Agriculture NSW and land use planning

To retain opportunities for agriculture to grow, our Department provides advice to planning consent authorities and industry groups to support sustainable resource use and production opportunities.

The NSW Environmental Planning and Assessment framework

The Environmental Planning and Assessment (EP&A) Act 1979 provides the legislative framework for rural planning and development control in New South Wales.

Our role is to promote the interests of sustainable agriculture in the context of state government policies. Agriculture NSW Policy for the Maintenance of Agricultural Land (PDF, 58.18 KB) aims to guide the planning system in providing certainty and security for agricultural enterprises.

Plan Making

The EP&A Act requires the development of state and local plans that provide a framework for the location and regulation of land use.  Land Use plans may broadly cover key issues for the state or they may specify local zones for specific types of activity and what criteria those land uses need to satisfy.

State issues are covered by: State Environmental Planning Policies (SEPPs), Regional Strategies or Region Environmental Plans (REPs) and Ministerial Directions.

Local issues are covered by: Local Environmental Plans (LEPs) and Development Control Plans (DCPs).

Plan Making Advice

To ensure that all plans retain opportunities for agriculture to grow, Agriculture NSW provides advice to councils and other authorities about provisions to create:

  • a stable environment for investment that avoids conflict between residential and agricultural neighbours
  • flexibility in the range of production systems that can be used, for example the opportunity to use best practice with minimum regulatory interference
  • opportunities to produce of a range of commodities
  • a critical mass (or cluster) of agricultural development that supports regional markets, processing facilities and related industries (e.g. equipment retailers).

In order to produce plans that deliver these features, the Department typically advises councils to develop strategies and policies that identify the agricultural lands best suited to support a diverse range of products, or that are particularly suited to a single product, for example bananas. Once identified, these lands should be zoned for agricultural production and supported by comprehensive zone objectives and appropriate development standards.

Development Assessment

The EP&A Act also provides for the merit based assessment of new or expanding developments in order to apply the rules set by planning policies and instruments. Depending on the size or importance of the development, the responsibility for assessing its impacts and determining whether it should be approved or not may rest with the local council or the State Government. Whichever way it goes, agencies like NSW DPI, with an interest in the development, participate in the assessment process.

It is important to note that despite a plan specifying a standard for subdivision or development, no automatic right to undertake this activity accrues to the landowner. Councils are compelled to assess each development application against a set of criteria before determining it. These criteria are listed in Section 79(c) of the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act 1979.

Development Control Advice

Agriculture NSW role in development control is to support informed decision making by advising consent authorities (usually local councils) on the agricultural impacts of development proposals. The Department also provides advice on features that support sustainable agricultural development. In the end, the decision to allow or refuse development falls to the council or Department of Planning & Infrastructure.

In advising consent authorities about the agricultural impacts of a proposal, the Department must consider:

  • the rules established by the planning system for the locality
  • the impact on the long-term sustainability of agriculture in the locality
  • the potential for conflict between residential and farming neighbours, and
  • the impact on land and water resources used for agriculture.

To help consent authorities identify important agricultural issues the Department has developed a range of development assessment guidelines for development that affects rural lands, such as rural subdivision. Agriculture NSW also provides advice on specific Intensive Agricultural development proposals in response to requests from local councils or the Department of Planning and Infrastructure.