NSW Department of Planning and Environment

Despite its relatively small population, the Far West is a significant regional economy. The economy is centred on agriculture and mining, which directly contribute almost 40 per cent to the Far West’s gross regional product (GRP).3

However, with most communities largely focused around one industry, such as mining or agriculture, they can be more vulnerable to economic downturns.

The regional plan aims to promote the efficient use of infrastructure and cluster compatible land uses in the right places to support the region’s competitiveness and productivity.

Complex global supply chains create challenges in terms of transport and infrastructure - these elements must be efficient and competitively priced to maximise the region’s productive capacity.

A large proportion of products are exported from the region in base commodity form, often for processing elsewhere within NSW or overseas. An opportunity exists to attract industries to the region to produce value-added products.







Direction 1: Grow the agribusiness sector, value-added manufacturing opportunities and supply chains

Growing Asian economies are expected to drive a 77 per cent increase in food demand by 2050.4 This presents opportunities for more and higher-value agricultural and food products to be exported from the Far West. Value-adding opportunities include agritourism, providing additional revenue streams for farms, and producing bioenergy and biofuels from agricultural waste and woody weeds.

Identifying and supporting further value-added manufacturing and processing industries will encourage greater industry diversification and associated job opportunities. Value-adding opportunities include meat processing, native and feral animal harvesting and processing, chickpea flour processing, a BioHub plant and other emerging niche and integrated developments.

Significant opportunities exist in Bourke and Cobar to become leading international exporters of goat meat and live goats. Australia exports goat meat to the US and Taiwan and live export to Malaysia, Singapore and the Philippines. The industry is constrained by inconsistent supply and quality. There is a need to develop supply chains which better satisfy the needs of specific markets and thus add value to the industry. 

There is international demand for Far West agricultural products and native foods or bush foods, such as the quandong, and through marketing products as sourced from outback NSW. Other potential opportunities exist for a small species abattoir in Broken Hill and the potential re-opening of the non-operational Walgett abattoir.

The focus for the future is to be responsive to the needs of agriculture and agribusiness, including value-added manufacturing, to enable industry growth and to promote the take-up of emerging opportunities.

Value-adding enterprises need ready and cost-effective access to the regional freight network, utility infrastructure, skilled labour and export markets.

The right policy settings must be in place to provide agricultural land and a critical mass of agri-industries to encourage investment in agriculture and agricultural supply chains. 

The significant investment in establishing new value-added manufacturing facilities must be supported and protected. The co-location of related industries will maximise efficiency and infrastructure use, decrease supply chain costs, increase economies of scale and attract further investment.

Reliable telecommunications will also be critical to encouraging innovative farming that can increase productivity and tap into new markets. 

Given the fragile nature of some of the region’s environments, production systems must be managed appropriately to enable continuity of supply.

Bourke abattoir

An approved, $60 million state-of-the-art small stock abattoir for the processing of goats and lambs north of Bourke will capitalise on the growing export demand for these products.

Livestock will be principally sourced from the Far West. The facility will have the capacity to process up to 6,000 head of livestock a day and employ 200 staff when fully operational. 

It will service customer markets in the Middle East, Asia and North America.

Kangaroo management

Kangaroo populations present a challenge and an opportunity. The commercial harvest of wildlife is advocated as a pathway for employment and economic development for Aboriginal people. Opportunities exist to utilise local business knowledge, develop programs and offer incentives to encourage new people to enter the industry as professional harvesters. A more collaborative approach to kangaroo management will sustainably manage issues.



1.1 Promote agribusiness diversification by reviewing local plans and removing planning barriers.
1.2 Facilitate investment in the agricultural supply chain by protecting freight and logistics facilities from conflicting land use and the encroachment of incompatible land uses.
1.3 Promote investment in value-added manufacturing in employment lands through suitable land use zonings and land use definitions in local environmental plans. 
1.4 Encourage co-location of related advanced and value-added manufacturing industries to maximise efficiency and infrastructure use, decrease supply chain costs, minimise land use conflict, increase economies of scale and attract further investment.
1.5 Develop and implement land management arrangements to ensure continuity of supply for the emerging goat industry.
1.6 Promote the sustainable management of kangaroo populations by investigating potential economic opportunities associated with harvesting and processing through policy and legislative mechanisms.

Direction 2: Protect productive agricultural land and plan for greater land use compatibility

Agricultural production occurs across the region, from intensive and irrigated crops – including vegetables, fodder, stone fruits, viticulture, cotton and horticulture including citrus and flower growing – to extensive broadacre cropping. Agricultural hubs include wine and table grape production along the Murray River in the south, and wool, kangaroo and goat production in the north. Significant irrigation also occurs in the Central Darling, Balranald, Wentworth, Bourke and Walgett local government areas. 

