The recent announcement of changes to the Crown Land Management Regulation 2018 (the Regulation) has resulted in some modifications to how local councils, as Crown land managers, may go about the preparation of Plans of Management (POM) for Crown land.
Key changes for local councils
Many councils are part way through the process of preparing POMs for Crown land and we have been pleased to assist a number of councils with these. With the new regulations, we have also been working with our clients to understand what these changes mean on a practical level.
So far, the key takeaways are:
- local councils are still required to classify the land and prepare a POM for Crown land that is classified as ‘community’ – there is just now no deadline to do so
- the process has been simplified by removing the requirement for a public hearing where it is proposed to change the ‘initial category’ of the land
- but there is now also an extra step in the process to obtain Ministerial consent to formally adopt the POM
Here we unpack these three main changes.
1. Removal of deadline for preparation of POMs
Previously, councils had to prepare the first POM for Crown land classified as ‘community’ by 1 July 2021. This deadline has been removed.
This does not remove the requirement for councils to prepare POMs for these Crown reserves. Importantly, the Regulation still refers to section 36(1) of the Local Government Act 1993, that ‘A council must prepare a draft plan of management for community land’.
According to advice from the NSW Department of Planning, Industry & Environment, by removing the 1 July 2021 timeframe, councils now have flexibility in their approach. For example, by prioritising highly used and highly valued Crown reserves.
It should also be noted that section 44 of the Local Government Act 1993 still applies. This means that councils cannot change the nature or use of the land unless a POM has been adopted. For example, this situation would arise where council is removing a community hall to provide a sports facility. In this case, council would need to adopt a POM before the nature or use of the land is changed.
2. Removal of requirement for public hearings
Previously, if a council intended to change the ‘initial category’ agreed with the Minister in the first draft POM, then a public hearing was required to be held. This has now changed.
Councils are no longer required to hold a public hearing for the adoption of any POM. This includes any change to the category of the land.
3. New requirement for Ministerial consent
Previously, a POM was sent to Crown Land for approval before being formally exhibited. After exhibition, the POM could be adopted by council and apply to the relevant reserve/s. Now there is an extra step in the process.
Councils are still required to obtain Crown Land approval before exhibition of the POM. In addition, councils must now also obtain the consent of the Minister following exhibition and before adoption. This ensures that councils do not adopt a POM with additional changes after Crown Land has given its original consent.
Options for POM preparation
On a practical level, the changes present a number of options for councils in preparing POMs for Crown reserves:
- Continue preparing POMs for all council managed Crown land reserves, minus the time pressure.
- Concentrate resources on developing POMs for reserves that are highly valued and highly used by the community. For example, this is an opportunity to combine a site specific POM with a master planning process. Councils could then complete a generic POM for less used reserves at a later date.
- Consolidate all reserves into a single generic POM. As all ‘community’ land must have a POM, the single consolidated generic POM process can save councils additional time, money and resources by having one POM for Crown land to review and update in the future.
We have been working with a number of councils in preparing POMs and considering what option would best suit their needs. All options have their own individual merit based on the use and the number of reserves in each local government area, as well as the stage council is at in preparing POMs for Crown land.
If you want to talk over the implications of these changes for your council, please contact Steve Thompson, Director Strategy & Planning: