Planning, Development & Heritage - EDO NSW

Planning, Development & Heritage

EDO NSW has produced a number of resources on planning, development and heritage.

EDO NSW undertakes law reform work relevant to planning, development and heritage. Read our submissions below.

EDO NSW represents individuals and community groups in public interest litigation to protect the environment. Read about our past cases on planning, development and heritage.

Our Fact Sheets on this topic include LEPs and SEPPs, development applications and consents, Land and Environment Court, and NSW heritage law.

See current opportunities for law reform in this area at Have Your Say about decisions relevant to planning, development and heritage.

planning for climate chnage report coverPlanning for climate change: how the NSW planning system can better tackle greenhouse gas emissions
July 2016

This special report makes 14 recommendations on how the NSW planning system can be improved to help mitigate the future impacts and costs of climate change.

Read more »

Major review of biodiversity laws by NSW Government

The NSW Parliament has passed two new bills that will significantly change the urban and rural development assessment and approval process once they commence. Read more on our feature page.


Independent Planning Commission’s draft Community Participation Plan - EDO NSW submission

July 2019 - Download this submission

Facilitating public participation in Independent Planning Commission's (IPC) processes is critical given the nature of the matters (including major projects) assessed by the IPC and the limited rights of access to the Courts following some IPC decisions, including those that have been subject to a Public Hearing.

We provide comments on the IPC’s draft Community Participation Plan, by reference to best practice public participation principles and the requirements of section 2.23 of the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act 1979.

Link to this submission page.

DPE Community Participation Plan - EDO NSW submission

December 2018

As a community legal centre specialising in public interest environmental and planning law, a core part of our work is doing outreach and legal education to help build the capacity of people to engage in environmental and planning law processes. We therefore strongly support measures designed to improve public participation.

We have made comments on eight issues in this plan.

Download the submission >>


Review of the Environmental Planning and Assessment regulation 2000 - EDO NSW submission

November 2017 - Download this submission

This submission comments on the NSW Government’s September 2017 Issues Paper on the Review of the Environmental Planning and Assessment Regulation 2000 (Planning Regulation).

The Planning Regulation underpins the day-to-day operation of the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act 1979 (Planning Act), guiding the processes, plans, public consultation, impact assessment and decisions made by the Department of Planning and Environment and other planning authorities.

Part A of the submission suggests some guiding principles to inform the Review and development of a draft revised Planning Regulation. Namely: 

  • Achieving the aims of the Act, government policy objectives, and setting environmental goals
  • Transparent information and effective engagement on planning matters
  • Ensure the greatest impacts receive the greatest scrutiny (e.g. major projects)
  • Specific consultation needed on giving effect to the Planning Bill 2017.

Part B examines existing provisions and matters noted in the Issues Paper that are relevant to the public interest, and other issues that EDO NSW sees as important for any redrafted Regulation to address. 

The NSW Parliament has passed the Government’s Environmental Planning and Assessment Amendment Bill 2017 (Planning Bill 2017). It is very difficult to consider the impact of this lengthy Bill as well as comment on the existing Regulation. Legitimate concerns have also been raised about the effect of certain amendments in the Bill.

We strongly recommend the Department prepare specific consultation material on how it proposes to amend the Regulation to give effect to the Planning Bill 2017. We recommend this occur in advance of a draft Regulation.

Link to this submission page.

Draft Aboriginal Cultural Heritage Bill 2018 - EDO NSW submission

13 April 2018 - Download

During the consultation period for this Bill, EDO NSW has been hearing from and visiting Aboriginal communities and clients in regional NSW, from the Northern Rivers to the Far West, to brief them on the draft and hear their aspirations for cultural heritage protection. Our submission also draws on decades of legal expertise and assistance to Aboriginal people and communities in heritage, planning and environmental law matters.

We strongly support standalone legislation with new Aboriginal institutions and decision-making. In particular we support the broader recognition of Aboriginal cultural heritage, including intangible heritage;  a new information system for mapping, monitoring and reporting; greater Aboriginal responsibility for heritage management and oversight, compliance and enforcement; and associated opportunities for empowerment, capacity-building, employment and self-determination.

However, we make recommendations to address concerns regarding: excessive ministerial powers and open-ended discretions, such as for ‘declaring’ ACH; the lack of any public information or discussion of major resourcing questions, in particular how (and whether) the ACH Authority and Local Panels will be fully resourced to fulfil their functions and invest in Aboriginal capacity-building; limited explanation to communities about how new definitions will be implemented in practice, protections for declared ACH, or the practicalities of registering intangible ACH; the exclusion of major projects from standard assessment pathways and harm offences; the need for clarity around which activities will need to follow the assessment pathway; and the clear imbalance in review and appeal rights that favours developers over Aboriginal people whose heritage is affected, contrary to the aims of the reforms and draft Bill.

See: Aboriginal Cultural Heritage Reforms: 6 things you need to know

Make your submission

Draft Voluntary Land Acquisition and Mitigation Policy and proposed Mining SEPP amendments - EDO NSW submission

February 2018 - Download submission.

This submission provides specific comment on the Draft Voluntary Land Acquisition and Mitigation Policy, but also notes our overarching concern is that where the impacts of a mine actually make a property unliveable, then land acquisition and mitigation actions are not really ‘voluntary’ and there is a fundamental problem in saying that the proposed agreements and actions are an acceptable way to deal with impacts. As it is therefore akin to a compulsory acquisition process by private companies, at the very least landholders should be entitled to heads of compensation that are the same as the Land Acquisition (Just Terms Compensation) Act 1991 and express reference should be made to that Act in relevant instruments and policies. Affected landholders should also be entitled to similar valuation and dispute resolution mechanisms, including rights of appeal to an independent arbiter.

EDO NSW comment on the Explanation of Intended Effect for a new State Environmental Planning Policy (Environment) (proposed SEPP). 

February 2018 - Download submission.

SEPPs are powerful legal instruments given effect under the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act 1979 (NSW) (Planning Act). They affect how land is developed and how natural resources are used, managed and conserved across NSW.