Highly productive agriculture requires ready access to water, high quality soils, labour and a suitable climate. While the total area of land available for agriculture is large, comparatively few locations have access to all these characteristics.

The NSW Government will undertake targeted mapping of important agricultural land to support producers and councils in future planning. Protecting important agricultural land will also help to keep fresh food available locally. Targeted mapping will incorporate biophysical, infrastructure and socio-economic factors, complementing existing Biophysical Strategic Agricultural Land mapping. 

This will inform land use planning decisions. The potential for land use conflict across agricultural lands is high in some areas due to competing demands from incompatible land uses and urban encroachment. This can inhibit farming practices and over time affect productivity and economies of scale.

Land use planning can provide greater certainty for investment by establishing clear parameters and transparent processes to support new development. A consistent planning approach can avoid fragmentation of productive agricultural land and identify suitable locations for new rural residential development. This approach will also limit potential impacts on areas of high environmental value and cultural and heritage assets. 

The planned separation of sensitive land uses can allow more diverse land uses to develop and complement each other, while contributing to the better management of biosecurity risks. 

In contrast to much of NSW, the Far West has the potential to effectively manage biosecurity risks due to its separation from major populations and intensive industries, and the semi-arid climate which is challenging for exotic animals and plants to survive. The region can also capitalise on its clean and green organic farming and marketing advantage. The NSW Government’s commitment to strengthening and maintaining biosecurity measures is reflected in the NSW Biosecurity Strategy 2013-2021, the NSW Weeds Action Program 2015-2020, and the Draft NSW Invasive Species Plan 2015-22.

Top three contributors to Agricultural Production in the Far West, 2011

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far west goal 1 top three contributor sto agricultural production in the far west 1200x1757


2.1 Undertake targeted mapping to identify important agricultural land in local land use strategies and local plans.
2.2 Manage the interface between agricultural lands and other land uses to minimise land use incompatibility and fragmentation.
2.3 Appropriately zone irrigated land and land with potential for irrigation purposes to minimise inappropriate development and land use incompatibility.
2.4 Minimise biosecurity risks by undertaking risk assessments, taking into account biosecurity plans and applying appropriate buffer areas when assessing the potential impacts of new development.
2.5 Implement the NSW Government’s Agriculture Industry Action Plan – Primed for growth: Investing locally, connecting globally.
2.6 Develop local strategies to limit urban and rural housing development in agricultural and extractive resource areas, industrial areas and transport corridors.

Direction 3: Sustainably manage mineral resources

Over the coming decades, the region will continue to benefit from the economic and employment flow-on effects of the mining industry.

Mineral resource mining can benefit and impact communities in different ways during the mining lifecycle, from exploration and construction to extraction and operational wind-down. The sustainable management of mineral resources must consider and balance these varying impacts to produce long-term sustainable economic, social and environmental outcomes.

The Far West employs a high level of drive-in, drive-out workers. The nature of this type of employment in mining operations changes resident populations, and creates different demands for retail, health, education and emergency services.

Once extractive resource lands have been identified, there may be opportunities to identify interim activities that will enable productive use of the land without sterilising the potential of the underlying resource.

In the long-term, in areas where mineral extraction is declining, some regional communities will need to diversify and transition their economies. Rehabilitating former mines can provide an opportunity for a new development or use.

Local land use strategies must respond to the lifecycle of mining to give all stakeholders, including investors, certainty around the long-term productive value of land. The COAG (Council of Australian Governments) Standing Council on Energy and Resources Multiple Land Use Framework includes planning principles in this regard.

Through the work of the Western NSW Mining and Resource Development Taskforce, the NSW Government is investigating how western NSW communities can capitalise on the economic benefits and manage the impacts of the mining sector. Regional-scale modelling tools enable a better understanding of how benefits will be distributed across affected communities.

For example, using modelling tools to guide planning outcomes can prepare communities and service providers for the impact of mining and reduce the risk of one community being overly disadvantaged compared to another that receives full economic benefit. It is important to plan for communities experiencing mining growth and those transitioning out of mining.

The location of current exploration and mining production titles in NSW, explanations of mining and production titles, and the roles of community and government in the decision-making process for mining and resource projects is available at www.commonground.nsw.gov.au.

The NSW Government has developed a draft Strategic Release Framework for Coal and Petroleum (including coal seam gas). This draft Framework outlines a process for the controlled, strategic release and competitive allocation of new exploration licences. New exploration licences would only be issued in areas released by the Minister for Resources and Energy after an assessment of resource potential and economic, environmental, social factors and community issues. The draft Framework is a transparent and informed approach, consistent with the NSW Government’s broader land use resources strategy.

