NSW Department of Planning and Environment

The Central West and Orana is home to some of the most diverse communities in NSW, and their distinctive character is a significant competitive advantage. The diversity of these communities offers a range of attractive lifestyles and opportunities for people relocating from Sydney and other metropolitan cities.

Over the next 20 years the region will experience changes to agricultural productivity; freight and transport connections; water trading and regulation; climate; and economic or market conditions. These changes have the potential to reshape communities and urban centres.

Population growth will not be evenly distributed, with the highest rates of growth projected across larger urban centres in the Central West, including Orange and Bathurst, followed by Mudgee, Parkes and Lithgow. Dubbo will also have some of the highest growth as the major urban centre for Orana. Smaller towns and villages projected to experience population growth include those in the Cabonne and Blayney local government areas, close to Bathurst and Orange. Investment in health and education services, and commercial, retail and industrial activity will drive and spread the benefits right across the Central West and Orana.

The population of other smaller towns and villages is likely to remain relatively stable or in some cases decline. However, these numbers do not reflect the dynamic nature of many of these communities with high levels of transient workers, tourists and populations that fluctuate at different times of the year. These communities can grow and prosper by leveraging economic opportunities and jobs from an increasing number of value-adding investments, including food processing and manufacturing.

As the population changes, enlivening strategic centres and revitalising local centres will be important in making places appealing to visit, live and do business, while also improving social cohesion and community wellbeing.


central west and orana regional plan goal 4 household composition forecast 2016 2036 834x497

Direction 22: Manage growth and change in regional cities and strategic and local centres

Strengthened relationships across the three regional cities, five strategic centres and the local centres will form the backbone of a diverse, interconnected and interdependent network of centres – a major strength for the region.

The growth of regional cities and strategic centres will encourage future investment, increase housing choices, diversify industry and create new job opportunities – all of which will benefit the immediate and broader regional community. For example, Dubbo acts as the primary service centre for the Far West and has a catchment population that extends well beyond the boundaries of the region, to more than 120,000 people.33

The regional cities and strategic centres will capitalise on their location along national highways and rail networks. Bathurst and Lithgow can capitalise on their proximity to Sydney, and Dubbo and Mudgee on their proximity to Newcastle.

Over the next 20 years, most new housing is likely to be built in regional cities and strategic centres, and this will need to be supported by infrastructure.

Many councils have planned for aspirational growth, reflecting the desires of local communities, through land use planning decisions (for example, making land or infrastructure available for development). This may influence population growth patterns.

Local centres and rural communities make an important contribution to the region by providing affordable housing, attractive lifestyles and jobs in agribusiness, mining and tourism. These areas need access to regional cities and strategic centres for higher level services. As the population gets older, public transport will also assume greater importance in these centres.


22.1 Coordinate infrastructure delivery across residential and industrial land in regional cities and strategic centres.

22.2 Reinforce the role, function and relationship between regional cities and strategic centres in local housing strategies.

22.3 Improve transport in regional cities and strategic centres, and their connections with regional communities.

Direction 23: Build the resilience of towns and villages

Strong networks across the region and to Canberra and Sydney will help to build community resilience and capacity. Fostering these networks will be a shared responsibility between communities, organisations, businesses and government.

Parts of the region are located less than three hours from Sydney and Canberra. Access to international airports can attract niche tourism markets, which will help towns and villages to become more robust and dynamic settlements.

Towns and villages may attract people who wish to relocate from Sydney. Stronger connections with Sydney will increase the ability to offer affordable housing choices.

Access to accurate information to build and prepare resilient communities enables communities and government to more accurately understand and plan for current and future services. There is a need to develop a standardised set of baseline data, underpinned by improvements in the collection, interpretation and use of that data.

Tools and resources such as the NSW Strengthening Rural Communities Resource Kit (2001) enhance community capabilities and self-sufficiency. This kit will be updated to reflect current challenges facing communities, including an ageing population and a decline in the younger adult population.

The NSW Government is working with councils and other stakeholders to build community capacity, promote resource sharing, and pursue common issues and goals. For example, it is helping rural communities vulnerable to climate related economic downturns to build resilience through the NSW Drought Strategy (2015), which provides advice for primary producers for dealing with drought.


23.1 Update the Strengthening Rural Communities Resource Kit.

23.2 Work with councils to better understand the drivers of population change and implications for local communities.

23.3 Work with Central NSW Councils (CENTROC) and other stakeholders to investigate the potential for standardisation of baseline data collection.

23.4 Build drought resilience in rural communities by supporting primary producers and communities to improve preparedness and decision-making.

Direction 24: Collaborate and partner with Aboriginal communities

Aboriginal communities connect to their ancestral country by passing down histories and place awareness through generations. Consultation and partnerships with Aboriginal communities on future land use planning must acknowledge, respect and consider the views and interests of Aboriginal people.

