AGY-3809 | Department of Urban Affairs and Planning (1995 - 2001) Department of Planning [II](2001-2003)

NSW State Archives Collection
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The Department of Urban Affairs and Planning was established on 5 April 1995. The new agency consisted of
the former Department of Planning, (1)
all branches from the Ministry of Housing, Planning and Urban Affairs apart from the Office of Real Estate Services; (2)
the City West Development Corporation, Honeysuckle Development Corporation and the Sydney Cove Re-development Authority from the Property Services Group which was abolished (3)

The proclamation had referred to the alteration in the activities of the Department as a ‘name change’, however there was considerable change in the administration and responsibilities and the Director-General clearly saw the Department as a new Agency. In her first annual report she says, “The creation of the department in April 1995 was a central part of the Government’s strategy for an integrated approach to managing growth in New South Wales." (4).

The major legislation, which governed the functions of the Department, continued to be the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act, 1979 as amended, but the Department also administered other legislation including the Growth Centres (Development Corporations) Act, 1974, Heritage Act, 1977 Land Development Contribution Act, 1979; Land Development Contribution Management Act, 1970; and the Sydney Cove Development Authority Act, 1970.

The new Department consisted of three major functional divisions - State and Regional Planning; Metropolitan Planning; and Environmental Policy and Assessment. In addition there was a Corporate Management and Co-ordination Division. The Resources and Conservation Assessment Council; Office of Housing; Landcom, City West Development Corporation and Honeysuckle Development Corporation were maintained as separate operating units .

The role of the planning divisions was to promote environmental planning in New South Wales which met social and economic needs while maintaining and improving the natural and built environment; These divisions:
managed the planning system at a State and regional level;
developed planning processes which led to greater openness and efficiency of the planning system and development approval process;
ensured local environmental plans met State and regional planning objectives;
assessed major developments that contributed to the State’s economy and employment;
provided environmental impact assessment of forestry, mining and infrastructure projects;
undertook metropolitan strategic planning to create more compact cities that were ecologically sustainable;
facilitated major urban and redevelopment strategies by developing key precincts in major centres for residential, commercial, cultural and recreational purposes;
protected coastal, rural and other valuable natural resources of the State;
acquired and managed land for the purposes of coastal protection and regional recreation; and
promoted good building design

The Office of Housing policy aimed to develop a framework for affordable housing in NSW and to direct funds to housing providers and programs so that services were available to meet a variety of needs. The Office had the opportunity to match housing assistance strategies with State sustainable development aims. The Office also provided housing policy advice to the Minister; contracted suitable housing services from the public and private sector; managed the State-Commonwealth relationship in housing matters; and administered some schemes such as for the provision of housing to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders.

The purpose of Landcom was to develop residential land and supply industrial and commercial land. [New South Wales Land and Housing Corporation 'Landcom' had been proclaimed to transfer to the Department of Housing, but in fact was administered within the Department of Urban Affairs and Planning.] (5)

The City West and Honeysuckle Development Corporations were created under the Growth Centres (Development Corporations) Act, 1974. These bodies undertook projects (often on surplus government land) within their own geographical areas, but these were managed by the officers of the Department. The City West Corporation managed land at Central Railway precinct, Ultimo, Pyrmont, Eveleigh and ‘The Bays’. [The City West Corporation was removed from the Department in January 1999 when it was abolished to form part of the Sydney Harbour Foreshore Authority]. The Honeysuckle Corporation redeveloped land on the foreshores adjacent to the Newcastle CBD.

The Resource Conservation Assessment Council provided the Government with advice on forestry issues. While the Council had its own staff and secretariat it was supported by the Department. (6)

In May 1996 the Department ceased to administer the Heritage Act following the formation of the Heritage Office, however heritage continued to be a major consideration in the activities of the Department. (7)

In 1996/97 Office of Housing Policy and the Metropolitan Planning Division were combined to become the Housing and Metropolitan Division. The Division consisted of seven functional units - The Housing Office; Housing and urban Development Branch; Planning Systems and State Policy Branch; Metropolitan Planning Branch; Urban Design and Advisory Service; Office of Community Housing; and the Division of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Housing (8)

In 1996 the South Sydney Development Corporation was added to the department. Its role was to oversee urban renewal in the area between the Sydney Central Business District and the Sydney Airport. (9)

The Environmental Planning and Assessment (amendment) Act, 1997 introduced ‘State Significant developments’. Examples of these developments include coal mines; industrial developments with a value of at least $M20; landfills; and development on harbour-front State-owned sites. These developments required Ministerial rather than local council approval. (10)

A restructure of the agency occurred in 1997/98. The major Divisions were as follows: Metropolitan Planning; Metropolitan Area Management; Housing and Urban Development; Sustainable Development; Planning System and Regional NSW Planning; Resource and Conservation; and Corporate Business and Management.