Mining operations require water and energy infrastructure to support them. It will be important to strategically plan for water and energy infrastructure to support new and emerging mining opportunities. In established mining areas, such as Cobar, potential future water supply deficiencies could impact mining operations as well as the community. Securing funding for future water security projects will be important for the future of the mining industry. Regional Water Security Program projects are discussed in Direction 26.

Mining in Cobar Shire

Cobar Shire has been an important copper, gold, lead, zinc and silver mining district for nearly 140 years.6 Peak, CSA, Endeavour, Manuka and Hera mines operate in the Shire and there is potential for further development in the area, such as the Nymagee Copper mine, Mallee Bull prospect near Gilgunnia and Mount Boppy near Canbelego. Potential exists for further discoveries of gold, copper, silver, lead and zinc in two belts of north-west to south-east trending prospective rocks, referred to as the Cobar–Nymagee and Mount Drouin potential resource areas.

Mining in the Far West

The mining industry is the primary economic driver in Broken Hill (silver, lead and zinc), Cobar (copper and gold), Lightning Ridge (opal) and White Cliffs (opal). Mining of mineral sands occurs within the Broken Hill, Balranald and Wentworth local government areas.

There is also the opportunity for iron ore, copper, gold, cobalt and magnetite mining around Broken Hill.

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far west mineral resources and renewable energy map 1200x874



3.1 Work with Councils to implement a modelling tool to understand servicing needs and opportunities for communities to better capture the economic benefits of mining, and help communities plan for the implications of mining.

3.2 Consult with the Division of Resources and Geoscience when assessing applications for land use changes (strategic land use planning, rezoning and planning proposals) and new development or expansion.

3.3 Protect areas of mineral and energy resources potential through local land use strategies and local environmental plans.

3.4 Protect infrastructure that facilitates mining industries, such as road and rail freight routes, and energy transmission networks, including gas pipelines, from development that could affect current or future extraction.

3.5 Support communities that are transitioning out of mining operations and help them to plan for new economic opportunities.


Direction 4: Diversity energy supply through renewable energy generation

The Far West has many opportunities for investment in renewable energy, including large-scale wind and solar generation and bioenergy.

Transgrid’s NSW Connection Opportunities identifies Broken Hill, Wentworth and Balranald local government areas as having capacity for high renewable energy generation. An interactive map of renewable energy potential is available at www.resourcesandenergy.nsw.gov.au

The NSW Government’s Renewable Energy Action Plan (2013) has driven wind and solar proposals across the State, including the existing 53 MW Broken Hill Solar Voltaic Power Project and the Silverton Wind Farm. 

Broken Hill can capitalise on investment in renewable energy to develop generation and associated secondary industries, including research, project management, installation and asset maintenance. 

Opportunities to co-locate renewable energy generation at resource or industry sites can attract other similar industries. Biomass (including agricultural, forestry and municipal waste), carbon sequestration and methane from coal mines are emerging energy sources. Existing waste management facilities could add power generators and harness sewage and landfill gases. Early and effective community engagement will be promoted on these projects. 

Silverton Wind Farm

The approved Silverton Wind Farm will be constructed in the Barrier Ranges, 25 kilometres north-west of Broken Hill. The $450 million project will create up to 150 jobs during construction, produce enough renewable energy to power over 137,000 average Australian homes and represent a significant economic investment. Improvements in technology may also allow future development of other wind infrastructure in areas currently less suited to wind energy generation.

Cobar BioHub project

In addition to the proposed Orana BioHub in Dubbo, the proposed Cobar BioHub facility has been conceived to utilise and value-add locally generated invasive native scrub materials (currently burnt in the paddocks from where it has been removed) resulting in the manufacture of highest value bio-products. 

The Cobar facility could improve the economics of land rehabilitation for local land managers by increasing property productivity and creating by-product bioenergy.

The $36 million project is expected to generate up to 20 skilled jobs.8


4.1 Identify areas and project sites with renewable energy potential, and infrastructure corridors with access to the electricity network, to inform land use planning.
4.2 Promote best practice community engagement to realise community benefits for all utility-scale renewable energy projects.
4.3 Facilitate small-scale renewable energy projects using bioenergy, solar, wind, small-scale hydro, geothermal or other innovative storage technologies through local environment plans.

Direction 5: Promote tourism opportunities

The region appeals to domestic and international visitors as it offers an authentic outback experience. Unique features include the Brewarrina Aboriginal Fish Traps, artesian baths and opal mining in Lightning Ridge, heritage and film tourist trails, the underground opal mining town of White Cliffs, the Louth Races, the Murray, Darling and Barwon rivers and the Gundabooka, Sturt, Toorale, Mutawintji and Mungo national parks. 

Domestic visitor numbers to outback NSW are increasing, mainly due to the popularity in camping/ driving holidays, the growing number of travelling retirees, improved mobility and accessibility, and growing appreciation of the landscape. 

