Summer Session 2017-18 lec > subject pages > local government and planning

The Local Government and Planning course examines the bodies of law which regulate the establishment, status, powers, operation and accountability of local councils and the environmental and planning laws which regulate the use of land, the subdivision of land, the erection of buildings, the carrying out of works, and the demolition of buildings or works.

The enactment of the Local Government Act 1993 largely broke the prescriptive approach of its predecessor, the Local Government Act 1919.  It presented major challenges and opportunities to Local Government. 

The Local Government Act 1993 was amended in 2002, 2004 and 2005 by the insertion of important provisions relating to the consequence of serious corrupt conduct, the discipline of councillors, council staff and other persons and the requirement to adopt a new Model Code of Conduct.

In 2013, provisions were enacted enabling the Minister for Local Government to issue a performance order in respect of a council if he or she reasonably considers that action must be taken to improve the performance of the council. Provisions were also enacted enabling the Minister to suspend a council if the Minister believes that the appointment of an interim administrator is necessary to restore the proper or effective functioning of the council.

Dramatic changes to the laws regulating development, building, demolition and subdivision came into effect on 1 July 1998.  Further major changes followed, including the new regime of Critical Infrastructure Projects and Major Development Projects involving unprecedented powers for the Minister for Planning under Part 3A of the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act 1979 ("the EPA Act"). The current NSW Government, shortly after its election, repealed Part 3A operative from August 2011.

On 22 October 2013, the NSW Government introduced into the Parliament the Planning Bill 2013 and the cognate Planning Administration Bill 2013. This proposed legislation was preceded by the Green Paper - A New Planning System for NSW which was exhibited in July 2012. It was followed by the White Paper - A New Planning System for NSW and draft planning legislation which were released on 16 April 2013. They were on public exhibition until 28 June 2013.

The EDO NSW formerly known as the Environmental Defenders Office ("the EDO") made a statement late in October 2013 including the following comments:

"What will these changes mean for your community? These reforms are the biggest overhaul of environmental planning in NSW since 1979. Planning laws are important in determining:

  • what development can happen in an area (from houses to mines) and who gets a say
  • how suburbs, towns and cities are planned (transport, shops, offices, parks, schools)
  • how our communities manage growth and change, and balance needs and interests
  • how developers and governments have to consider and protect the environment."

The proposed legislation referred to by EDO NSW would, if passed, have replaced the current Environmental Planning and Assessment Act 1979. However, Labor, the Greens and the Shooters and Fishers Party were instrumental in achieving major amendments to the Bills. The then Planning Minister, the Hon Brad Hazzard MP, responded by withdrawing the Planning Bills. The Hon Rob Stokes MP, formerly Minister for the Environment, Minister for Heritage and Assistant Minister for Planning, on 2 April 2015 became Minister for Planning in a ministerial reshuffle.

The course encompasses one of the fastest growing areas of NSW law and practice and addresses the operation and effects of the various changes which are of vital importance to lawyers who specialise, or are developing specialisation, in the field of local government, environmental and planning law. It also covers alternate dispute resolution in those fields.

Local councils have many roles as:

  • legally elected entities, accountable to their communities;
  • providers of vital services;
  • regulators;
  • agencies of other spheres of government;
  • creatures of statute, accountable to the State government;
  • organisations with a history;
  • major employers.

The aim of the Local Government and Planning course is to enable students, through lectures, study and practical course exercises, to explore and understand the wide variety of laws under which councils operate as regulators and providers of vital services to their communities.  This knowledge and expertise will not only assist them in local government and planning legal practice but also will provide invaluable expertise in various aspects of conveyancing practice.


Lecture and weekend school timetables, prescribed materials, and assignment information are in the Subject Guide. Assignments and Supplementary Materials (where applicable) can be accessed by current students from the Webcampus.








Law Extension Committee
The University of Sydney
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Fax: (02) 8089 1959

This page last updated on 18 September 2017


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