Skip to main content
  • Share:

Current NSW coastal planning framework

The current NSW coastal planning framework is summarised on this page, and should be read in conjunction with the reforms underway. See our Coastal Reforms page for more information.

NSW Coastal Policy


The NSW Coastal Policy 1997 provides a framework for the balanced and coordinated management of the coast and covers a range of themes including:


  • population growth
  • water quality along the coast, especially in estuaries
  • disturbance of acid sulfate soils
  • establishment of reserves
  • integration of government agencies and community organisations involved in coastal planning and management
  • respecting indigenous and European cultural heritage
  • integrating Ecologically Sustainable Development principles into coastal zone management and decision making.


The Coastal Policy has two broad parts. Part A outlines the principles and theme guiding the Policy, while Part B details the goals, objectives and strategic actions.


Coastal Policy Part A
Coastal Policy Part B


NSW Coastal Zone


The NSW coastal zone defines the area in which specific coastal planning provisions apply. The ‘coastal zone’ is defined in the Coastal Protection Act 1979 and is accompanied by a set of statutory maps which identify its extent.


Outside the Sydney region the coastal zone extends from approximately 1km inland of any coastline, bay, estuary, lake or lagoon out to the 3 nautical mile extent of NSW state waters. Within the Sydney region the coastal zone is typically one lot back from the open ocean.


Once commenced, the Coastal Management Act 2016 will replace the Coastal Protection Act 1979, redefine the coastal zone and establish new objectives for the coast.

State Environmental Planning Policy No. 71 - Coastal Protection


Note: State Environmental Planning Policy No. 71 - Coastal Protection (SEPP 71) will continue to apply to land in the NSW coastal zone until the Coastal Management Act 2016 and Coastal Management SEPP take effect.


SEPP 71 seeks to protect the unique features of the NSW coastal environment by ensuring:

  • development in the NSW coastal zone is appropriate and suitably located
  • there is a consistent and strategic approach to coastal planning and management
  • there is a clear assessment framework for development proposed within the coastal zone.


Specific planning controls are set out in SEPP 71, which can be accessed through the NSW legislation website.

Certain types of development in the coastal zone may require a draft Master Plan to be adopted by the Minister for Planning.


Under certain conditions, the requirement for a Master Plan may be waived. The application form to waive the requirement for a Master Plan required under SEPP 71 can be lodged at your local Department of Planning & Environment office.

Coastal Zone Maps


The draft Coastal Management SEPP has been released with proposed new maps of the coastal zone. You can access the coastal map viewer here.

Launch the interactive map

Coastal Design Guidelines for NSW


The Coastal Design Guidelines for NSW (2003) provide design guidance on coastal developments and redevelopments to ensure they are sensitive to the unique natural and urban settings of coastal areas.


These guidelines will continue to be relevant to local plan making. You can view the Ministerial directions for local plan making here (refer specifically to Direction 2.2).


Coastal hazard advice on planning certificates


In November 2014 a Planning Circular (PS 14-003) was issued to provide councils with clear advice on how buyers of coastal properties should be informed about hazards such as erosion and flooding in  section 149(2) certificates issued under the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act 1979).

NSW Coastal Planning Guideline: Adapting to Sea Level Rise


The NSW Coastal Planning Guideline: Adapting to Sea Level Rise (2010) includes the following six coastal planning principles:

  • Assess and evaluate coastal risks taking into account sea level rise
  • Advise the public of coastal risks to ensure informed land use planning and development decisions
  • Avoid intensifying land use in coastal risk areas through appropriate strategic and land-use planning
  • Consider options to reduce land use intensity in coastal risk areas where feasible.
  • Minimise the exposure to coastal risks from proposed development in coastal areas
  • Implement appropriate management responses and adaptation strategies, with appropriate consideration of the environmental, social and economic impacts of each option.


References in the Guideline to the ‘NSW sea level rise planning benchmarks’ should be taken as meaning ‘council's adopted sea level rise projections’


Download a copy of the Guideline and FAQs.

Page last updated: 05/12/2017