Acts are general enabling laws whereas regulations are laws on matters of detail. Environmental Acts and regulations administered by the Department are listed here by topic.
The Department of Planning and Environment has responsibilities and functions under many pieces of environmental legislation.
DPE – Environment and Heritage is responsible for implementing, investigating and enforcing the legislation relating to Aboriginal cultural heritage.
The main piece of legislation for managing and protecting Aboriginal cultural heritage in New South Wales is the National Parks and Wildlife Act 1974 (NPW Act).
The NPW Act is complemented by the National Parks and Wildlife Regulation 2019 which:
- provides for the management of Aboriginal land, Aboriginal Places and Aboriginal objects
- makes administrative arrangements for Boards and Advisory Committees.
Aboriginal cultural heritage is also protected under the Heritage Act 1977, through the listing of State Heritage Register items which are of State significance.
The Department of Planning and Environment (the Department) is responsible for investigating and enforcing non-compliance with the legislation relating to biodiversity and threatened species (excluding fish and marine vegetation, which are the responsibility of the Department of Primary Industries).
Before 25 August 2017 the key pieces of NSW legislation for managing and protecting biodiversity and threatened species were:
National Parks and Wildlife Act 1974 (NPW Act)
Threatened Species Conservation Act 1995 (TSC Act)
Environmental Planning and Assessment Act 1979 (EP&A Act).
Land management and biodiversity conservation (LMBC) reforms commenced on 25 August 2017. The reforms repealed the TSC Act and several parts and provisions of the NPW Act that dealt with threatened species and communities, and protected wildlife. Provisions under the EP&A Act that dealt with threatened species impact assessments were also repealed.
The repealed provisions have been replaced with the Biodiversity Conservation Act 2016 (BC Act) and supporting regulations, which are administered by the Department.
The Department continues to regulate impacts to biodiversity and threatened species through:
- preparing strategies under a biodiversity conservation program to maximise long-term security of threatened species and ecological communities and minimise the risk of key threatening processes
- issuing biodiversity conservation licences
- issuing stop-work orders, interim protection orders and remediation directions
- entering into private land conservation agreements and joint management agreements
- administering biodiversity certification and the Biodiversity Offsets Scheme (BOS).
Like the TSC Act that it replaces, the BC Act is designed to:
- conserve biological diversity and promote ecologically sustainable development
- prevent the extinction and promote the recovery of threatened species and ecological communities
- protect habitat for threatened species and ecological communities
- ensure that the impact of any action affecting threatened species and ecological communities is properly assessed.
The BC Act provides for:
- the establishment of an independent Scientific Committee responsible for listing threatened species
- listing every threatened animal, plant, invertebrate and ecological community, using a specific process and specific criteria
- identifying areas of outstanding biodiversity values (including habitat that is critical to the survival of an endangered species, population or ecological community)
- prohibiting the harming, picking, possessing, buying or selling of individual threatened species
- encouragement of private sector conservation
- offsetting of certain development impacts
- consulting and cooperating with landholders, conservation groups, agencies, local councils and the general community
- considering biodiversity at the early stage of land-use planning and integrating biodiversity conservation with development-control processes
- licensing and enforcement.
From 25 August 2017, provisions in the EP&A Act and TSC Act dealing with assessment of impacts on threatened species, populations and ecological communities were repealed and replaced by provisions in the BC Act.
The BC Act requirements for impact assessment are significantly different as they introduce the Biodiversity Offsets Scheme (BOS). However, proponents of activities that are assessed under Part 5 of the EP&A Act can choose to continue with a traditional threatened species assessment process and species impact statement (SIS) under the BC Act rather than participating in the BOS.
Extensive savings and transitional provisions are also in place to preserve the continued operation of repealed provisions that relate to certain applications for approval under the EP&A Act. These provisions are contained in the Biodiversity Conservation (Savings and Transitional) Regulation 2017 (PDF 337KB).
Other relevant legislation
The NSW legislation for managing coastal areas includes:
Coastal Management Act 2016
The Coastal Management Act 2016 (CM Act) replaces the Coastal Protection Act 1979 and establishes the new strategic framework and objectives for coastal management in New South Wales.