Tourism opportunities that help to extend the time visitors spend in the region need to be further explored. This could include a focus on organic and native produce, natural landscapes, European heritage and scientific and paleoarchaeological-focused tourism around Aboriginal heritage. Promoting arts, cultural and museum attractions, such as the Mad Max Museum and Back O’Bourke Exhibition Centre, in addition to contemporary Aboriginal and European artists, could help increase visitor numbers. 

Tourism generates employment and business growth that contributes to better economic outcomes for Aboriginal communities. Destination NSW’s Aboriginal Tourism Action Plan is being updated for 2017-2020 to support the development of Aboriginal tourism experiences and businesses. This will lead to economic and social benefits for Aboriginal people, both as operators and employees. 

Limited transport and access within and outside the region appeals to some visitors because it adds to the remote experience; however, maintaining and improving transport connections for visitors, managing seasonal fluctuations in local employment, and greater investment in attractions will boost tourism. 

Line of Lode, Broken Hill

The Line of Lode is an iconic tourist attraction with State and National industrial heritage values and heritage, tourism and economic significance to Broken Hill. Investment in the development of the Line of Lode Precinct is critical to capitalise on the precinct’s potential as a major tourist attraction. 

In 2016, the Department of Industry – Lands & Forestry commissioned a master plan and development opportunities to revitalise the Line of Lode Precinct. These opportunities include making the site more accessible, adding complementary attractions and experiences to the existing iconic Broken Earth Cafe and Miner’s Memorial, and reconfiguring the cafe to maximise its efficient operation. 

Australian Opal Centre, Lightning Ridge

The Australian Opal Centre is a not-for-profit facility dedicated to opal-related scientific research, education and training, heritage and arts, travel, cultural and economic development. More than $1 million in local, State and Federal grants and private donations have been received to fund the Centre. A full cost benefit analysis is required to complete the business case for further investment. 

Access to tourism assets

Better access to tourism assets will unlock their tourism potential. For example, Mungo National Park, the site of the oldest known human cremations in the world, can only be accessed via unsealed roads, which are heavily affected by wet weather. Roads can be closed on short notice for preservation, affecting the main entrance to Mungo National Park via Arumpo Road, which reduces visitor numbers.

The Murray-Mallee Regional Transport Study 2011 Final Report recommended a sealed, all-weather tourist loop road to Mungo National Park, connecting to Mildura and Balranald. 

The NSW Government has invested $1.3 million from the Regional Tourism Infrastructure Fund to upgrade Lightning Ridge and Bourke airports to boost capacity and safety, and increase their ability to attract visitors.10

Tourism Assets

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5.1 Implement Destination NSW’s Draft Aboriginal Tourism Action Plan 2017 – 2020 when finalised.
5.2 Expand Aboriginal Export Ready Tour Products by partnering with relevant stakeholders.
5.3 Consult with native title holders, particularly prescribed body corporates, to determine how land subject to native title rights may be utilised in the tourism sector.
5.4 Implement the Line of Lode Redevelopment Strategy. 
5.5 Improve access and infrastructure for the tourism sector, focusing on all-weather transport routes.
5.6 Investigate development of a regional tourism trail between Balranald, Wentworth, Mallee Cliffs, Mungo and Yanga floodplains; and between White Cliffs, Menindee, Tibooburra and Silverton. 
5.7 Investigate development of a Far West Sculpture Trail encompassing sites at Broken Hill, Mutawintji, White Cliffs and Wilcannia.
5.8 Align local land use and tourism strategies with the relevant Destination Management Plan.
5.9 Identify opportunities for tourism and associated land uses in local plans.

Direction 6: Unlock economic potential through improved freight transport infrastructure

The Mitchell, Barrier, Silver City and Cobb highways connect the region directly to South Australia, Queensland and Victoria, as well as the east coast. The nationally significant rail corridor between Adelaide and Sydney also passes through the region.13 This diversity of connections can be leveraged to benefit the economy and communities into the future.

Improved network connections

Agriculture and mining rely on efficient road, rail and air freight networks. The vastness of the region, and the distances to ports and markets, present a great challenge.

Local road connections that feed into the State and national road freight network are important for transporting agricultural produce and mining products. Identifying and resolving freight and road pressure points will help to grow agricultural and mining activities.

Restrictions on certain freight vehicles using local roads, unsealed local roads and the cost of local road maintenance, are significant impediments to the road freight network. The NSW Government acknowledges that these constraints can substantially affect economic productivity.14

The 2010 Melbourne-Brisbane Inland Rail Alignment Study, prepared by the Australian Rail Track Corporation, identified the preferred corridor for inland rail.15 Although this corridor is not located in the Far West, this infrastructure will provide better access for Far West producers to export markets.