The Department of Planning and Environment’s proposal would revise and consolidate seven existing SEPPs into one Environment SEPP. EDO NSW can only support SEPP consolidation where there is no reduction of environmental protection, transparency, enforceability or accountability. 

This submission briefly identifies important issues that require clarification. It addresses:
- The reform context
- Development in environmentally sensitive areas
- Catchments
- Urban bushland
- Waterways.

EDO NSW submission on the Explanation of Intended Effect for a new State Environmental Planning Policy on Primary Production and Rural Development (proposed SEPP)

January 2018 - Download this submission

The Department of Planning and Environment’s proposal would revise and consolidate five rural and agricultural SEPPs into one Primary Production and Rural Development SEPP. 

EDO NSW sees the in-principle benefits in ensuring planning controls are up-to-date, accessible and effective. In doing so it is also important that environmental protections and community engagement are maintained and improved, consistent with the aims of planning and environmental legislation.

Part 1 of this submission considers some important issues upfront that are not dealt with, or fully dealt with, in the Explanation of Intended Effect:
- two guiding principles – on maintaining environmental protections and community engagement, and transparency in SEPP reviews and outcomes;
- how the reforms will affect land use on Environmental zones (E-zones); and
- the need for closer regulation and best practice guidance for intensive plant agriculture (such as berry farming).

Part 2 comments on the proposed new Primary Production and Rural Development SEPP.

Part 3 comments on proposed amendments to other planning instruments and regulations and draft guidelines for intensive livestock agriculture.

Link to this page.

EDO NSW submission to the Greater Sydney Commission

December 2017 - Download submission.

This submission reviews the objectives of the Sydney Region Plan and raises 10 key issues for the Greater Sydney Commission:

1. Linking economic and environmental outcomes to embed Ecologically Sustainable Development

2. Ten Directions - Delivering, monitoring and reporting of metrics and outcomes

3. Resolving conflicting priorities

4. Clearer interaction with State Environmental Planning Policies

5. Biodiversity and heritage protection

6. Green infrastructure - welcome recognition, need to embed in planning controls

7. Clearer emissions reduction targets to avoid dangerous climate change

8. Western Sydney Airport and other economic objectives must embed sustainability

9. Waste reduction - need to emphasise waste avoidance (plastic packaging etc)

10. Clear language is needed to spark public engagement.

Link to this page.

Draft Crown Land Regulation 2017 - EDO NSW submission

September 2017 - Download our submission

NSW communities value their Crown lands in many different ways – culturally, environmentally, socially and economically. This submission comments on draft Regulations to underpin the Crown Land Management Act 2016 (NSW). Together the Act and Regulations will regulate the future management, use and potential transfer or sale of a diverse range of publicly owned land in NSW.

Part A of this submission makes high-level comments on:

  • what is and is not addressed in the draft Regulation
  • how key concepts could be applied and strengthened (such as community engagement strategies and Crown land rules and principles) and
  • how the reform package fits together and interacts with other in-progress reforms.

Part B comments on the details of the draft Regulation including:

  • the use, management and transfer of ownership (vesting) of Crown lands, and
  • improvements to governance, transparency and environmental protection.

Link to this submission's page.

Submission on the Environmental Impact Assessment Improvement Project - Draft EIA Guidelines

September 2017 - Download PDF

The Department of Planning and Environment is reviewing Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) for State significant projects in NSW to identify areas for improvement. This submission makes comment on the need to improve EIA processes and makes recommendations on the proposed series of 9 guidelines. The guidelines relate to the following EIA stages:

Guideline 1 - Overview of the EIA Improvement Project

Guideline 2 - Community Guide to EIA

Guideline 3 - Scoping an Environmental Impact Statement

Guideline 4 - Preparing an Environmental Impact Statement

Guideline 5 - Responding to External Submissions

Guideline 6 - Community and Stakeholder Engagement

Guideline 7 - Approach to Setting Conditions

Guideline 8 - Modifying an Approved Project

Guideline 9 - Peer Review

Further information about the EIA Improvement Project is available at here and here

Link to this submission's page.

Inquiry into the Future of Australia’s Cities – EDOs of Australia submission

August 2017 – Download Submission

This submission to the House of Representatives Committee on Infrastructure, Transport and Cities covers two sub-inquiries.

On Sustainability transitions in existing cities we discuss:

  • Reviewing evidence and recommendations from past inquiries
  • Prioritising sustainable transport and infrastructure
  • Global best practice green cities
  • Strong leadership needs institutions, vision and harmonisation.

On Growing new and transitioning regional cities and towns we highlight five critical issues for planning in regional Australia:

  • Ecologically sustainable development
  • Good strategic planning  
  • Natural Resource Management goals, data, environmental accounts
  • Climate change readiness
  • Community engagement, including regional Aboriginal communities

Link to this submission’s page.

Environmental Planning & Assessment Amendment (Staged development Applications) Bill 2017 – EDO NSW submission

July 2017 – Download Submission

This submission expresses concerns about the Bill proceeding as drafted, and makes a number of recommendations.

Link to this submission’s page.

Inquiry into the Environment and Infrastructure Legislation Amendment (Stop Adani) Bill 2017 – EDOs of Australia submission

July 2017 – Download Submission

This submission responds to the Inquiry into the Environment and Infrastructure Legislation Amendment (Stop Adani) Bill 2017.

Link to this submission’s page.

Environmental assessments and approvals – EDOs of Australia submission

June 2017 – Download: Submission; Attachment A; Attachment B; Attachment C 

This submission responds to an inquiry by the Australian Senate Select Committee on Red Tape about the effect of environmental assessment and approval ‘red tape’ on the economy and community.

In our submission, we reinforce the public interest nature of environmental assessment, reiterate our arguments against the delegating of Federal Government responsibilities for matters of national environmental significance to states and territories, and refer the Committee to the EDOs of Australia’s 10 best practice principles for environmental and planning laws.

Link to this submission’s page.

Review of Complying Development in Greenfield Areas – EDO NSW submission

July 2017 – Download submission

The NSW government is proposing to increase delivery of new housing by allowing complying development applications to be made for new dwellings in greenfield areas. Our submission identifies five key issues with using streamlined development assessment in greenfield areas:

  • Potential inconsistencies between the policy and legislative objectives
  • Environmentally sensitive areas
  • Concerns with private certification
  • Cumulative impacts and strategic planning
  • Coordination with related SEPP and Code reforms

Link to this submission’s page.

