The Department of Environment of Planning was established by the Environment Planning and Assessment Act, 1979 (Act No.203, 1979). (1) The Department officially commenced on 1 September 1980. (2) The replacement of the Environment and Planning Commission by the Department represented a development in the progress of planning within the State when a cental planning co-ordinating agency was required. The Environmental Planning and Assessment Act was the centrepiece of a range of initiatives related to planning passed by the New South Wales Parliament in 1979. Consequential to the enactment was repeal and amendment of a range of existing of legislation related to planning; establishment of the Land and Environment Court with a greater emphasis on environmental impact than its predecessor, the Land and Valuation Court 1921-1980 by the Land and Environment Court Act, 1979 (Act No.204, 1979); changes to the Heritage Act to allow for the existence of the Department and the Court by the Heritage (Amendment) Act, 1979 (Act No.206, 1979); and further regulation of the height of buildings by the Height of Buildings (Amendment) Act, 1979 (Act No.207, 1979).
The Minister was ‘corporation sole’ but in effect the Department carried out the responsibilities of the corporation.
The role of the Department was to carry out the Government Planning and Environmental policy. This included encouraging the following:
(1) proper management, development and conservation of natural and man-made resources including agricultural land, natural areas, forests, minerals, water, cities, towns and villages for the purpose of promoting the social and economic welfare of the community and a better environment;
(2) promotion and co-ordination of the orderly and economic use and development of land;
(3) protection, provision and co-ordination of communication;
(4) provision of land for public purposes;
(5) provision and co-ordination of community services and facilities; and
(6) protection of the environment.
The functions also included:
promoting the sharing of responsibility for environmental planning between the different levels of government in the State; and
providing opportunity for public involvement and participation in environmental planning and assessment. (3)
The role of the Minister for Planning and Environment included also included:
carrying out research into the problems of environmental planning and assessment; disseminating information e.g. by issuing memoranda, reports, Bulletins, maps and plans; advising councils on matters related to environmental planning and assessment;
promoting the co-ordination of public utility and community service facilities throughout NSW;
investigating the social aspects of economic activity and population distribution in relation to utility services and facilities; and
monitoring progress in environmental planning and assessment, taking remedial action when necessary. (4)
The Department acquired land for the purposes of the Act and the following powers ensued:
(1) acquisition of land to which an environmental planning instrument applied and which the Minister believed should be made available in the public interest for a particular purpose;
(2) receiving by gift or bequest any property for the Environmental Planning agreeing to conditions where necessary; (5)
(3) resuming land for purposes under the Act; (6)
(4) disposing, granting easements or rights of way or dealing with land in other ways in order to fulfil its objectives. The Department could impose conditions on the purchaser of such land. This function could include (but was not restricted to) the following: requiring a building be erected within a given period; having the option to re-purchase if such conditions were not met, or if the purchaser wished to dispose of the land earlier than this specified time; and having the right to determine the re-purchase price. (7)
The Department could also (a) manage any land vested in it; (b) instigate surveys of land vested in it or proposed to be acquired by it; (c) following publication in the Government Gazette close any public road or part thereof within or adjacent to land vested in it; (d) authorise the demolition of any building on land vested in it provided that the Department is in exclusive possession of the land; (e) arrange for the location or relocation of utilities within or adjoining land vested in it; (f) subdivide or re-subdivide land vested in it; (g) authorise the construction of road in land vested in it; (h) build, alter or improve buildings located on land vested in it; (i) authorise any work to be done on land vested in it in order to prepare the land for the purpose for which it would be used under and environmental or planning instrument; (j) dedicate any land for public purposes, fence, plant and improve as required following notification in the Government Gazette. (8)
The Department was under the control of the Director. The role of the Director included submitting environment and planning proposals to the Minister including those for the development and use of land whether or not in conjunction with utilities and public transport facilities; considering and providing reports, and making recommendations to the minister upon any matter or proposal relating to the development and use of land or environmental planning and assessment. (9)
The Minister, Corporation or Department could delegate any responsibilities to an officer of the Department, committee or council. (10) The Act specifically allowed for the establishment of the following Committees: Advisory Co-ordinating Committee (11); Local Government Liaison Committee (12): Environment and Planning Advisory Committee (12) and allowed for the Director to establish other committees as required. (13)
By 1982 regional offices had been established in Grafton; Newcastle West; Wollongong; Rockdale; Gosford South; Campbelltown; Blacktown and Queanbeyan. (14)
In accordance with the Act local planning (or planning and development) committees had been set up in a number of localities by 1985 – viz: central coast, Circular Quay; Hunter; Illawarra; Richmond-Tweed, South Coast; Western Sydney. The role of these committees varied in detail but most included advising the Minister and the Director concerning the following in the area of the Committee’s responsibility: environmental planning, development, acquisition and disposal of land for public purposes; co-ordination of public and private sector activities to secure orderly, economic and socially and environmentally satisfactory development and use of land;
provision of roads, public transport and community facilities and services
Investigation and reports on environmental planning, environmental impact, heritage, social community development; public utility services, transport and other matters:
assistance to councils
liaison with community, councils; other public authorities and private sector interests. (15)
Besides the committees with local responsibilities there were specialist committees including the Environmental Education Advisory Committee; Height of Buildings Advisory Committee and the Urban Development Committee. (16)
In September 1987 the Department and the Council of the City of Sydney established a joint planning unit to produce a plan for the City, The stages in this process were as follows:
An issues paper prepared as a basis for discussion.
a strategy setting broad directions for growth including building height and floor space standards, urban design, heritage and environmental factors and review of the pedestrian network; the strategy was to be exhibited and developed into;
a detailed statutory plan to be used as a basis for public and private investment in the City.