Coordination of investment in the transport network

Ongoing investment to maintain and upgrade transport routes is essential to support future economic growth in the Far West. The NSW Government will continue to support coordinated investment in freight, priority road and rail infrastructure and airline services because of their importance to the regional economy.16

A regional economic development strategy, developed in collaboration with regional stakeholders will identify key enabling infrastructure, investigate policy interventions and provide recommendations to support future economic development of the Far West.

Identifying potential freight network corridors can promote nearby economically valuable land uses. Private investment can be directed at road and rail pressure points, as is occurring in the program commenced by GrainCorp at railway sidings in NSW and Victoria.

Transport for NSW administers two coordinated programs for network investment:

  • Fixing Country Rail removes productivity and efficiency constraints on the regional rail network; and
  • Fixing Country Roads targets funding to local councils for road projects that will eliminate connectivity constraints on local roads in NSW.

The NSW Government has invested $3.3 million for road projects that eliminate constraints on connections in Broken Hill, Cobar and Walgett, under Fixing Country Roads.

Some councils may not have sufficient resources or capacity to prepare detailed business cases to support infrastructure investment, and government and infrastructure agencies will need to work with councils to share skills and expertise.

Unsealed roads

Many local roads are unsealed due to the expensive cost of sealing and maintenance. Unsealed roads are generally more vulnerable to closure than sealed roads during weather events, which may cause lengthy detours and isolation for remote communities.

Sealing strategically identified portions of the region’s roads could help the efficiency of the network. For example, the finalisation of sealing portions of the Silver City Highway from Broken Hill through Tibooburra could provide an alternative freight route between Queensland and Victoria.11

GrainCorp investment in the agricultural supply chain

Private organisations are rationalising grain storage and distribution facilities in the region. GrainCorp has partnered with the NSW Government through the Fixing Country Rail program to invest in the construction of additional storage facilities and railway sidings at Burren Junction (Walgett Local Government Area). GrainCorp has funded new train loading equipment, roads, grain bunkers and other supporting infrastructure, while the NSW Government has funded the rail siding extension and supporting infrastructure works on the Narrabri to Walgett line.

These improvements will reduce shunting, allow for faster train loading and save a projected $9 per tonne in freight costs between farm and port.12 The siding will be lengthened to allow up to 40 wagons and the facilities upgraded so that a train can be loaded in four hours. The project responds to the need to help service a major grain receival site.


Potential Freight and Network Improvement

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far west goal 1 potential freight networks map 1200x839



6.1 Identify the regional freight network (including key national, State, regional and local roads and the rail network).
6.2 Investigate and prioritise Council-identified projects to address impediments to the regional freight network and improve capacity and opportunities in the network.
6.3 Identify, coordinate and prioritise the delivery of local and regional projects forming part of the regional freight network.
6.4 Locate freight and logistics facilities to capitalise on connections to external markets, maximise the use of existing infrastructure and support future industrial development.
6.5 Prepare a regional economic development strategy that drives economic growth opportunities by identifying key enabling infrastructure and other policy interventions to unlock growth.

Direction 7: Improve regional air connections 

Due to the distance from capital cities, air travel is crucial for quick connections. The ongoing operation and expansion of affordable air travel and related facilities will be essential to influencing future economic growth. 

Maintaining 20 per cent of flight slots at Sydney Airport for regional NSW services is critical to business, and provides convenient access for regional communities to crucial healthcare services in other centres such as Dubbo and supporting fly-in-fly-out workers. 

Regular commercial passenger air services operate to and from Broken Hill and Cobar. Some residents access regular passenger services from Dubbo, Mildura, Moree and Griffith in adjacent regional areas.

These inter-regional connections provide opportunities for direct air connections to all major metropolitan cities except Perth and Darwin, enhancing access to high-level social and medical services. Local airport and aerodrome facilities also support the Royal Flying Doctor Service medivac and NSW Rural Fire Service operations based in Broken Hill and Dubbo, along with private aircraft services business, industry and tourism. 

Airport facility operations should not be impeded by the encroachment of incompatible development. 

Airport expansions will be identified and planned through local land use strategies. 

The NSW Government’s response to the 2014 Inquiry into Regional Aviation Services noted that the Department of Premier and Cabinet had undertaken a feasibility study into expanding commercial air services to remote communities in western NSW, including Lightning Ridge, Walgett, Brewarrina and Bourke.17 The Western Regional Transport Plan (2013) proposed a similar investigation into commercial air services to the Far West.18 

Broken Hill Airport

Broken Hill Airport offers daily connections to Sydney, Adelaide, Dubbo and Mildura and is home to facilities including Regional Express Airlines, Express Freight, charter companies, general aviation and the Royal Flying Doctor Service base. The airport has considerable strategic value, and its growth as a major inland airport in regional NSW is one of seven long-term goals contained in the Regional Development Australia Far West NSW Regional Plan 2013-2023. The airport may require runway, taxiway and apron area improvements to allow for use by larger aircraft.

