevelopment of properties can be controlled in this way. One example of the use of a DCP is the approach taken by Byron Shire Council to provide planning control for areas with different degrees of recession/erosion. This planned retreat is described in Appendix D3.
The following provisions reflect the concern of the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act with the protection, use and management of the environment:
Application of Part V of The Act
Some activities of State and Local Government which are not covered by plan making or development control processes may affect the environment. These include development which does not require consent under a plan (particularly works by public utilities which have traditionally been exempted from plans), decisions on land management policies, expenditure of public funds and the granting of licences and permits.
Part V places a duty on all public authorities to consider the environmental impact of proposed activities before making a decision (s.111). If the activity is "prescribed" by the regulations or if in an individual case the impact is likely to be significant, an environmental impact statement must be prepared (s.112).
Where an environmental impact statement (EIS) is prepared, it must be exhibited to enable people to make submissions. The Department may be required to examine it and publish a report (s.113). In major cases, the Minister may call for a public inquiry instead of the report. In both cases, recommendations on minimising adverse environmental impact are made to the public authority responsible for the decision, which is obliged to consider them.
The Act does not alter the power or responsibility of those bodies to make decisions but ensures that environmental impact is assessed by them before a decision is made.
Preparation of EIS
In the case of designated development and in many cases under Part V, the need for an environmental impact statement is known in advance. For example, a council is not able to request an EIS after it has received an application. This is to ensure that environmental considerations are incorporated in the early stages of the project and matters raised in the EIS are reflected in its design.
Councils are generally responsible for matters of planning in their own area. In particular, they have definite responsibilities for the preparation and implementation of LEP's and DCP's. Councils are also the main consent authorities for development control in coastal areas, except in those instances where development applications are deemed to be of State or regional significance (s.101 EPA Act).
Under the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act, councils bear prime responsibility for the following planning tasks:
Councils also have responsibilities under Part II of the Local Government Act with respect to Building Applications. Where Development Applications are not required (because of the provisions of the planning instrument), Building Applications are the first approach to a council with respect to a development. Conditions may be applied which are similar in principle to those applied to a development consent.