House of Representatives inquiry into streamlining environmental regulation, ‘green tape’ and ‘one stop shops’ for environmental assessments and approvals - ANEDO submission 

April 2013 – Download PDF

ANEDO strongly opposes moves to reduce environmental regulation merely to ease perceived pressure on business and fast-track major development. Fast approvals that deliver poor quality, high risk or unsustainable development are not in the public interest.

Link to this submission.

NSW biodiversity and land management laws: Draft regulations and products on public exhibition – EDO NSW submission

June 2017 – Download all submissions combined

This group of submissions makes over 200 recommendations on the regulations and other instruments that are being implemented to support the NSW Government's biodiversity and land clearing law reform package passed in 2016.

EDO NSW raised a number of key concerns that were not addressed in the 2016 changes. While it is not possible to fix the deficiencies in the laws now they have been passed, the current round of consultations presents an opportunity to insert some protections, procedural safeguards and transparency into the subordinate instruments.

You can download all nine submissions combined, including an executive summary, or read each component separately:

Draft Biodiversity Conservation Regulation 2017

Draft Local Land Services Amendment Regulation 2017

Draft Environmental Planning and Assessment Amendment (Biodiversity Conservation) Regulation 2017

Explanation of Intended Effect for the State Environmental Planning Policy (Vegetation) 2017

Land Management (Native Vegetation) Code

Biodiversity Assessment Method (BAM)

Accreditation Scheme for the Application of the Biodiversity Assessment Method

Serious and irreversible impacts guidance

Offsets payment calculator


 Link to the page for these submissions.

State Environmental Planning Policy (Infrastructure) Amendment (Review) 2016 – EDO NSW submission

April 2017 – Download PDF

This submission comments on the review of the SEPP (Infrastructure) 2007 – a powerful planning instrument that sets out how local infrastructure projects, state services and utilities are approved, often with limited (if any) public consultation.

The draft SEPP significantly expands the activities that can use fast-track ‘exempt’ and ‘complying’ approvals, or be ‘self-assessed’ and approved by a state agency or local council proposing the development (‘Part 5’ assessment).

In our submission we:

  • raise key issues of transparency, assessment and oversight;
  • review the key amendments proposed by the Government; and
  • comment on positive changes, concerning changes and o proposals requiring further detail.

We argue that any expansion of faster infrastructure approvals calls for:

  • improved transparency, notification and consultation based on the scale of change;
  • harm minimisation guidelines, to ensure the SEPP is properly applied;
  • exemplary environmental compliance within agencies that rely on ‘Part 5’ assessment; and
  • strong and properly resourced oversight and enforcement by regulators, including the Department of Planning and Environment.

We have made a separate submission on the proposed new SEPP for education and childcare facilities.

Link to this submission's page.

Draft State Environmental Planning Policy (Education Establishments and Child Care Facilities) 2017 – EDO NSW submission

April 2017 – Download PDF

The NSW Government has proposed a new State Environmental Planning Policy (SEPP) to assess and approve childcare and education facilities (schools, universities, TAFE). The new Education SEPP would remove existing development controls from the Infrastructure SEPP.

Our submission addresses issues relating to:

  • Education facilities generally (including concerns about exempt tree-clearing up to 2 hectares and ‘minimal environmental impact’ requirements)
  • Childcare centres
  • Schools (Design Quality Principles and need for independent oversight of Part 5 assessments)
  • Universities
  • TAFE centres.

We have made a separate submission on the 10-year review of the Infrastructure SEPP.

Link to this submission's page.

Greater Sydney Commission’s draft Towards Our Greater Sydney 2056 – EDO NSW submission

March 2017 – Download PDF

We welcome the Greater Sydney Commission’s efforts to better integrate environmental and social considerations into its economic vision for Greater Sydney, such as through its proposed Liveability Framework. However, our analysis shows that planning for Greater Sydney faces a number of key limitations, including:

  • the risk that specific economic aims will eclipse generic environmental aims;
  • a lack of State environmental goals, targets or data to assist decision-making;
  • limited community awareness, engagement, or clarity on the Commission’s role and influence; and
  • limited coordination and resources within and between governments to genuinely integrate environmental goals and policies to achieve ecologically sustainable development.

We argue that these limitations need to be addressed for planning to bring the best long-term outcomes for Greater Sydney.

Link to this submission's page.

Environmental Planning and Assessment Amendment Bill 2017 – EDO NSW submission

March 2017 – Download PDF

In this detailed 28 page submission, we comment on key issues in the Bill and identify missed opportunities that should be addressed before the Bill is introduced to Parliament. Our analysis is structured around the Government’s 10 themes for reform.

See our other resources on these important reforms:

Link to this submission page.

Draft Social Impact Assessment Guidelines – EDO NSW submission

March 2017 – Download PDF

We strongly support the objectives of the Draft Social Impact Assessment Guidelines released by the NSW Government, particularly the commitment to assessing cumulative impacts under the Guidelines. In this submission, we make a number of recommendations to strengthen the Guidelines further, including:

  • A process should be detailed for ensuring the independence of social impact assessments, and the community should be involved in decisions about who gets to undertake an assessment.
  • Further detail should be included on reviews of ongoing social impacts and how ‘unforseen impacts’ should be addressed.
  • Clear timeframes should be set for expanding the application of the Draft Guidelines to other types of State Significant Developments.

Link to this submission's page.

Koala SEPP Review (State Environmental Planning Policy 44 – Koala Habitat Protection) – EDO NSW submission

January 2017 - Download PDF

See also EDO NSW’s 2010 submission on the Koala SEPP, December 2010

The Koala SEPP was introduced in 1995 to conserve and manage koala habitat against local development impacts. This submission comments on NSW Government proposals to amend the SEPP’s:

  • Aims and Definitions
  • Application to listed tree species and Local Council areas
  • Development Assessment processes and Guidelines
  • Plan-making provisions (proposed Local Planning Directions), and
  • Local Environmental Study requirements.

