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The Environmental Planning and Assessment Act 1979 sets out the key roles and functions of the Independent Planning Commission, the Minister for Planning, and the Department of Planning and Environment in the state’s planning system.
The Environmental Planning and Assessment Act 1979 (EP&A Act) establishes a system of environmental planning and assessment for the State of NSW.
It clearly sets out what roles the Minister for Planning, Department of Planning and Environment, and Commission play in the planning system and their respective functions.
The Objects of the Act are to:
The Minister for Planning (and the NSW Government more broadly) is responsible for setting policy and enacting planning legislation.
The Minister has portfolio responsibility for planning in NSW.
The Minister’s functions are set out in the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act 1979 (EP&A Act) and include determining state significant development (SSD) applications for which the Commission is not the consent authority.
The Minister appoints Commissioners – including one as chair of the Commission. The Minister does not, however, have the power to direct or control the Commission, except in relation to procedural matters as set out under the EP&A Act.
The Minister may ask the Commission to conduct public hearings for development applications and other planning and development matters, or to provide independent expert advice on any planning-related matter (but not the assessment of development applications).
The Minister's Statement of Expectations for the Independent Planning Commission sets expectations for the purpose, functions, and roles of the Commission, as well as key governance and performance objectives to improve the effectiveness and timeliness of the Commission in determining contentious SSD applications and providing independent expert advice, when required. The Commission is expected to monitor and report to the Minister in its performance against key indicators. The Commission’s performance is detailed in the Commission’s annual report.
The Independent Planning Commission was established under the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act 1979 (EP&A Act) on 1 March 2018 as a consent authority for state significant development (SSD) in NSW.
Its key functions under the Act are to:
SSD applications that meet one or more of the following three ‘triggers’ come to the Commission for determination:
The Commission is also the consent authority for modification applications in circumstances where the applicant has made a reportable political donations disclosure. All other modification applications are delegated to the DPE for determination.
DPE is a separate agency to the Commission but is responsible for assisting the Planning Secretary in undertaking certain functions on behalf of the Commission, most notably preparing a whole-of-government assessment of SSD applications.
The DPE’s assessment report is provided to the Commission (along with draft recommended conditions of consent) when an SSD application is referred to the Commission for determination.
A Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between the DPE and the Commission is in place that clarifies how the two agencies work together, in order to exercise their responsibilities under the EP&A Act, with an emphasis on quality, probity, timeliness, and transparency.
Under the Minister’s Statement of Expectations, the Commission is expected to seek guidance from the Planning Secretary if it needs to clarify policies or identify policy issues that may have implications for SSD determinations.A copy of the delegation to DPE referred to above is available here.
The Department of Planning and Environment (DPE) undertakes rules-based assessment of state significant development (SSD) applications for use by the Independent Planning Commission.
The Planning Secretary is the head of the DPE and has departmental responsibility for planning in NSW, as well as for the administration of the relevant provisions of the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act 1979 (EP&A Act). The Planning Secretary’s functions are set out in the EP&A Act.
The Planning Secretary, through the DPE, is responsible for coordinating the whole-of-government assessment of SSD applications prior to referral to the Commission for determination.
SSD applications that do not meet one of the ‘triggers’ for referral to the Commission are determined by officers of the Department under ministerial delegation. The DPE also determines modification applications (under delegation from the Commission linked here) except in cases where a reportable political donations disclosure has been made.
We recognise the importance of community participation in our decision-making process. Using our ‘Have Your Say’ form is the easiest way for you to make a submission on cases currently before the Commission.