Legislation Series: Updates to the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act 1979


This post is the first in a series that will provide an overview and analysis of the updates to the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act 1979 (the Act), which commenced on 1 March.


The updates to the Act are the product of a two-stage process which involved:

  • Initial consultation with broad stakeholder engagement to understand the demand for legislation reform, obtaining feedback about the planning system and testing options; and
  • Formal consultation on the Government’s proposal, release of the draft Bill and consultation papers for public viewing from 9 January to 31 March 2017.

The first set of updates commenced on 1 March 2018. The remaining amendments will be implemented on a staged basis between 2018 and 2020. Cumulatively, the updates will be the most significant amendments since the Act came into force. It’s evident that the updates to the Act are designed to achieve better outcomes through improved planning decision-making.

Division of updates

Broadly speaking, the updates to the Act can be divided into either one of the following categories:

  • Mission: It’s clear that the Department of Planning and Environment (the Department) approached these updates as an opportune time to reinvigorate the strategic purpose of the Act and to rebalance the Act’s focus towards better strategic planning and decision making. As a result the updates:
    • reinforce the previous objects of the Act;
    • enhance key planning and environmental assessment principles such as community consultation and strategic long-term planning; and
    • potentially reduce the prospects of legal proceedings, notably planning appeals.
  • Procedures and probity: In conjunction with the New South Wales Government’s broader regulatory reform agenda under the Quality Regulatory Services Initiative, updates to the Act seek to streamline existing procedures and reduce red tape and duplication. At the same time it’s evident that the Government is seeking to improve the effectiveness of, as well as develop more robust review, appeal and enforcement instruments.

Before we go any further

We can anticipate that many of our readers will be at the coalface of these updates so it’s important that you’re aware of some fundamentals:

  • Transitional numbering arrangements: Throughout the Act (including Schedules) old numbering means new and vice versa.
  • Numbering and structural changes: The Department’s website[1] provides a table which clearly lists all the changes that are part of the recent update. Changes are effective from 1 March 2018.

Changes to the Act will be rolled out over the following schedule:

Number Change Focus of Change Commencement Date
1 Objects (Part 1) Mission 1 March 2018
2 State Significant Development and Ending Part 3A (Part 4) Mission 1 March 2018
3 Local Planning Panels (Part 2) Procedures and Probity 1 March 2018
4 Infrastructure Delivery (Part 5) Procedures and Probity 1 March 2018
5 Reviews and Appeals (Part 8) Procedures and Probity 1 March 2018
6 Enforcement Measures (Part 9) Procedures and Probity 1 March 2018
7 Independent Planning Commission (Part 2) Procedures and Probity Name change to be effective from 1 March 2018. Hearing process changes to commence in July 2018.
8 Infrastructure Contribution (Part 7) Procedures and Probity Changes to planning agreements from 1 March. Guidance to stakeholders to be provided later.
9 Community Participation Plans (Part 2) Procedures and Probity For submitted Development Approvals after 1 July 2018, Community Participation Plans to commence in late 2019
10 Development Controls and Approvals (Part 4) Mission Powers for Secretary to negotiate blockages to commence mid-2018. Guidance material to be developed before implementation in late 2018. DCP model to commence mid-2020,
11 Building and Subdivision (Part 6) Procedures and Probity 1 September 2018
12 Strategic Planning Statements (Part 3) Mission 1 July 2019 (Sydney Councils) or 1 July 2020. Earliest date for Statements to be completed between mid-late 2019
13 Complying Development (Part 4) Mission Late 2019

[1] Amendments to the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act 1979: New References, The Department of Planning and Environment (2018) Available online at: http://www.planning.nsw.gov.au/Policy-and-Legislation/Planning-legislations/Guide-to-the-updated-Environmental-Planning-and-Assessment-Act-1979/~/media/690839F19C8049009708C7CCF7CE9140.ashx

This post was prepared by Jock Steel


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