The submission also lists 7 further issues that the Koala SEPP review should address:

  • Relationship between Koala SEPP and future NSW koala strategy
  • Further information and analysis of the SEPP’s effectiveness
  • Expanding the scope of development covered by the SEPP (not just council approvals)
  • Cumulative impacts and the ‘1 hectare limit’ on assessable projects
  • Koala SEPP must be climate change ready
  • Monitoring, auditing and reporting, and
  • Statutory review periods.

Link to these submissions

Clean Air for NSW Consultation Paper – EDO NSW submission

January 2017 - Download PDF

The NSW Government released a Consultation Paper – Clean Air for NSW in 2016. Drawing on the extensive legal and technical analysis and advice we have undertaken for our community clients on air quality over many years, this latest submission makes recommendations for improving air quality in relation to specific actions and timeframes, integrating air quality into planning decisions, and monitoring and measuring air pollution.

Link to this submission's page.

Proposed Medium Density Housing Code – Statement of Intended Effect and Draft Medium Density Design Guide - EDO NSW submission

December 2016 - Download PDF

The NSW Department of Planning and Environment is proposing to make more types of medium density housing complying development. (A complying development does not require Council development assessment and approval if it complies with code standards and can be certified by a private certifier).

Our submission identifies seven key concerns with expanding the use of complying development.

Draft Coastal Management State Environmental Planning Policy – EDO NSW submission

January 2017 – Download PDF

This submission builds on our previous submissions and analyses of coastal management reform in NSW. The submission focuses on the impacts of expanded urban development in and near sensitive coastal environments. Our main recommendation is that the new coastal SEPP explicitly confirm that exempt and code-complying development is not permitted in or adjacent to environmentally sensitive areas.

Previous work on coastal management reforms include:

Link to these submissions

NSW Government Climate Change Fund – Draft Strategic Plan – EDO NSW submission

December 2016 – Download PDF

The NSW Government invited EDO NSW to comment on the Draft Strategic Plan. Our submission makes a number of recommendations relating to strategic planning, environmental impact assessment, development decisions, and compliance and enforcement. We also attached our July 2016 report, Planning for Climate Change: How the NSW planning system can better tackle greenhouse gas emissions.

EDO NSW Submission on the Environmental Impact Assessment Improvement Project – Environmental impact assessment for major projects

November 2016 – Download PDF

The NSW Department of Planning and Environment invited EDO NSW to make preliminary comments on stage 1 of its Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) Improvement Project and high-level discussion paper.

Our comments build on previous submissions on the regulation of major project impacts. After commenting on the initial scope of the Project and eight proposed improvements, we recommend the Project address four issues in more detail: cumulative impacts; climate change; negative effects that ‘streamlining’ can have on public trust; and equitable appeal rights.

We also seek further clarity from the Department on whether the Project will involve legislative reform, and how it intersects with proposed reforms to the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act 1979.

NSW Parliamentary Inquiry into Crown Land 2016 - EDO NSW submission

July 2016 – Download PDF

We support the Government’s aims to clarify and harmonise the complex laws on managing Crown lands to ensure the environmental and cultural values of Crown lands are recognised and protected.

In our submission, we reiterate recommendations made in previous submissions: our 10 principles for Crown lands management from our 2014 submission on Crown lands; and our Travelling Stock Reserves submission (December 2015).

We also make recommendations about the best process for changing the laws. We recommend public consultation on an exposure draft Crown Lands Bill prior to introduction to Parliament. This would improve the legislation and strengthen community confidence in the process and outcomes of any reforms. 

NSW Biodiversity Law Reform Package 2016 - EDO NSW submissions

June 2016

Submission on the draft Biodiversity Conservation Bill 2016 - Download PDF

Submission on the draft Local Land Services Amendment Bill 2016 - Download PDF

Technical submission on the Biodiversity Assessment Method and Mapping Method 2016 - Download PDF

Technical submission on the draft Offsets Payment Calculator - Download PDF

Find out more about the reform package, including EDO NSW blogs and workshop slides.

EDO NSW has been making recommendations for strong biodiversity, native vegetation and land management laws since 1995. We were heavily involved in the development of the current Native Vegetation Act between 2002 and 2005. 

We met with the Independent Biodiversity Legislation Review Panel during their deliberations and produced A Legal Assessment of NSW Biodiversity Legislation to assist the panel. We engaged with representatives of the Office of Environment & Heritage, Department of Primary Industries and Department of Planning during targeted stakeholder consultations prior to the public exhibition process. We raised a number of key concerns and made recommendations in these meetings based on our extensive expertise in NSW environmental law.

Unfortunately none of these fundamental concerns or recommendations were addressed in the package developed for public consultation. 

These submissions detail our conclusion that the proposed laws are a retrograde step for NSW biodiversity and land management. While the proposed investment private land conservation is welcome, once this money runs out, we will be left with weak laws that offer no real protection for our unique threatened species and ecological communities and will facilitate ongoing decline in biodiversity. Consequently, we cannot support the proposed package.

Through a series of workshops, seminars and forums, we have spoken to local communities, Landcare members, Local Land Services officers, local councils, ecological consultants, private land conservation agreement holders, Aboriginal people, conservationists, wildlife carers, and private individuals through our advice line. Areas covered include: Hunter, Greater Sydney, North Coast, Northern Tablelands, South East and Central West. We discussed concerns with over 600 people. With the exception of representatives of the NSW Farmers Association, no-one we spoke to told us the proposed laws were an improvement on current laws, and almost all participants were seriously concerned at the implications of the new regime for biodiversity.

Review of Complying Development for Inland NSW - EDO NSW submission

May 2016 – Download PDF

The NSW Government’s Review of Complying Development for Inland NSW proposes to amend State Environmental Planning Policy (Exempt and Complying Development) 2008 to amend and expand code-based assessment.

We have identified a number of critical issues that need to be addressed. These issues are set out in our submission and reiterated in our Submission on Options for Low Rise Medium Density Housing as Complying Development (February 2016).

