Following a four-year review of existing Crown Land management and legislation, the Crown Land Management Act was passed in 2016 and commenced on 1 July 2018.
NSW councils currently manage approximately 7,765 crown reserves across the state, which meant extensive consultation with local government was required as part of the review process.
Local Government NSW (LGNSW) advocated strongly for Crown Land management reform, and was therefore pleased to see many of the changes sought by local government adopted in the Act.
In particular, we successfully argued that any transfers of Crown Land to councils must be subject to council agreement in order to protect councils from cost and responsibility shifting.
LGNSW continues to advocate for funding and other resources to be made available to assist councils in implementing and exercising their new responsibilities under the Act. These include the requirement to produce Plans of Management (PoMs) for all parcels of Crown Land under council management and new responsibilities as Native Title Managers for these lands.
Key elements of the Act relating to local government
Councils managing Crown reserves
- The Act 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.
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’s classified as community land will be phased in over time and councils won’t have to go through the full LGA process for initial plans. Some financial assistance will be available from the Government for initial costs.
- 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.
- The Act allows land identified as being of local significance to be vested in councils where 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 approval and decision making, and enhance benefits to local communities.
- There will be no forced transfers - the Act explicitly requires agreement to any vesting.
- While land will generally be transferred as community land, the Act provides for pragmatic exceptions to this in cases where operational classification is appropriate.
Once land is transferred, income generated by that land would be retained by the council.
- As Crown Land managers, councils are already responsible for complying with the Commonwealth Native Title Act in all their dealings and activities.
- The Crown Land Management Act 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 councils have the ability to meet their Native Title obligations.
- The NSW Government has produced a Native Title Manager Workbook.
- 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.
More information on the Act (including fact sheets) can be found on the Department of Industry and Office of Local Government websites.
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