Local housing strategies and local environmental plans should be prepared in consultation with Aboriginal communities. Collaborative and inclusive planning builds trust, integrity and empowers Aboriginal communities to identify their own issues, strategic directions and solutions. It requires mechanisms that acknowledge the diversity of communities and the resources needed to participate.

The NSW Community Building Partnerships (CBP) program

The CBP program creates more vibrant and inclusive communities by supporting projects that encourage community participation, inclusion and cohesion, and that deliver positive social, environmental, inclusive or recreational outcomes.

The program offers grants across NSW for the enhancement of community facilities. In the Central West and Orana,funding has been provided for a range of projects, from the upgrade of tennis courts in Gulgong to a climate-sensitive Men’s Shed in Blayney.

Three Rivers Regional Assembly (TRRA)

The role and responsibilities of the TRRA is to work towards ensuring Aboriginal communities have a real and genuine voice in negotiations/consultations in determining what services are being developed and implemented. It covers Bathurst Regional, Dubbo Regional, Gilgandra, Mid-Western Regional, Narromine, Bogan, Orange, Parkes and Warren local government areas. It provides the highest standard of regional governance by strengthening the capacity of leaders and community members to negotiate and set regional priorities.


24.1 Develop partnerships and engagement protocols with Aboriginal communities during the planning process.

24.2 Engage Aboriginal communities during the preparation of local housing strategies and local environmental plans.

Direction 25: Increase housing diversity and choice

Local housing strategies identify housing needs, plan for a range of housing types and identify the infrastructure needed to support local communities. The strategies need to be flexible and responsive to shifts in local housing demand and supply, and deal with uneven rates of development or unexpected population growth. Infrastructure must be planned and provided to support the construction of new housing.

Areas with stable or declining populations will still face demand for new dwellings and for a variety of housing types. It is important that new dwellings reflect the character and heritage of the area.

More one and two bedroom homes, and smaller homes, such as studio apartments with good access to infrastructure and services, will be needed. Opportunities for medium density development should be encouraged near town centres and villages to take advantage of existing services. Councils should consider these factors when planning for housing in local land use strategies.

Appropriate planning controls and incentives that can deliver more affordable housing include:

  • expanding the range of model provisions that promote or require the inclusion of affordable housing in developments. For example, a floor space bonus to deliver a percentage of affordable housing in a development;
  • providing development incentives and reduced contributions, or using other mechanisms that may boost construction of secondary dwellings as alternative affordable housing;
  • ensuring councils consider planning incentives under the State Environmental Planning Policy Affordable Rental Housing (2009); and
  • promoting the establishment of new caravan parks and manufactured home estates on unconstrained land in existing settlements and new land release areas.

Social and affordable housing is available across the region, with the largest amount of social housing in Orange. Dubbo, Bathurst and Lithgow also have significant of social housing stock. The NSW Land and Housing Corporation owns social housing estates at East Dubbo, Kelso in Bathurst, and Bowen and Glenroi in Orange.

A number of community housing providers also provide affordable housing options. The NSW Land and Housing Corporation is reviewing social housing estates across NSW.

central west and orana regional plan goal 4 population pyramid 2016 2036 834x649


25.1 Prepare local housing strategies that increase housing choice, including affordable housing options.

25.2 Increase housing choice in regional cities and strategic centres at locations near or accessible to services and jobs.

25.3 Align infrastructure planning with new land release areas to provide adequate and timely infrastructure.

25.4 Locate higher density development close to town centres to capitalise on existing infrastructure and increase housing choice.

25.5 Promote incentives to encourage greater housing affordability including a greater mix of housing in new release areas.

25.6 Prepare guidelines for local housing strategies to address local affordable housing needs.

25.7 Work with councils to appropriately plan for future social and affordable housing needs.

Direction 26: Increase housing choice for seniors

The increasing demand for appropriate accommodation options for older people has led to an undersupply of appropriate housing. This is particularly the case for Gilgandra, Weddin, Cowra, Oberon and Lithgow local government areas, which are projected to have the largest proportion (greater than 30 per cent) of people aged 65 or over.

Local housing strategies must plan for a range of housing choices for seniors, including retirement villages, nursing homes and opportunities to modify existing dwellings so that people can age in their own homes. Adaptable, liveable homes should be easy to enter and navigate; responsive to the changing needs of occupants; and relatively easy to adapt for injured or elderly residents, or people with a disability.

State planning policies streamline approval processes for senior’s housing. The incentives in these policies need to be reviewed to better suit regional circumstances, as benefits are often negated due to higher development costs and lower demand when facilities only cater for small populations in regional areas compared to metropolitan areas.