We submit that appropriate governance arrangements need to be in place before the Policy is expanded, and raise concerns that the proposed amendments will result in unforeseen cumulative impacts, including on sensitive environmental areas.

We raise further concerns that consultation for the Policy is occurring before a draft exposure Bill proposing to amend the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act has been placed on public exhibition, as it is difficult to properly assess how these reform processes will interact and how they will affect the community and environment.

Community Consultative Committee Guidelines – State Significant Projects - EDO NSW submission

April 2016 - Download PDF

We support the intent to update and strengthen guidelines for CCCs. Our submission draws on comments and feedback from EDO NSW clients who have been, and continue to be, involved in committees in their local communities.

In our submission, we recommend strengthening and clarifying the CCC guidelines across seven areas: the independent chair; community membership; early engagement; data and research; meeting protocol; training and interaction with other committees. Recommendations on each of these are detailed in the submission.


Submission on Options for Low Rise Medium Density Housing as Complying Development

February 2016 - Download PDF

The NSW Government is proposing to expand complying development rules to allow medium density housing – such as dual occupancies, manor houses and 3 to 10 dwellings on a single lot – to be assessed and certified by private certifiers under a code, rather than through a development assessment process.

EDO NSW's submission emphasises that:

  • exempt and complying development processes must only be used for genuinely minor, low-impact developments;
  • exempt and complying development should not occur in environmentally sensitive areas; and
  • cumulative impacts of multiple developments must be taken into account.

We also submit that use of the code should not be extended, even for low-impact developments, until serious accountability, quality control and transparency issues are addressed in relation to the use of private certifiers, and until building efficiency and sustainability standards have been strengthened.

Submission responding to the NSW Coastal Management Reforms

February 2016 - Download PDF

Our submission, EDO NSW identifies seven Key Actions that are necessary to conserve sensitive coastal environments, build resilience to the impacts of climate change and ensure that all development in the coastal zone is consistent with the principles of ecologically sustainable development. These Actions are:

  1. A catchment-based approach to coastal management, supported by appropriate mapping 
  2. An emphasis on strategic planning and proper assessment of cumulative impacts 
  3. The creation of ‘red flag areas’ to protect sensitive coastal environments 
  4. The acquisition of sensitive coastal areas by the NSW Government 
  5. Development controls that are in all instances consistent with ESD 
  6. A new approach to managing sea level rise in NSW 
  7. Appropriate resourcing to facilitate compliance and enforcement

See also:

Submission to the Inquiry into regional planning processes in NSW

February 2016 - Download PDF

This EDO NSW submission focuses on five issues that are critical to regional planning:

  1. Ecologically sustainable development (ESD) – confirm ESD as an overarching guiding principle for regional development.
  2. Strategic planning – should be legislated, coordinated, evidence-based, apply ESD principles, and maintain or improve environmental outcomes to support our society and economy. 
  3. Natural resource management (NRM) goals and data – adopt statewide NRM goals and targets that can apply to the regions. Invest in data on ecosystems their services, including a state environmental accounts framework.
  4. Climate change readiness – NSW needs a greenhouse mitigation strategy and targets linked to the planning system. Any future regional planning framework must consider climate change risks and impacts (mitigation and adaptation).
  5. Community engagement – regional communities, including Aboriginal communities and Traditional Owners, should have better, earlier and more accessible ways to help plan the future of their towns, cities and environments.

EDO NSW submission on the NSW Travelling Stock Reserves State Planning Framework 2016-19

3 December 2015 - Download PDF

We recommend the draft Framework be developed and clarified for the following issues:

  • Integration with other legislative, planning and biodiversity frameworks
  • Assessing environmental benefits, cumulative impacts and future threats
  • Primary use classification – methodology, criteria and implications
  • Community engagement, respect and dialogue about TSR roles in the future
  • Recognition of diverse indigenous interests in TSR management
  • Adequate resources and capacity
  • Identifying, monitoring and reporting outcomes
  • Piloting ecosystem services assessment and accounting
  • Legislative change must address community concerns about the wider Crown Lands Review.

EDO NSW submission on Local Land Services Draft State and Local Strategic Plans

20 November 2015 - Download PDF

Our submission makes three key recommendations

  1. Local Land Services (LLS) Strategic Plans should not be finalised until the full suite of LLS responsibilities has been clarified, given the significant changes that have been foreshadowed in relation to native vegetation and biodiversity legislation in NSW. Alternatively, the Strategic Plans should build in a formal review process when a new Biodiversity Conservation Act is passed.

  2. Strategies and performance indicators should be made ‘SMART’ (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant and Timely).

  3. The Strategic Plans should better articulate the clear role of LLS in ensuring compliance with environmental and natural resource management legislation.

EDO NSW submission on Draft Industrial Noise Guideline

13 November 2015 - Download PDF

EDO NSW is concerned that proposed changes to noise guidelines will allow for significant increases in noise impacts on rural communities and other communities that currently experience little background noise.

The community reasonably expects that the key regulator for noise in NSW will identify what constitutes unacceptable noise impacts, based on objective criteria, and that this information will also be considered in any project assessment process. We recommend that all projects should be required to assess and implement all reasonable and feasible noise mitigation. Noise mitigation should not only be required once noise exceeds industrial noise trigger levels. We support proposals by the Environmental Protection Authority to strengthen monitoring and compliance arrangements, but greater detail and more transparency is required.

EDO NSW submission on Strategic Release Framework and PRIA Guidelines

6 November 2015 - Download PDF

This is a submission on how the NSW Government identifies and releases new areas for coal and gas exploration. The Government’s draft Framework would be informed by a ‘Preliminary Regional Issues Analysis’, which we also comment on. Our key recommendations are:

  • Implement the Preliminary Assessment and Advisory Body in legislation 
  • Include independent experts and added transparency for the Advisory Body 
  • Consider climate change in the Strategic Framework and Preliminary Assessment Guidelines 
  • the Preliminary Assessment must go beyond existing data (adopting the precautionary principle, clear environmental assessment criteria, exclusion zones and cumulative impact assessment).

