Crown Lands

The long anticipated Crown Land Management Bill was introduced into the NSW Parliament on 19 October 2016. The introduction of the Bill follows a major review of Crown land management and legislation that commenced in 2012. There was extensive consultation with local government during the review process. Councils currently manage around 7,765 crown reserves.
 
LGNSW strongly advocated for reform of Crown land management for many years and is pleased that many of the changes sought by local government have been taken up in the Bill.  
 
In particular, LGNSW argued that any transfers of Crown land to councils must be subject to council agreement, to protect councils from cost and responsibility shifting. Our advocacy on this point has been successful with this condition provided by Section 4.6 1 (b) of the Bill.
 
Transferred land will remain subject to existing provisions like the Commonwealth native title legislation and we understand government will provide training to Councils in this regard.
 
Key elements of the Bill relating to local government include:  

Councils managing Crown reserves

  • The Bill will enable councils to manage their Crown land reserves as if they were council-owned land under the Local Government Act 1993 (LGA). 
  • Councils will not generally be required to seek the Minister for Lands’ approval for dealings. Instead, in most cases councils will manage these reserves as if they were community land.  
  • There will be the ability to manage land as operational land in appropriate circumstances.
  • The requirement to have plans of management for each reserve that is classified as community land will be phased in over time and councils will not have to go through the full LGA process for initial plans.  To address initial costs, some financial assistance from the Government will be available. 
  • Councils will continue to be eligible to apply for grants from the Public Reserve Management Fund Program to support their management and up-keep of Crown reserves.

Local ownership

  • The Bill allows land identified as being of local significance to be vested in councils where this is agreed by the councils.  
  • The rationale is that councils are best placed to make decisions on land of local significance and that ownership will reduce the council’s cost of managing land, simplify the approval and decision making and enhance benefits to local communities. 
  • There will be no forced transfers - the Bill explicitly requires agreement to any vesting.
  • While land will generally be transferred as community land, the Bill provides for pragmatic exceptions to this in cases where operational classification is appropriate. 
  • Once land is transferred, income generated by that land will be retained by the council.

Native Title

  • Councils as Crown land managers already are responsible for complying with the Commonwealth Native Title Act in all their dealings and activities.
  • The Bill recognises this and clarifies responsibilities where native title has not been extinguished or determined. 
  • It includes provisions requiring councils to appoint trained native title managers to ensure compliance with their obligations under the Commonwealth Native Title Act.  This will ensure that councils have the ability to meet their native title obligations.
  • The State will pay for initial training for native title managers for all councils.
  • The new vesting provisions will also allow land to be transferred to council ownership where native title has not been extinguished.  All transfers will be voluntary.
 
The Bill is available on the NSW Parliamentary website.
 
More information about the Bill, including factsheets outlining key elements are available on the Lands website.