The issues paper was completed in November 1987 and seminars reached 130 stakeholders. The themes of the strategy were ‘Sydney is a special place’; ‘Sydney in a central place’; and ‘Sydney is a place for people’. (17)
In February 1988 the Department published ‘Sydney Into Its Third Century’. This followed two earlier plans, which had been published by previous planning agencies for the government- viz. County of Cumberland Plan (1951) and Sydney Region Outline Plan (1968). The new plan envisaged a population of 4.5 million (in about 2010) most of who would be housed in newly developing areas. The plan envisaged that
expansion occurring along transport routes;
new areas for urban growth would be in the Northwest; Southwest, Bringelly and the Central Coast
a number of regional and sub-regional centres which were identified
The major commercial centres would, however, continue to be the City/ North Sydney Central Business District and Parramatta where 30% of employment would be located.
The new plan was not statutory and intended as a context for local plans and to assist in public and private sector development decisions. (18)
On 25 March 1988 the Department was re-named the Department of Planning although its role and functions were substantially unchanged. (19) At 30 June 1988 the corporate structure consisted of three assistant directors and the following branches - Administrative Division; Two Planning Divisions (North and South); Land and Estates Division; Policy and Research Division and Environment Protection Division. (20)
By the beginning of the 1990’s it was clear that Sydney could not continue to expand at its boundaries, and a process of reviewing planning policies commenced. Two such instruments, which would profoundly affect the planning of Sydney, were the State Environment Planning Policy No 32 and the Greater Metropolitan Regional Environment Plan No. 1. These documents enabled land no longer required for its zoned use to be developed for high-density housing. Sites affected by these policies were primarily former industrial sites. The State Environmental Planning Policy No. 25 was also revisited to broaden the application of dual occupancy throughout the suburbs. (21)
The various agencies concerned with urban management joined to review planning in Metropolitan Sydney. The process involved consultation with other levels of government and the community to ensure that changing concerns and priorities were represented. The resulting document ‘Sydney’s Future’ was issued in October 1993 as the first milestone of an on-going process. The major goals developed during the review were:
a more compact city which uses services and space efficiently;
a more equitable spread of homes, employment and services; and
integrated planning of the built and natural environments.
An Urban Policy Committee of Cabinet was established in 1993/94 in order to ensure that urban management issues received high propriety. The Committee was chaired by the Minister for Planning. The members of the committee included the ministers for transport, environment, housing, local government, community services and Treasury. (22)
The Departmental structure changed in the year ended 30 June 1994 to consist of four divisions each reporting to as assistant or deputy director: State and Regional Planning; Metropolitan Planning; Environmental Management and Assessments and Special Projects and Corporate Management. (23)
The Department was re-named the Department of Urban Affairs and Planning on 5 April 1995. (24) Although the proclamation refers this alteration as a ‘change of name’ it would appear that a new Department was formed by the addition of functions to assist with the growing role and importance of urban development. It would also appear that the Department considered itself a new entity. The Director-General’s report beginning as follows: “The creation of the Department in April 1995 was a central part of the Government strategy for an integrated approach to manage growth in New South Wales”. (25)
1. Environment Planning and Assessment Act, 1979 (Act No.203, 1979) s. 16.
2. NSW Government Gazette No.91, 4 July 1980, p.3366.
3. Environment Planning and Assessment Act, 1979 s.5.
4. Ibid. s. 7.
5. Ibid. s. 9.
6. Ibid. s. 10.
7. Ibid. s. 11 (1)-(2).
8. Ibid. s. 11 (3)-(4).
9. Ibid. s. 15.
10. Ibid. s. 23.
11. Ibid. s. 19.
12. Ibid. s. 21.
13. Ibid. s. 20.
14. The Government of New South Wales Directory of Administration and Services. 3rd edition, 1982, p.286.
15. Note: the existence of these local advisory committees is somewhat fluid, and most had either ceased or evolved into more formal statutory bodies by 1993.
16. NSW Government Directory, 4th edition, 1985. P 419-426
17. Department of Planning report for the year ended 30 June 1988 p. 11-13
18. Ibid. p. 2
19. NSW Government Gazette 25 March 1988 p. 2041
20. Department of Planning report, 1988 Op. Cit p. 6
21. Department of Planning report for the year ended 30 June 1992 p. 2-3
22. Department of Planning annual report for the year ended 30 June 1994 p. 11
23. Ibid. p. 7
24. NSW Government Gazette 5 April 1995 p. 1859
25. Department of Urban Affairs report for the year ended 30 June 1996 p 2.