The new Act promotes the strategic and integrated management, use and development of the coastal environment in an ecologically sustainable way, for the social, cultural and economic well-being of the people of New South Wales.
The CM Act defines the coastal zone as comprising 4 coastal management areas. These are:
- coastal wetlands and littoral rainforests area
- coastal vulnerability area
- coastal environment area
- coastal use area.
The CM Act establishes management objectives specific to each of these management areas, reflecting their different values to coastal communities.
These objectives are given effect strategically by developing and implementing coastal management programs and site specifically by applying development controls in the new State Environmental Planning Policy (Coastal Management) 2018 and a new local planning Ministerial Direction.
State Environmental Planning Policy (Coastal Management) 2018
The State Environmental Planning Policy (Coastal Management) 2018 (Coastal Management SEPP) updates and consolidates into one integrated policy the former SEPP 14 (Coastal Wetlands), SEPP 26 (Littoral Rainforests), and SEPP 71 (Coastal Protection), including clause 5.5 of the Standard Instrument – Principal Local Environment Plan.
The Coastal Management SEPP gives effect to the objectives in the Coastal Management Act 2016 from a land use planning perspective, by specifying how development proposals are assessed if they fall within the coastal zone.
The Coastal Management SEPP defines the 4 coastal management areas in the Act through detailed mapping and specifies assessment criteria that are tailored for each coastal management area. Detailed, interactive maps accompany the SEPP.
NSW Coastal Council
The NSW Coastal Council is appointed under Section 24 of the Coastal Management Act 2016. The Council provides independent and expert advice to the Minister administering the Act. The Minister may request that the Coastal Council provide advice about coastal issues to other public authorities.
DPE – EES administers only Part 6A of this Act, section 40(1A), and section 45 insofar as it relates to Part 6A.
Part 6A establishes the Climate Change Fund, which is used to promote water and energy savings and reduce the impact of climate change associated with water and energy activities. DPE – EES administers the Fund.
DPE – Environment and Heritage is responsible for implementing, investigating and enforcing the legislation relating to environmental heritage that is of State significance. This includes places, buildings, works, relics (including those recovered through archaeology), moveable objects and precincts.
The main piece of legislation for managing and protecting State significant environmental heritage in New South Wales is the Heritage Act 1977.
DPE – EES administers Part 2A of Chapter 6 of the Act. This Part allows councils to make environmental upgrade agreements with owners of certain building owners and finance providers, as a way of funding works to improve the energy, water or environmental efficiency of those buildings.
Part 5A of the Regulation relates to environmental upgrade agreements under Part 2A of Chapter 6 of the Local Government Act 1993 (that is, the only part of the Act administered by DPE – EES). Part 5A of the Regulation:
- defines environmental upgrade works that can be made the subject of an environmental upgrade agreement
- provides for the levying of environmental upgrade charges
- specifies mandatory guidelines with which councils must comply when dealing with environmental upgrade agreements.
Parts 2A, 3 and 4, and sections 15 and 30A insofar as they relate to those Parts, are jointly administered the Minister for Lands and Water and the Minister for the Environment. Parts 2A, 3 and 4 of the Act provide for the management of land degradation and erosion, the management of areas of erosion hazard and management of the impact of erosion on waterways.
DPE – EES carries out research for the purpose of conserving and restoring landscapes.
The NSW marine estate includes:
- coastal waters out to three nautical miles
- estuaries, and coastal lakes, lagoons and wetlands
- beaches, dunes, headlands and rock platforms.
The Act related to its management is the Marine Estate Management Act 2014.
This Act creates the Marine Estate Management Authority, an advisory council that provides input to planning for the entire NSW marine estate. DPE – EES and other agencies involved in managing the marine estate are represented on the Authority.
Through the National Parks and Wildlife Service, DPE – EES remains responsible for managing coastal national parks.
The Act is complemented by the Marine Estate Management Regulation 2009, which:
- allows the relevant Ministers to provide consent
- requires consent to be refused in certain circumstances, and allows it to be refused in others
- provides for the issuing of permits as the form by which consent is issued
- prescribes the powers of authorised officers
- prescribes penalty notice offences.