Tibooburra Aerodrome

Tibooburra Aerodrome is a Crown Reserve for aviation purposes managed by the Department of Industry – Lands & Forestry, through the Land Administration Ministerial Corporation. The NSW Government has provided more than $350,000 to enable various upgrades, including resealing the bitumen runway, installing animal-proof fencing and replacing the solar lighting system.

Cobar Airport

The NSW Government has provided $2.5 million from the Resources for Regions Fund to upgrade Cobar Airport, including runway pavement and lighting upgrades. These upgrades support continued airport operations, compliant with required standards. These works have also enabled opportunities to capitalise on Cobar’s central location for regional emergency service responses. 

Inter-regional Transport Connections

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7.1 Protect airports and airfields from the encroachment of incompatible development.
7.2 Support the continued allocation of 20 per cent of flight slots at Sydney Airport to regional NSW services and seek greater allocation in peak periods.
7.3 Work with stakeholders to investigate and prioritise projects to expand the capacity of Broken Hill Airport.
7.4 Investigate opportunities to leverage economic growth in the Far West from proximity to Mildura Airport.

Direction 8: Enhance access to telecommunications

Better access to reliable telecommunications and high-speed broadband internet can unlock a range of benefits including the development of small business, innovative farming technology (such as automated farm vehicles) and enhanced delivery of health, education, tourism and cultural services.19

Continued identification and funding to fix mobile phone black spots and delivery of new or upgraded mobile base stations will ensure a reliable telecommunications network, which is particularly important for some remote communities during emergencies. 

Health services are increasingly delivered through telecommunications technology. Emergency room observation and remote doctor videoconferencing narrows the gap in service provision. 

Similarly, students rely on online access for course content. Future growth in these sectors will be heavily dependent on access to reliable telecommunications. 

Internet connectivity is critical to social, community and economic wellbeing; however, more than one-third of households do not have access to the internet at home.20 

The roll-out of the National Broadband Network will be critical, and will enable the wider take-up of technology. Over the next 20 years, the Far West will benefit significantly from the use of new technology. 


8.1 Identify options to improve access to shared telecommunication and internet services, including public access to services at community centres and schools.

Direction 9: Sustainably manage water resources for economic opportunities

The availability of water and the security of its supply is critical for continued economic development. Water is a key input for agriculture and mining, as well as for community sustainability. 

Coordinating and managing water requirements across business, industry, communities and the environment requires a better understanding of local water allocations and more resourceful water use. Water allocation is complex due to seasonal fluctuations, and is an ongoing concern for some agricultural producers. More efficient irrigation technologies and non-traditional agricultural pursuits can help address water scarcity issues. Broken Hill and Cobar have been given high priority for infrastructure upgrades to improve their water security.21 

Land use planning can help to secure water supplies by appropriately locating, monitoring and managing development. This is especially relevant in the irrigation areas of Central Darling, Wentworth, Balranald, Bourke and Walgett local government areas where communities require greater certainty about seasonal water allocations to allow producers to increase investment and take advantage of global demand for agricultural products.

The NSW Government will adopt a coordinated approach to water resource management that provides greater certainty by managing environmental, industrial and residential water requirements in consultation with all stakeholders.

Native title and water resources

The conservation and use of water is a key issue for native title holders. Native title holders in and around the Murray- Darling Basin have expressed the need for sustainable and adequate flows for a range of community and commercial uses within their traditional country. 

Further consultation with Aboriginal communities is required.


9.1 Focus high-security water use industries in locations with appropriate water access. 
9.2 Enhance the productive capacity of land in irrigation areas by limiting encroachment of inappropriate and incompatible land uses. 
9.3 Consult with native title holders and prescribed body corporates as a part of determining water management policy.

Direction 10: Enhance the economic self-determination of Aboriginal communities

OCHRE is the NSW Government plan for Aboriginal Affairs, which focuses on revitalising and promoting Aboriginal languages and culture, creating opportunities, increasing the Aboriginal community’s capacity and empowering Aboriginal people to exercise choice.

Many OCHRE (Opportunity, Choice, Healing, Responsibility, Empowerment) actions are outside the scope of the planning system. However, there is an opportunity to look at the landholdings of Local Aboriginal Land Councils to see how they can best be planned, managed and developed for the benefit of the local Aboriginal communities. This will give Aboriginal people greater input into planning and development, encourage Aboriginal enterprises to gain economic benefit from their land, and provide greater opportunities for their economic independence and self-determination.

