‘State Strategic Plan – A Vision for Crown Lands’

Shelter NSW submission

The Draft State Strategic Plan – A Vision for Crown Land report by the NSW Government outlined a proposed vision and strategy for the management of Crown land across NSW into the future. The Crown lands strategic plan defined several priorities and actions related to the following topic areas.

  • Enable jobs growth, commercial opportunities and sustainable economic progress in regional and rural NSW
  • Expand green space, sustainable quality of life and climate change resilience
  • Strengthen and support evolving community connections
  • Work with Aboriginal communities to realise the potential of their land rights.

Due to the linked relationship between Crown land and the NSW Aboriginal Land Rights Act 1983, Shelter consulted with peak Aboriginal organisation regarding our submission to the Draft Strategic Plan.

Image: Stacey Miers, far west NSW, October 2020

Shelter’s submission directly addressed each of the priority topic areas. It provided a broad overview of Shelters NSW concerns followed by a set of recommendations.

Summary of Shelter NSW’s Submission to the Stated Strategic Priorities

Enable Jobs Growth, Commercial Opportunities and Sustainable Economic Progress in Regional and Rural NSW
Shelter NSW submission supported the opportunity outlined in the Crown Land strategy to make land available for wind and solar generation projects. It pointed out that access to cheaper energy was vital for lower-income households in remote and regional communities.
The submission identified that many Local Aboriginal Land Councils (LALC) have land that is suitable for wind and solar power generation facilities, suggesting that Crown Lands consult with LALC on joint venture opportunities.
Large energy producing projects also have the potential to deliver employment opportunities in regional NSW. Linked with this the submission encouraged the inclusion of an Indigenous employment program linked with energy project approvals. Shelter NSW made the following Recommendations:

  1. Investigate opportunities to work with LALC to deliver joint-venture projects, including joint use of Aboriginal land for wind and solar generation projects.
  2. Ensure that any new industry project includes an Aboriginal employment target, especially in regional communities.
  3. That Crown Lands prioritise far west NSW for wind and solar generation projects. This type of initiative will support the delivery of lower energy costs to these communities and provide employment opportunities.

Expand Green Space, Sustainable Quality of Life and Climate Change Resilience
The submissions supported the draft documents committed to transition to net-zero or net-positive greenhouse gas emissions. It also recognised that the NSW Government has adopted a priority to increase access to quality green public space by 2023 as part of the greater Sydney commission policy position.
The submission pointed out that the most significant loss of tree coverage had occurred in regional NSW due to the continual impact of land clearing. These practised in turn would result in rising   temperature for inland regional communities and therefore greening projects should include regional areas as well as urban centres. The submission also included a request to combine Crown Land greening projects with an employment strategy, especially for regional NSW. Shelter made the following Recommendations:

  1. To build resilience to the changing climate, that the NSW Government prioritise the use of Crown Land, particularly in regional NSW, to deliver green landscaped spaces in regional towns combined with an active tree planting program and employment initiatives.
  2. That NSW Government ensures that any greening project includes an Aboriginal employment target, especially in regional communities.
  3. That the NSW Government ensure that affordable renewable energy is accessible to all tenants and owners throughout NSW.
  4. Crown Lands should consult with Planning Authorities to ensure that town and city planning decisions are responsive to environmental hazards, such as bushfires, extreme heat, and flooding to mitigate the effects of climate change.
  5. Crown Lands engage genuinely with local Indigenous communities and leaders on questions of sustainability and environmental resilience.

Strengthen and Support Evolving Community Connections
The submission fully supported the use of Crown Land to expand the supply of affordable housing projects. Currently Crown land in NSW also provides affordable housing options in the form of Residential land lease communities (residential parks, caravan parks, manufactured home estates). As indicated in the draft Strategic NSW has almost 500 land lease communities, accommodating around 34,000 people. However, as pointed out by the Tenants’ Union of NSW (TU) review of the Residential (Land Lease) Communities in 2017, the Act has failed to deliver tenants or dwelling owners in Residential (Land Lease) Communities with basic rights. Shelter NSW made the following recommendations:

  1. That the Draft State Strategic Plan – A Vision for Crown Land provide opportunities to deliver housing affordability and security. That Crown Lands introduce policy measures that plan and direct Crown land resources towards the regulated non-for-profit public and affordable housing providers.
  2. That Crown Lands create a register of land suitable for the development of public and affordable housing projects. This register would be used to quantify the amount of land available and what proportion of demand can be met through Crown Land grants, to regulate not-for-profit, public and affordable housing providers at a discounted sales rate or long-term leasehold arrangements.
  3. Any Residential land lease communities on Crown land should address the following:
  • strict compliance and enforcement based on fair and transparent standards,
  • support the introduction of minimum energy efficiency standards,
  • support the introduction of fixed-term leases as opposed to the periodic agreement.

Work with Aboriginal Communities to Realise the Potential of Their Land Rights
Aboriginal people hold legal rights regarding Crown Land in NSW under the Aboriginal Land Rights Act (ALR) Act and Native Title Legislation. In NSW, the ALRA legislation is part of a compensate framework that allows Crown land to be gifted to Local Aboriginal Land Councils (LALC). As a result, Land Councils acquire Crown Land to create a range of economic, social, cultural and environmental opportunities as well as affordable housing for their communities. In 2020 around 38,000 Aboriginal land claims have been submitted while only determined 13,356 had been reviewed and resolved under the provisions of the ALR ACT (1983). Based on these matters Shelter NSW made the following recommendations:

  1. That the NSW Government prioritise Aboriginal Crown Land transfers.  
  2. That the NSW Government work with Aboriginal communities to realise the potential of their land rights.
  3. That the NSW Government explore opportunities for the co-management of Crown Land to generate mutual benefits for LALCs.

Enabling Initiatives will Support Delivery of the Plan the Draft State Strategic Plan
Many LALCs hold responsibility and obligations on land that is zoned for environmental purpose and they operate on a volunteer basis. For this reason, Shelter NSW see the inclusion of LALC in any training and development program regarding land management practises as essential. Shelter NSW made the following recommendations:

  • That the NSW Government engage with and support Aboriginal organisations in the management and maintenance of land zoned for environmental purposes.
  • That the Government work to build an understanding of the benefits of Crown Land to native title and Aboriginal land rights.

Read Shelter NSW’s full submission here.