NSW Department of Planning and Environment

Sydney’s 3,500 hectares of coastal wetlands are to be given greater protection from overdevelopment as the first-ever centralised mapping of the vulnerable landform reveals their extent around the Harbour and local river systems.


Wetlands and littoral rainforests within the Sydney basin will now be more rigorously protected under the planning system for the first time as part of new coastal management reforms, ensuring these areas are considered during proposed development assessments.



Planning Minister Rob Stokes said the new mapping and controls of wetlands will empower local communities to protect wetlands in their areas, and support initiatives such as ‘Our Living River’ that is working to make the Parramatta River swimmable again.


“Wetlands are key environmental assets, acting as important habitats and playing a vital role in maintaining water quality. They are also among the most threatened ecosystems in Australia,” Mr Stokes said.


“Protecting our environmental treasures is an important part of ensuring we make people’s lives better as our city grows and changes.


Littoral Rainforest at Taylors Bay, Mosman


Development in wetlands and littoral forest areas around Sydney would become “designated development” under the reforms, meaning that an environmental impact assessment would need to be undertaken to support any development application.


The objective would be to protect the landforms as much as possible in their natural state to ensure their biological diversity and ecosystem integrity.


Littoral Rainforest mapping for Taylors Bay, Mosman


Sydney’s coast and harbour will not be the only areas protected under the proposed policy changes. Locations as far inland as Fairfield, Liverpool, Parramatta, The Hills and the Hawkesbury have also been mapped for wetland protection.


The controls will ensure that development considers environmental values adequately.


The new protection for wetlands and littoral rainforests will be a key feature of coastal management reforms to be announced today by Mr Stokes.


The reforms to be included in a new Coastal Management State Environmental Planning Policy (SEPP) will also require councils to identify and map in collaboration with local communities development on vulnerable coastal areas within five years as a long-term solution to the type of property damage caused by weather events at Collaroy-Narrabeen Beaches and Wamberal Beach in June.


Mr Stokes said the community will have access to the full database of mapped wetlands on the Department of Planning and Environment website. The maps identify 3470 hectares of Sydney coastal wetlands and a further 94 hectares of littoral rainforest.


“The mapping of these valuable areas in the Coastal Management SEPP will empower councils to ensure development all the way up our important estuaries – such as the Parramatta River and the Georges River – take into account water quality and environmental needs,” he said.


Little Coogee, Parramatta River


Across the state, 30 additional local government areas have their wetlands mapped with 13,044 hectares identified, up from 6108 previously.


Submissions on the draft Coastal Management State policy can be made until 23 December 2016.


UPDATE: The Coastal Reform exhibition has now been extended (from 23 Dec) to 20 Jan, 2017.


The maps and further information will be available at the Coastal management page.


Coastal wetlands mapped along the Parramatta River Catchment Area