EDOs of Australia submission on Draft Outcomes-based Conditions Policy

9 October 2015 - Download PDF

The Australian Government is proposing a shift in focus for EPBC Act approval conditions, where development has significant impacts on a matter of national environmental significance. There are a number of risks and uncertainties that arise from the Draft Policy’s approach. While we support improved condition-setting on development projects, including specific environmental outcomes where possible, a mix of conditions is likely to be appropriate.

We recommend:

  • not proceeding with the Outcomes-based Conditions Policy at present; 
  • a more holistic assessment of the Department’s approach to conditioning, compliance and enforcement (including how to better monitor, achieve and report on environmental outcomes, and increase oversight efficiently); 
  • input from the Australian National Audit Office (ANAO) and independent environmental experts (and clear integration with recent ANAO findings); 
  • identification of current strengths, weaknesses and options for reform; and 
  • public consultation on those reform options and departmental proposals.

ANEDO submission to the Freedoms Inquiry on Traditional Rights and Freedoms—Encroachments by Commonwealth Laws

EDOs of Australia has written submissions responding to two reports produced by the Australian Law Reform Commission as part of the ‘Freedoms Inquiry’.

Submission 1: 27 February 2015 - Download PDF
Our first submission explains why strong environmental laws are necessary, and argues that existing laws do not unduly encroach on private interests.

Submission 2: 21 September 2015 - Download PDF 
Our second submission sets out how the EPBC Act and the Water Act respond to modern environmental challenges, and why they are needed if Australia is to meet its international legal obligations. It also provides clear evidence that these Acts do not unduly infringe private property rights, and in certain instances actually protect private property from the impacts associated with development.

Submissions on the Integrated Mining Policy

Stage 1 submission, 9 July 2015 - Download PDF

Stage 2 submission, 7 September 2015 - Download PDF

The NSW Government is proposing a new whole-of-government approach to mining applications through an Integrated Mining Policy. The Government called for public submissions in two stages from May to September 2015. EDO NSW made key submissions at both stages of the consultation.

Read a summary of the key points in our submissions

Submission on State Environmental Planning Policy (SEPP) Review 2015 – Integration and Repeal of 16 SEPPs

2 July 2015 - Download PDF

Saving Our Species ‘Landscape Species Strategy’ – consultation draft, and Proposed amendments to the Priorities Action Statement

18 September 2015 - Download PDF

This submission to the NSW Office of Environment & Heritage comments on proposed amendments to NSW threatened species priorities, and a Strategy for protecting some species at a landscape scale. It addresses:

  • major ongoing biodiversity law reform and integration of the Priorities Action Statement (PAS);
  • problems with biodiversity protection under planning laws;
  • objectives, indicators, targets and monitoring under the draft Landscape Species Strategy, and
  • PAS amendments for specific species must be transparent, responsive to climate change, and aim to recover species.

Submission on Strategic Assessment of RMS ‘Part 5’ environmental impact assessment procedures to replace EPBC Act assessments/approvals

13 February 2015 - Download PDF 

Submission on Revised NSW Commonwealth Assessment Bilateral Agreement. EDOs of Australia submission.

30 January 2015 - Download PDF 

EDO NSW submission on 10/50 Vegetation Clearing Code of Practice Review

7 November 2014 Download PDF

Submission on EP&A Amendments (Mining and Petroleum) 2014 and the Mining SEPP

July 2014 - Download PDF

Submission on the NSW Crown Lands Management Review

June 2014 - Download PDF

Submission on Draft NSW - Commonwealth Bilateral Approval Agreement

June 2014 - Download PDF

Submission on the Northern Councils Environmental Zones Review

June 2014 - Download PDF

Senate Inquiry into the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Amendment (Bilateral Agreement Implementation) Bill 2014 and the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Amendment (Cost Recovery) Bill 2014

June 2014 - Download PDF

Submission on the Draft NSW Biodiversity Offsets Policy for Major Projects 

May 2014 - Download PDF

Submission on A New Local Government Act for NSW Final Report

4 April 2014 - Download

Submission on draft planning circular: Coastal hazard notations on s 149 planning certificates.

3 March 2014 - Download PDF

Submission on the Building Sustainability Index (BASIX) Target Review

31 January 2014 - Download PDF

ANEDO submission on the EPBC Act Koala Referral Guidelines

7 February 2014 - Download PDF

Submission on Draft NSW-Commonwealth Bilateral Assessment Agreement

December 2013 - Download PDF

ANEDO submission on streamlining of environmental approvals for offshore petroleum

December 2013 - Download PDF

ANEDO Submission on Productivity Commission Draft Report – Major Projects

September 2013 - Download PDF

NEW EDO NSW White Paper Submission – FINAL 

June 2013 - Download PDF

NEW EDO NSW White Paper Submission – Executive Summary 

June 2013 - Download PDF

ANEDO Submission on Productivity Commission Draft Report: Barriers to Effective Climate Change Adaptation

8 June 2012 - Download PDF

NEW EDO NSW White Paper Submission – Summary of Recommendations 

June 2013 - Download PDF

Submission on the Draft Metro Strategy 

July 2013 - Download PDF

Submission on a new Local Government Act 

July 2013 - Download PDF

ANEDO Submission on Productivity Commission Issues Paper – Major Project Development Assessment Processes

March 2013 - Download PDF

Submission on proposed changes to NSW Exempt and Complying Development Codes

November 2012 - Download PDF

Submission on the proposed amendment of the Protection of the Environment Operations (General) Regulation 2009 to require licensees to fund the Upper Hunter Air Quality Monitoring Network

October 2012 - Download PDF

Submission on Draft practice note on Schedule 1 in the Standard Instrument (Additional Permitted Uses)

October 2012 - Download PDF

Submission on A New Planning System for NSW - Green Paper 

September 2012 - Download PDF

Key Issues Summary: NSW Government Planning Review Green Paper - EDO NSW Preliminary Briefing Note 

July 2012 - Download PDF

Submission on Sydney Metropolitan Strategy - Sydney over the next 20 years

29 June 2012 - Download PDF

Key Issues Summary: Submission on the Sydney over the next 20 years discussion paper (revised Metropolitan Strategy)Amendments 

May 2012 - Download PDF

COAG Environmental Reform Agenda: ANEDO Response - In Defence of Environmental Laws