There are opportunities for Aboriginal people in the Far West to develop tourism businesses as a means of increasing economic participation on country. One way this is happening in the Far West is through establishing partnerships and mentoring programs between NSW National Parks and Wildlife and Aboriginal groups to increase Aboriginal employment opportunities within national parks.

Native title and economic opportunities Using native title lands in economic development has been identified as a priority by government, industry and representative bodies. The Australian Government’s Indigenous Economic Development Strategy 2011-2018 highlighted how native title agreements “often include practical benefits, such as training and employment, title to land, business, cultural and heritage opportunities”.23

Lands subject to native title could be for agribusiness, mining, renewable energy, tourism and as employment lands. For example, there is potential for land subject to native title to be leveraged in the tourism sector, as much of the land in the Far West is both culturally and environmentally significant.

Aboriginal Affairs NSW, the Department of Primary Industries and the Department of Planning and Environment will work with Local Aboriginal Land Councils to identify their landholdings and to map the level of constraint at a strategic scale for each site.

This information can be used to develop practical solutions for the potential commercial use of the land, such as for Aboriginal housing and employment. It has the potential to provide economic returns to the Local Aboriginal Land Councils that can be invested in assistance programs.

Native title and economic opportunities

Using native title lands in economic development has been identified as a priority by government, industry and representative bodies. The Australian Government’s Indigenous Economic Development Strategy 2011-2018 highlighted how native title agreements “often include practical benefits, such as training and employment, title to land, business, cultural and heritage opportunities”.23

Lands subject to native title could be for agribusiness, mining, renewable energy, tourism and as employment lands. For example, there is potential for land subject to native title to be leveraged in the tourism sector, as much of the land in the Far West is both culturally and environmentally significant.

Aboriginal Affairs NSW, the Department of Primary Industries and the Department of Planning and Environment will work with Local Aboriginal Land Councils to identify their landholdings and to map the level of constraint at a strategic scale for each site.

This information can be used to develop practical solutions for the potential commercial use of the land, such as for Aboriginal housing and employment. It has the potential to provide economic returns to the Local Aboriginal Land Councils that can be invested in assistance programs.

Murdi Paaki Regional Assembly

The Murdi Paaki Regional Assembly is a regional non-incorporated body that represents the interests of Aboriginal people in 16 communities in western NSW, many of which are in the Far West.

The Assembly’s membership comprises representatives from the Local Aboriginal Land Councils, community working parties and a young leaders program.22

The Murdi Paaki Local Decision Making Accord was agreed between the Murdi Paaki Regional Assembly and the NSW Government in February 2015. Both parties made commitments in the following key priority areas:

  • affordable and appropriate housing;
  • economic development;
  • education;
  • early childhood services; and
  • governance capacity and support.

Barkandji Traditional Owners #8 determination

Understanding and respecting native title rights is key to unlocking the economic interests of Aboriginal people in the Far West. The Barkandji Native Title Group Aboriginal Corporation, a Registered Native Title Bodies Corporate, holds native title in trust for the Barkandji and Malyangapa people of Far Western NSW.

Significant areas of land and waters in the Far West are subject to the Barkandji Traditional Owners #8 determination, which gives Aboriginal people the opportunity to use this land for commercial purposes.


10.1 Work with the Local Aboriginal Land Councils to identify landholdings and map the level of constraint for each site at a strategic scale to develop options for the potential commercial use of the land.
10.2 Identify priority sites that can create a pipeline of potential projects that the Local Aboriginal Land Councils may wish to consider.
10.3 Support pilot projects and opportunities that empower Aboriginal people to develop tourism businesses as a means of increasing economic participation on country.

Direction 11: Support new planning and land management arrangements

The Western Division of NSW includes all local government areas in the Far West, the Unincorporated Area and parts of Bogan and Carrathool local government areas in adjoining regions.

Approximately 96 per cent of this land is held as Western Lands leases, administered by the Minister for Lands and Forestry under the Western Lands Act 1901,24 and granted for purposes such as grazing, mixed farming, horticulture, and residential and business development. In early 2018, the Western Lands Act 1901 will be repealed and the provisions to manage the leasehold land within the Western Division will be administered through the new Crown Land Management Act 2016

In Lightning Ridge, historic residential mineral claims will continue to apply. Walgett Local Environmental Plan 2013 allows the building and rebuilding of dwellings and subdivisions on existing residential mineral claims, consistent with the Walgett Shire Growth Management Study and Strategy (2010) and advice from The Department of Industry - Lands & Forestry and the Division of Resources and Geoscience. 

There is a need to continue to improve the opal mining regulatory and enforcement system in the Lightning Ridge Opal Prospecting Areas. Management and rehabilitation of opal prospecting sites has historically been ad-hoc, resulting in major and permanent changes to the landscape that render large areas unusable for productive agriculture.