26.1 Promote ageing-in-place by adopting elements of Livable Housing Australia’s Livable Housing Design Guidelines in development controls for housing, where possible.

26.2 Promote opportunities for retirement villages, nursing homes and other senior’s housing in local housing strategies.

26.3 Remove planning barriers to provide a range of low-care and independent seniors’ accommodation options in appropriate locations.

26.4 Review State Environmental Planning Policy (Housing for Seniors or People with a Disability) 2004 to make it more applicable to private developers in regional areas.

26.5 Locate new housing for seniors close to existing services and facilities, and on land free from hazards.

26.6 Work with councils to investigate the demand for seniors housing and to identify barriers to providing low-care and independent senior’s accommodations.

26.7 Work with Gilgandra Shire Council to produce a case study on Cooee Lodge Retirement Village to guide other councils developing aged care accommodation.

Direction 27: Deliver a range of accommodation options for seasonal, itinerant and mining workforces

The Central West and Orana will continue to experience large influxes of seasonal and itinerant workers for mining and agribusiness, such as in the viticulture, pome fruit, nut, cotton and stone fruit industries, particularly during harvest periods. An adequate range of accommodation options is needed for these workers.

Construction of large-scale infrastructure and mining projects and seasonal agricultural employment can increase transient populations and place pressure on housing and accommodation supply. Peaks in housing demand may be satisfied through short-term workers’ accommodation.

Further guidance is required to plan for temporary mining accommodation. The size and scale of these facilities should be decided in partnership with local communities and consider social integration, land use conflicts and impacts on community facilities.

Seasonal and itinerant housing

Temporary housing villages should not duplicate the services and facilities of existing centres. In some circumstances, locating temporary populations on the outskirts of centres may be preferable to enable temporary residents to use and contribute positively to facilities that serve the entire community, and to better integrate into these communities. Decisions must be informed by evidence of the likely changes to economic opportunities for the centre over time.


27.1 Produce guidelines to help councils plan for and manage seasonal and itinerant worker accommodation.

27.2 Prepare planning guidelines for the short-term accommodation of mining employees to support workforce needs during mining construction, operation or shutdown.

Direction 28: Manage rural residential development

Rural residential housing is a popular lifestyle housing option driven by the desire for a rural lifestyle, particularly close to regional cities and strategic centres, and in some cases, close to Sydney. In some areas, this type of development has been seen as a way to attract new residents and reverse or stabilise population decline, although economic development is a much stronger driver of population trends.

Rural residential development can conflict with productive agricultural, industrial or resource lands. It may also increase pressure for new services outside existing settlements, with costs borne by councils and the broader community. Managing this development and its cumulative impacts will be essential as the regional economy diversifies and development pressure increases.

A consistent planning approach is required to identify suitable locations for new rural residential development to avoid fragmentation of productive agricultural land, and protect high environmental value assets, cultural and heritage assets or areas with important rural landscape values. This type of development should not increase pressure on infrastructure and services, and should be located on land free from natural hazards.


28.1 Locate new rural residential areas:

  • close to existing urban settlements to maximise the efficient use of existing infrastructure and services, including roads, water, sewer and waste services, and social and community infrastructure;
  • to avoid and minimise the potential for land use conflicts with productive, zoned agricultural land and natural resources; and
  • to avoid areas of high environmental, cultural or heritage significance, regionally important agricultural land or areas affected by natural hazards.

28.2 Enable new rural residential development only where it has been identified in a local housing strategy prepared by Council and approved by the Department of Planning and Environment.

28.3 Manage land use conflict that can result from cumulative impacts of successive development decisions.

Direction 29: Deliver healthy built environments and better urban design

Good urban design can add to the community’s cultural, economic and physical wellbeing by creating safe, healthy and socially inclusive places that meet the needs of children, young people, families, singles, people with disabilities and seniors.

Planning for redeveloping town centres should consider how pedestrians and cyclists will move about, landscaping and infrastructure for public spaces.

Councils should apply water sensitive urban design to improve water use, supply and security. This includes re-using wastewater on parks, gardens and reserves, or to supplement agricultural uses.

Urban design guidelines are commonly developed with a metropolitan focus and do not necessarily apply to regional and rural environments. Regional urban design guidelines will help councils when preparing environmental planning instruments for new development in existing areas or land release areas, to revitalise town centres and respond to climate and water security challenges.

The design guidelines will promote design excellence particularly in higher density areas such as regional cities and strategic centres.


29.1 Develop regional urban design guidelines for planning, designing and developing healthy built environments.

29.2 Enhance the quality of neighbourhoods by integrating recreational walking and cycling networks.

29.3 Reflect local built form, heritage and character in new housing developments.

29.4 Incorporate water sensitive urban design in new developments.

Page last updated: 28/07/2022