May 2012 - Download PDF

Submission on Standard Instrument Amendments 

29 May 2012 - Download PDF

Submission on the 'More local, more accountable plan making' discussion paper

4 May 2012 - Download PDF

Submission on Strategic Regional Land Use Plans for New England North West and Upper Hunter

3 May 2012 - Download PDF

Submission on Draft NSW Planning Guidelines for Wind Farms

14 March 2012 - Download PDF

Submission to NSW Planning Review Issues Paper (joint with NCC and TEC)

March 2012 - Download PDF

Submission to NSW Planning Review Issues Paper (joint with NCC and TEC) - Annexures

March 2012 - Download PDF

Submission to the Review of the NSW Planning System (Stage 1)

4 November 2011 - Download PDF

Comments on Draft State and Regional Development SEPP 2011

2 September 2011 - Download PDF

ANEDO Submission on the Productivity Commission's Draft Research Report - Performance Benchmarking of Australian Business Regulation: Planning, Zoning and Development Assessments

1 April 2011 - Download PDF

ANEDO Submission on: Our Cities - building a productive, sustainable and liveable future, 2010 Discussion Paper 

3 March 2011 - Download PDF

Affordable Rental Housing SEPP Review 

3 March 2011 - Download PDF

Submission on the proposed Coastal Protection Regulation 2011

February 2011 - Download PDF

Submission on the draft Environmental Planning and Assessment Regulation 2010

5 November 2010 - Download PDF

Submission on the draft Minister's Requirements under the Coastal Protection Act 1979 

10 September 2010 - Download PDF

Submission on the Productivity Commission Issues Paper - Performance Benchmarking of Australian Business Regulation: Planning, Zoning and Development Assessments

17 July 2010 - Download PDF

Submission on the proposed Sydney Growth Centres Strategic Assessment 

25 June 2010 - Download PDF

Submission to the review of the National Building and Jobs Plan (State Infrastructure Delivery) Act 2009

14 May 2010 - Download PDF

Submission on the Discussion Paper for the Metropolitan Strategy Review - Sydney Towards 2036

30 April 2010 - Download PDF

Submission on the review of the State Environmental Planning Policy (Infrastructure) 2007 

12 April 2010 - Download PDF

Comment on the Heritage Amendment Bill 2009

29 May 2009 - Download PDF

Inquiry into NSW Planning Framework

17 March 2009 - Download PDF

ANEDO Submission to the 10 year review of the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 

January 2009 - Download PDF

ANEDO EPBC Act Submission

30 September 2008 - Contact Us

Submission on the proposed SEPP (Repeal of Concurrence and Referral Provisions) 2008

22 August 2008 - Download PDF

Submission on the NSW Complying Development Planning Codes

4 July 2008 - Download PDF

Submission on the Environmental Planning and Assessment Amendment Bill 2008

24 April 2008 - Download PDF

Submission on the Discussion Paper: Improving the NSW Planning System

8 February 2008 - Download PDF

Recommendations for reforming planning in NSW

8 January 2008 - Download PDF

Heritage Act Review

9 October 2007 - Download PDF

Comment on proposed amendments to the State Environmental Planning Policy (Major Projects)

25 May 2007 - Download PDF

Submission on A new Direction for Local Government Position Paper

9 March 2007 - Download PDF

Draft Land Owner's Consent Policy 2006

12 February 2007 - Download PDF

Comment on the Draft Agreement between the Australian Government and the State of New South Wales

5 December 2006 - Download PDF

Submission on the Environment and Heritage Legislation Amendment Bill (No. 1) 2006- 

27 October 2006 - Download PDF

Submission on the Draft Standard Instrument (Local Environmental Plans) Order 2005

4 November 2005 - Download PDF

Submission on the Environmental Planning and Assessment (Infrastructure and Other Planning Reform) Bill 2005

2 June 2005 - Download PDF

Discussion Paper: Standard provisions for local environment plans in NSW

November 2004 - Download PDF

State Environmental Planning Policy (Application of Development Standards) 2004 - Comments on draft legal instrument and draft planning guideline

18th June 2004 - Contact Us

Submission on the Coastal Protection Regulation 2004

4 June 2004 - Download PDF

Inquiry into Public Transport 

June 2003 - Contact Us

Draft Biodiversity Certification Methodology - EDO NSW submission

July 2010 – Download PDF

ANEDO Submission on EPBC Act: Recommendations for Reform

5 March 2008 - Download PDF

Submission on the DECC Guidelines for Biodiversity certification of environmental planning instruments

21 December 2007 - Download PDF

Submission on draft Gateway process for Strategic Regional Land Use Policy

December 2012 - Download PDF

Submission on corruption risks and the regulation of lobbying in NSW 

25 June 2010 - Download PDF

Submission on the proposed biocertification of the Draft Growth Centres Conservation Plan

18 April 2007 - Download PDF

discussion papers

Planning for climate change: how the NSW planning system can better tackle greenhouse gas emissions

July 2016 - Download PDF

The NSW Government is proposing to make changes to the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act 1979. This presents an opportunity to make amendments to address the most important and urgent challenge we face – planning for climate change.

Major projects such as CSG and coal mining continue to receive approval without proper consideration of the future climate impacts of those projects.

In this report, we make 14 key recommendations on how the planning system can be improved to help mitigate the future impacts and costs of climate change.

Please note: Table 1 (on page 10 of the report) has been updated from the version first published. The download above contains the new corrected version. View the updated table » 

For more about why we have released this report, and what it means, read our blog post How can NSW better tackle greenhouse gas emissions?, 27 July 2016.

Link to this report page.

Merits Review in Planning in NSW

This report demonstrates that merits review is an essential part of the planning system and it is crucial that it continues to be recognised and facilitated in NSW.

In addition, there are clear benefits to allowing third party merits review in relation to major projects in NSW. These benefits relate to improving the consistency, quality and accountability of decision-making in environmental matters. In particular, merits review has facilitated the development of an environmental jurisprudence, enabled better outcomes through conditions, provides scrutiny of decisions and fosters natural justice and fairness. Better environmental and social outcomes and decisions based on ecologically sustainable development is the result.