The purpose of the Metropolitan Planning Division was to
co-ordinate metropolitan policy development;
Implement metropolitan policies through regional and local planning; and
Manage and promote relationships with stakeholders (including Councils)

The Division consisted of those responsible for monitoring, reviewing and implementing metropolitan strategies and policies, and the regional planning teams working in the Greater Metropolitan Area. (the Sydney basin, Lower Hunter, Illawarra and Central Coast) (11)

The role of the Regional NSW Planning Division was to
co-ordinate the integration of rural and natural resource policy development across the various sectors;
develop state-wide planning and policy;
implement regional NSW rural and natural resource policies through state-wide, regional and local planning; and
manage and promote relationships with natural resource and other stakeholders (including councils). (12)

The role of the Sustainable Development Division was to
conduct the assessment of, and advise on, particular development approvals including complex, State significant, major industrial, mining and resource, major infrastructure and major hazard-generating developments;
co-ordinate and develop environmental impact assessment policy and strategic assessment; and
manage and promote relationships with stakeholders including government agencies, developers, affected constituencies and communities (13)

The role of the Resource and Conservation Division was to
assess forest resources and attributes;
allocate land for forest use and conservation;
ensure compliance with conditions of operating licences for Water Corporations; and
manage and promote relationships with natural resource and other stakeholders. (14)

The Festival Development Corporation was formed in November 1998 with the goals of bringing economic benefits and increased employment in the Central Coast area. 156 hectares of public land at Mount Penang was to be converted into facilities for festivals and events and between these major activities provide recreation and sporting facilities for the public. (15)

The Office of the Sydney Harbour Manager was established within the Department in 1999/2000. The role of the office was to develop a plan for protecting the environment of the Harbour including an integrated research agenda for the Harbour and its catchment. Several government agencies worked co-operatively to attain whole-of-government outcomes for the Harbour. (16) A geographic information System (known as Splash) was developed to collate information about the Harbour and to make available on the Internet maps, overlays, databases and other documents. (17)

In late November 2001 the Department was re-named The Department of Planning (18). It was known as ‘PlanningNSW’. (19) The structure of the agency was changed to include five functional divisions - Metropolitan Planning; Regional and Rural Planning; Sustainable Development; Planning and Building System; Resource and Conservation. These divisions were supported by a Corporate and Business Management Division. (20)

In the year 2001/2 a new planning system known as planFIRST was introduced. The system consisted of a single plan for the State, one plan for each region and one for each of the 173 councils (21) ‘Place-based management’ was continued with the appointment of ‘place managers’ who worked directly with Councils seeking to develop trust between agencies, business, experts, developers, and residents, and to break down barriers caused by necessary procedures, the operating cultures of the various bodies concerned, technical language and other reasons. (22)

Immediately after the NSW General Election held on 22 March 2003 these administrative changes were foreshadowed. The Department of Planning (Planning NSW) was abolished. Most of the Department was to combine with the following units to combine to become the Department of Urban and Transport Planning. :
the Infrastructure Co-Ordination Unit of the Premier’s Department and
the staff of the Department of Transport who deal principally with Transport planning (23)

However, these units:
Resource and Conservation Division and
the staff who worked principally for the Coastal Council
were to join with several other agencies to form the new Department of Sustainable Natural Resources. (24)

The Department of Urban and Transport Planning was established by 9 May 2003. (25)

End Notes
(1) NSW Government Gazette 5 April 1995 p. 1859, Changing names of Departments and Administrative Offices (n)
(2) Ibid. p. 1860 Abolition of Departments and Administrative Offices and transfer of branches (v) (ii)
(3) Ibid p. 1861 Changing names of Departments and Administrative Offices (aa) (i)
(4) Report of the Department of Urban Affairs and Planning for the year ended 30 June 1996 p. 2
(5) NSW Government Gazette 5 April 1995 p. 1860, - Changing names of Departments and Administrative Offices (aa) (iv)
(6) Report of the Department of Urban Affairs and Planning, 1996 p. 8-9
(7) NSW Government Policy Statement: 'Creation of a Heritage Office' April 1996? Reproduced in Report of the Heritage Council of NSW report for the year ended 30 June 1997 p. 37
(8) Report of the Department of Urban Affairs and Planning for the year ended 30 June, 1997 p.21
(9) Ibid. p. 84
(10) Report of the Department of Urban Affairs and Planning for the year ended 30 June, 1998 p. 10
(11) Ibid. p. 15
(12) Ibid. p. 24
(13) Ibid. p. 32
(14) Ibid. p. 54
(15) Report of the Department of Urban Affairs and Planning for the year ended 30 June, 2000 p. 45-46
(16) Ibid. p. 11
(17) Ibid. p. 38
(18) The new name was apparently not formally proclaimed. The name Department of Urban Affairs and Planning was used for notices in the NSW Government Gazette of 23 November 2001. While in the following Gazette of 30 November 2001 the name Department of Planning was used.
(19) Report of planningnsw for the year ended 30 June 2002 p. 1
(20) Ibid. p. 3
(21) Ibid. p. 9
(22) Ibid. p. 21
(23) NSW Government Gazette 2 April 2003 Special Supplement p. 4326, 4328
(24) Loc. cit.
(25) NSW Government Gazette 9 May, 2003 p 4679ff.

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