The Unincorporated Area
The Unincorporated Area is not governed by a local council and forms part of the Western Division. It includes the communities of Silverton, Tibooburra and Milparinka. The Unincorporated Area also has many Local Aboriginal Land Council groups, including Tibooburra, Wanaaring, Mutawintji, Wilcannia, Menindee, Broken Hill and Dareton. 

There are limited planning controls on freehold land in the Unincorporated Area to guide land use and related decision-making26 or any applicable formal governance and planning arrangements. The Unincorporated Area has significant heritage features such as Mutawintji National Park and rock art (engravings and paintings) and environmental assets with limited protection. Similarly, there are no local planning controls or guidance on development thresholds and the community has a limited say in land use development and management. 

In the absence of a local government authority, the Western Lands Commissioner has a consent authority role for various pieces of legislation relating to the Unincorporated Area. With the commencement of the Crown Land Management Act in early 2018, the role of the Western Lands Commissioner will cease to exist and these responsibilities will be managed by appropriate government agencies.

Lightning Ridge Voluntary Surrender Scheme

In May 2016, the NSW Government, through a voluntary expression of interest process, purchased four leasehold properties in the Lightning Ridge area as part of the Voluntary Surrender Scheme for Western Lands Leases. 

Under the Scheme, leaseholders within Opal Prospecting Areas 1, 2 and 3 were given an opportunity to surrender lots heavily affected by opal mining in recognition of the unique circumstances surrounding dual land use activities in the area. 

The majority of land surrendered has been reserved in the Lightning Ridge and Surrounding Opal Fields Management Reserve and will be managed under the new Crown Land Management Act 2016. Areas of surrendered land that are considered agriculturally productive will be returned to agricultural use via a publicly competitive process. The Department of Industry – Lands & Forestry will manage the classification and sale of these lands.  Remaining leaseholders will continue to operate in the existing dual land use regulatory framework and will continue to coexist with opal mining activity.25


11.1 Prepare a local plan for the Unincorporated Area.
11.2 Conduct a pilot project to progressively improve the mineral claims process around Lightning Ridge.
11.3 Continue to work with stakeholders to strengthen the regulation and compliance regime for the opal mining industry in Lightning Ridge to improve land management, including rehabilitation.

Direction 12: Enhance the productivity of employment lands

The timely supply of well-located and serviced land for new processing and manufacturing facilities will support the projected growth of agribusiness, and provide regional-scale facilities that can process agricultural produce. The largest towns are expected to have the highest take-up of commercial and industrial employment lands, primarily focused in central business districts and zoned industrial areas. Wentworth Local Government Area has a unique opportunity to capitalise on growth in Mildura. Smaller towns and villages will also need to provide land for local business and industrial activities.

Councils have indicated that there is sufficient supply of employment and industrial land to meet projected demand over the next 20 years.27 In some cases, however, this land may not be adequately located, zoned or serviced. Councils will need to provide sufficient supply, protect it from incompatible land uses, and identify infrastructure requirements in planning strategies and local plans.

Councils have reported capacity issues in some parts of the electricity supply network28 which is discouraging high-energy users from locating in zoned industrial lands.29 There may be opportunities for standalone alternative energy generation and the use of renewable energy options, such as wind and solar generation, to meet local energy needs. Monitoring the supply and take-up of industrial land will inform planning for water, waste water, electricity, gas and telecommunications infrastructure. 

Strengthening the commercial core of centres by clustering commercial activities will sustain and attract business investment and create more vibrant and sustainable main streets. New retail activity and small business growth should be in or adjacent to main streets and existing commercial centres to capitalise on existing transport and community infrastructure, enhance public spaces and strengthen the role and function of the area. 

Any development proposed for land outside existing commercial centres will need to demonstrate the social and economic benefits of development at that location.


12.1 Encourage the consolidation of isolated, unused or under-utilised pockets of industrial zoned land to create long-term economic opportunities.
12.2 Create land use strategies that identify opportunities to develop industrial and employment land and reduce land use incompatibility.
12.3 Ensure an adequate supply of industrial land with the capacity to enable development of specialised industry clusters and encourage co-location of related industries to decrease supply chain costs.
12.4 Encourage the sustainable development of industrial land to maximise the use of infrastructure, including access to markets and workers, and connectivity to the existing freight network.
12.5 Investigate barriers to industrial land take-up in Wentworth Local Government Area to leverage opportunities from growth in Mildura.
12.6 Accommodate future commercial and retail activity in existing commercial centres, unless there is a demonstrated need and positive social and economic benefits for the community.
12.7 Require proposals for new retail developments to demonstrate how they:

  • respond to retail demand;
  • respond to innovations in the retail sector;
  • maximise public transport and community infrastructure commensurate with the scale of the proposal; and
  • enhance the quality of public areas.

Page last updated: 28/07/2022