Merits review has a long history in NSW, being a key element of planning reforms introduced in 1979 to a politicised and overly-complex system in drastic need for reform. The reforms sought to simplify and improve planning in NSW, as well as to depoliticise and take the heat out of decision-making. Fulsome public participation and the establishment of a specialist court – the Land and Environment Court – were key components in this enterprise.

Merits review for developers and third parties in the Land and Environment Court were, in turn, crucial elements in restoring the integrity and legitimacy of planning and decision-making for environmental matters.

Recent moves to limit third party merits review – particularly for resource projects - deprive the broader public of the benefits of good decision-making in environmental matters and serve to undermine the integrity of the planning system. The consistency, quality and accountability of decision-making by merits review undertaken by the Land and Environment Court contrasts with weaker decision-making, poorer outcomes and the inferior processes in public hearings held by the recently established Planning Assessment Commission.

The flow on result is that communities are disempowered and alienated by both the extinguishment of their merits review rights and the weakening of decision-making in environmental matters which, in turn, undermines the integrity of the NSW planning system.

2016 - Download PDF

Read more at our blog by EDO NSW CEO/Principal Solicitor Sue Higginson, The community’s right to participate: what happened to merits review?, 7 July 2016.

Assessment of the adequacy of threatened species & planning laws (Dec 2012)

This report was commissioned by the Places You Love Alliance of more than 35 environment groups and prepared by the Australian Network of Environmental Defender’s Offices Inc (ANEDO).

Based on feedback from EDO offices in each State and Territory, this report outlines the legal framework for managing threatened species in each jurisdiction and identifies some of the key issues in terms of: strengths and weaknesses of the relevant laws, an assessment of whether the laws are effectively implemented and enforced, and some analysis of the interaction of threatened species laws with planning legislation in each jurisdiction.

The report makes a number of key findings.

Our analysis confirms the finding that no state or territory meets all the core requirements of best practice threatened species legislation.

2012 - Download PDF

Our Environment, Our Communities - Integrating environmental outcomes and community engagement in the NSW planning system

This discussion paper has been prepared to inform the NSW Planning Review. This report recognises the intrinsic link between environmental protection and planning, and the benefits of community engagement and participation in decisions that affect our environments and neighbourhoods.

The report which draws on case studies from across Australia and overseas, looks at:
• ways to integrate environmental outcomes through effective strategic and land use planning;
• mechanisms for achieving environmental outcomes in development assessment processes, including an objective decision making framework with requires decision makers to ensure that environmental outcomes are achieved;
• emerging trends in public participation and community engagement;
• ways to improve community engagement and ensure community engagement is carried out in accordance with key principles set out in a public participation charter.

The report also outlines a proposed legislative model for integrating environmental and community considerations in the NSW planning system. Our organisations will be strongly advocating for the legislative provisions set out in this model to be included in the White Paper and draft legislation for a new planning system.

This report was funded by the Department of Planning and Infrastructure, as part of a funding agreement that had the in-principle support of the Planning Review Co-Chairs.

2012 - Download PDF

Reconnecting the Community with the Planning System - Report

The aim of this report is to provide the Department of Planning (DoP) with an informed assessment of how people view the current planning system and recommend ways that the DoP can reconnect the community with the planning system. The Total Environment Centre (TEC), funded by the DoP, engaged the NSW Environmental Defender's Office (EDO) to assist in the workshop and report writing components of the project.

The main conclusion of this project is that the community generally feels disconnected with the planning process, deeply cynical about whether it is worthwhile to engage, and extremely frustrated about the current system. During the process of conducting workshops in key parts of the state and seeking feedback on the planning system, community members gave a few specific examples of good consultation processes, many examples of inadequate processes where they felt excluded, and made suggestions for reform.

2010 - Download PDF

State of Planning in NSW

The “State of Planning in NSW” Report analyses the current planning system based on the experiences of our community clients.

The Report identifies the pros and cons of the current system and identifies that a significant number of amendments would be needed to fix the current Act in terms of improving environmental assessment and community participation.

The Report identifies 10 key elements for a new planning Act, needed to restore balance, transparency and accountability to the planning system.

This report was commissioned by the Total Environment Centre and the Nature Conservation Council of NSW.

14 Dec 2010 - Download PDF

briefing notes

Six big changes to the Planning Act in 2017 (and three missed opportunities)

2017 - Download PDF

Listen to our podcast about the reforms

The NSW Government is proposing to amend our State planning laws – updating the Act’s objects and structure, clearer public participation requirements and timeframes, reforms to state and local decision-making panels, speeding up decisions on large and small development, and putting another nail in the coffin of the former ‘Part 3A’ major projects pathway.

The community has until Friday 31 March 2017 to comment. The Government will then introduce a revised Bill to Parliament.

This briefing note from EDO NSW explains some of the major changes and how the Bill relates to other reforms. It also identifies some missed opportunities – or ways to do better – that should be addressed before the Bill hits Parliament. This overview should give you a head start if you plan to comment. Our detailed submission to Government will be on the EDO NSW website ahead of the due date.


Help plan for a sustainable future »

Northern Councils E Zone Review Final Recommendations Report

December 2015 - Download PDF

This briefing note outlines the NSW Government’s changes to the way that councils can
set land aside for environmental conservation and management in the Far North Coast
of NSW, and the wider implications for the rest of the State.

EPBC Amendment (Bilateral Agreement Implementation) Bill 2014

September 2015 - Download PDF


The EPBC Amendment (Bilateral Agreement Implementation) Bill would make it easier for the Federal Government to pass its oversight of national environmental impacts over to States and Territories. 

ANEDO - Objections to the proposal for an environmental ‘one stop shop’

December 2013 - Download PDF

Preliminary Briefing Note and Key Issues Summary - NSW Government Planning Review - White Paper

May 2013 - Download PDF

Key Issues Summary: NSW Government Planning Review Green Paper - EDO NSW Preliminary Briefing Note 

July 2012 - Download PDF

Changes in Environmental Planning And Assessment Amendment (Part 3A Repeal) Bill 2011

2011 - Download PDF