Before 25 August 2017, the main pieces of legislation for managing and protecting native vegetation were:
Native Vegetation Act 2003 (NV Act)
Native Vegetation Regulation 2013 (NV Regulation).
The NV Act and Regulation were repealed on 25 August 2017. Provisions regulating the clearing of native vegetation in rural areas are now contained in a new Part 5A of the Local Land Services Act 2013 (LLS Act) and, in respect of private native forestry, a new Part 5C of the Forestry Act 2012.
Provisions dealing with the clearing of native vegetation in urban, peri-urban and environmental areas are contained in the State Environmental Planning Policy (Biodiversity and Conservation) 2021, which is administered by the Department of Planning and Environment.
Part 5A of the LLS Act is generally administered by LLS. However, the Department has responsibility for native vegetation mapping and compliance under that Part of the Act.
Part 5C of the Forestry Act 2012 is administered by the EPA and provides an interim regulatory regime until the current forestry reform is completed.
Savings and transitional provisions that deal with existing property vegetation plans (PVPs) and development consents are contained in Part 14 of the Biodiversity Conservation (Savings and Transitional) Regulation 2017 (PDF 337KB).
DPE – EES manages national parks and other protected areas through the NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS).
The main Act governing the management of national parks and other reserves is:
National Parks and Wildlife Act 1974 (NPW Act).
Under the NPW Act, the EES Coordinator-General is responsible for the care, control and management of all national parks, historic sites, nature reserves, reserves, Aboriginal areas and state game reserves in NSW. State conservation areas, karst conservation reserves and regional parks are also administered under the Act.
The NPW Act is complemented by the National Parks and Wildlife Regulation 2019, which:
- provides for the regulation of the use of national parks and other areas administered by NPWS, including conduct generally, traffic and mooring of vessels
- provides for the preservation of public health in Kosciuszko National Park
- obliges the Snowy Hydro Company to comply with the Snowy Plan of Management
- specifies requirements for licensing and certification
- provides for the protection and care of fauna
- provides for the management of Aboriginal land and objects
- provides for Aboriginal people to be exempted from the restrictions imposed by various sections of the Act on the hunting of certain animals and the gathering of certain plants
- makes administrative arrangements for boards and advisory committees.
Types of parks and reserves
Parks and reserves that can be created under the NPW Act include:
- historic sites
- State conservation areas
- regional parks
- karst conservation reserves
- nature reserves
- Aboriginal areas.
DPE – EES is responsible for identifying land that might be dedicated as a park or reserve and managing its transfer to the parks system.
Joint management of parks
The NPW Act enables government to enter into joint management arrangements with local Aboriginal people to share responsibility for a park’s management.
In addition, the Native Title Act 1993 (Commonwealth) (Native Title Act) enables OEH to enter into indigenous land-use agreements.
DPE – EES enters into 3 main types of co-management agreements:
- Indigenous land-use agreements made under the Native Title Act
- lease-back arrangements under Part 4A of the NPW Act
- Memoranda of Understanding.
This Act enables approvals to be granted to carry out filming in national parks, marine parks and other areas regulated under the NPW Act provided certain criteria are met. The granting of such approval is limited in respect of wilderness areas to filming for educational, research or tourism purposes.
Under the Wilderness Act, DPE – EES is responsible for the investigation, protection and management of wilderness areas in NSW.
Before 25 August 2017, the main pieces of legislation for managing and protecting wildlife were:
National Parks and Wildlife Act 1974 (NPW Act)
National Parks and Wildlife Regulation 2009 (NPW Regulation).
The land management and biodiversity conservation (LMBC) reforms commenced on 25 August 2017. On that date, the provisions dealing with harm or damage to and picking of threatened or protected species, or habitat of threatened species and communities, were repealed, and replaced with similar (but not identical) provisions in Part 2 of the Biodiversity Conservation Act 2016 and Biodiversity Conservation Regulation 2017.Savings and transitional provisions that deal with existing licences and certificates are contained in the Biodiversity Conservation (Savings and Transitional) Regulation 2017 (PDF 337KB).