LOCAL GOVERNMENT

 

The role of Local Government in NSW in relation to mineral and petroleum exploration and production is limited. The Mining SEPP establishes some coal seam gas exploration and production zones, which are expressed in the Local Environmental Plan. Also some minor development consents will be required from a Local Government for activities associated with mineral and petroleum exploration and production, such as the establishment of ‘mine camps’. This section overviews the limited role of local government in NSW in relation to mineral and petroleum exploration and production.

 

Local Environmental Plans and coal seam gas exclusion zones
 

What is a Local Environmental Plan?

A Local Environmental Plan guides the planning decisions made by Local Governments in Local Government areas and allows a local government to regulate the ways in which land (both private and public) may be used and protected through zoning and development controls.[i]

 

A Local Environmental Plan divides a Local Government Area into land use zones which specify what kind of development is allowed in each zone.

 

In recent years across the State, local governments have been required to prepare new Local Environmental Plans which conform to a template (or ‘standard instrument') Local Environmental Plan developed by the State Government.

 

Prior to the introduction of the standard instrument Local Environmental Plan, different approaches to plans were used by different local governments which resulted in the varied application of zoning across NSW.

 

Approximately 5500 different planning instruments existed across the State which included 3,100 different  land use zones and 1,700 land use definitions.  The standard form Local Environmental Plan applies a standard suite of 35 land use zones and approximately 250 land use definitions.

 

There are eight broad categories:

 

  • Rural Zones (RU)

  • Residential Zones (R)

  • Business Zones (B)

  • Industrial Zones (IN)

  • Special Purpose Zones (SP)

  • Recreation Zones (RE)

  • Environment Protection Zones (E)

  • Waterway Zones (W)

 

Local Environmental Plans and coal seam gas exclusion zones

Coal seam gas exclusion zones came into force in October 2013 which restrict where coal seam gas exploration and production can take place.

 

In accordance with the exclusions, new coal seam gas exploration and production cannot take place:

 

  • on or within 2km of land zoned as residential R1, R2, R3 and R4 (or equivalent zones), in a Local Environmental Plan;

  • on or within 2km of land zoned rural village RU5 (or equivalent zones), in a Local Environmental Plan.

 

Additionally, new coal seam gas activities are also excluded on or within 2km of certain lands mapped within the State Environmental Planning Policy (Mining, Petroleum Production and Extractive Industries) 2007, including:

  • areas identified as ‘village’ that did not meet the zoning criteria outlined above; and

  • future residential growth areas.

     

However, local governments are able to ‘opt out’ of coal seam gas exclusion zones by requesting the State Government exempt the local government area from coal seam gas exclusion zones.[ii]

 

Development consent for certain developments
 

Local Governments will be the consent authority for any mining or petroleum developments which are Designated Developments. However, this function will often be delegated to an independent Joint Regional Planning Panel established by the Minister for Planning.

 

Designated Developments are developments that have a high impact on the environment or are in an environmentally sensitive area and can only take place on land where it is permitted by the Local Environmental Plan in place in the local government area.

 

However, a Local Government is substantially limited in how it can control mining and petroleum development in the local government area through a Local Environment Plan because the controls of the plan can be overridden by a State Environmental Planning Policy.

 

For more information on Designated Development see:

Pre-production/Development Application Stage

 

Local government as landholder
 

In some instances a local government will be the ‘landholder’ of lands under the council’s control for the purposes of land access for mineral or petroleum exploration.

 

If a mining or petroleum explorer wishes to undertake exploration activities in council controlled land the explorer must negotiate a land access arrangement with the Local Government.

 

 

[i]  Lithgow City Council, What is a Local Environmental Plan?

[ii] State Environmental Planning Policy (Mining, Petroleum Production and Extractive Industries) 2007 (NSW) cl 9A(3).

 

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