The new Crown Land Management Act 2016 is set to come into force this year. Importantly, the new Act will change the way local councils manage Crown reserves. In the future, local councils will manage Crown reserves as public land under the Local Government Act 1993. This means that Crown reserves that are classifed as community land will be governed by plans of management made under the Local Government Act 1993. In this article, we share our tips on how councils can continue to prepare for these imminent changes.
Plans of management for community land
When the new Act commences, the majority of Council managed Crown reserves will be classified as community land. This means councils must have in place a plan of management for the land which is prepared under the Local Government Act 1993.
Local councils will have three years from the start of the new Act to phase in plans of management for Crown reserves. There will be a couple of options available including:
- amend an existing plan of management; or
- create a new plan of management.
In either case, local councils can follow a simplified process the first time round. Notably under this simplified process local councils will not need to hold a public hearing (which is normally part of the process for preparing a plan of management under the Local Government Act 1993) where the Crown reserve purpose matches the categorisation of the land under the Local Government Act 1993.
Where the Crown reserve purpose needs to be changed to reflect the categorisation, then local councils will need to hold a public hearing and obtain the written consent of the Minister.
The most appropriate option will depend on the purpose and use of the Crown reserve and also what plans of management Council has already adopted for its management of its own community land. Either way, setting up public land management right the first time is far more important than just taking the easy road.
Getting prepared for changes to plans of management
With this in mind, there are a number of practical steps councils can start taking to prepare for the imminent changes.
Firstly, councils should (if they haven’t already done so) undertake a thorough review of Crown reserves in their local government area to decide the appropriate classification of the land under the Local Government Act 1993 (ie community or operational).
Secondly, for Crown reserves that will be classified as community (which will be the majority of Crown land), councils should consider the categorisation of that land under the Local Government Act 1993. This will require an examination of the purpose of the Crown reserve and categories available. These categories are:
- Natural area (this could be bushland, wetland, escarpment, watercourse or foreshore)
- Area of cultural significance
- General community use
As noted above, the categorisation of Crown reserves in the plan of management is an important step as it impacts upon the process that councils need to follow. It is also critical because the categorisation can only be changed in the future if the Minister gives written consent for a plan of management to change it. With this in mind, the task of allocating a categoy to Crown reserves needs be done carefully so that it is correct the first time round.
Lastly, councils should complete an audit of their existing plans of management for their own community land to decide if these can be amended to include any Crown reserves. This means identifying the Crown reserves which may fall within an existing plan of management and the Crown reserves where a new plan of management will need to be created.
Office of Local Government Assistance
Whilst the Department of Industry is still the key State government department responsible for rolling out the changes, the Office of Local Government is creating guidance material, training programs and funding to support councils through the transition period for new plans of management. Watch out for funding from the OLG to help with the cost of complying with the new requirements. For more information go to the OLG website.
If you need assistance in reviewing Crown reserves in your local government or need an experienced eye to look over your existing plans of management, please get in contact with Steve or Cinnamon, who are both highly experienced in public land management: