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NSW Department of Planning, Industry and Environment
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Communities resilient to change with housing choice and services that meet shifting needs and lifestyles

Between 2006 and 2011, the population of the New England North West grew to 182,600.21 By 2036 an additional 19,500 people are expected to be living in the region.22


The quality of life and the diversity of lifestyle choices make the region a desirable place to live. The draft Plan aims to capitalise on these attributes by creating highly liveable places that contribute to social cohesion and community wellbeing.


As agricultural restructuring has occurred over the last century, the population has shifted towards the regional cities of Tamworth, Armidale, and to a lesser extent Inverell, Gunnedah, Moree and Narrabri (see graph below).


This settlement trend is expected to continue. The Tamworth and Armidale Regional Local Government Areas will support more than half of the region’s population and dwellings by 2036. Other communities are projected to experience lower population growth, remain stable or in some cases decline.


It is important that communities are resilient and capable of adapting to economic, environmental and social changes.


The expansion of the region’s natural resource sectors may lead to relatively large and rapid fluctuations in population for some communities. The population is also ageing, which is part of a natural process occurring across the State and a result of migration trends. The New England North West, like many regional areas, is experiencing the outward migration of young adults (aged 20-30 years). As a result of these trends the region is expected to have relatively fewer younger people and more older people.


This change will have implications for future housing, jobs and services. There is likely to be higher demand for age-related services, and supporting health infrastructure and public transport. Fewer people of traditional working age may see pressure for people to extend their working life and a greater focus on skills and training. At the same time, an ageing population presents economic opportunities, for example, an expansion of related products and services across education and training, supported housing, health and leisure, tourism and recreation and home services.


As the population ages over the next 20 years to 2036, the average household size is projected to decline from 2.4 to 2.2 persons per household.23 Single and couple-only households are projected to increase by 30 per cent (6,050 households) and 23 per cent (4,850 households) respectively.24 This is likely to increase demand for one and two-bedroom homes to meet the needs of smaller households and improve housing affordability.


The draft Plan:

  • encourages proposals that raise the profile and job opportunities of areas and enhance local amenity;
  • directs housing growth to locations that are readily serviced by infrastructure and close to services and jobs;
  • promotes greater housing choice and affordability; and
  • facilitates the timely delivery of health and education infrastructure and prioritises these facilities as important destinations in public transport planning.


Historical urban centre population distribution: 1921, 1954 and 2011

Graphs displaying historical urban centre population distribution in 1921, 1954 and 2011 at New England North West.

Communities can become more resilient and adaptive to growth and change by diversifying their local economies and export base. The expansion of service-based sectors, tourism and agribusiness, will provide opportunities to expand and diversify economic activity and provide a broader and deeper economic base to support communities.


The Western NSW Mining and Resource Development Taskforce has been reviewing scenario planning tools that forecast the impacts of mining development on communities. The overarching objective is to help communities respond and adapt to growth and change. There is an opportunity to develop a district scenario planning model that the Joint Organisations of Councils could use to develop community resilience plans for future growth or change from mining developments.


There are a number of Australian and NSW Government programs that help rural communities access the infrastructure and services they need to build community capacity, including the NSW Rural Health Plan, NSW Community Transport Program and the Stronger Communities Program.


Action 3.1.1 Undertake local planning that supports community resilience

Implementing solutions at a local level can help to mitigate the impacts of static or declining populations and encourage community resilience and adaptability.


Councils are encouraged to consider developing local strategies to capitalise on community strengths, diversify the economy, attract investment, integrate infrastructure and transport planning, and deal with growth pressures.


A particular strength for many centres is that they offer affordable housing and attractive lifestyle choices, compared to larger centres. Local strategies will need to be developed with strong local leadership and formalised partnerships.

  • Improve coordination between State agencies and councils to support council-led strategic planning, particularly local strategies and precinct planning, that:
    • allows communities to engage in the development of policies that guide the development of localities, enhance amenity and deliver required infrastructure;
    • develops initiatives aimed at raising the profile of the area and awareness of opportunities for employment, business development, quality of life, and targeting young families; and
    • works with business sectors to develop employment opportunities to attract and retain younger people and professional and skilled workers.
  • Continue to scope the application and implementation of a scenario planning modelling tool that councils can use to deal with change and growth associated with mining developments.


Action 3.1.2 Work with Local Aboriginal Land Councils to conduct a strategic assessment of their landholdings to identify priority sites for further investigation of their economic or housing opportunities

OCHRE (Opportunity, Choice, Healing, Responsibility, Empowerment) is the NSW Government’s plan for Aboriginal communities. It focuses on revitalising and promoting Aboriginal languages and culture; creating opportunities; increasing the Aboriginal community’s capacity; providing choice; and empowering Aboriginal people to exercise that choice, as well as giving them the tools to take responsibility for their own future.


Many of the OCHRE actions are outside the planning system, however, there is an opportunity to work with Local Aboriginal Land Councils to help them plan, manage and develop their landholdings for the benefit of the local Aboriginal community. This will allow Aboriginal people the opportunity to gain real economic benefit from their land and provide greater opportunities for economic independence.


Together, Aboriginal Affairs NSW, Department of Primary Industries (Lands), and the Department of Planning and Environment will work with the Land Councils to identify their landholdings and to map the level of constraints for each site. This information can be used by Aboriginal communities to consider potential uses of the land for housing and employment opportunities. It has potential to provide economic returns to the Land Councils, which can be invested in assistance programs in the region.

  • Work with Local Aboriginal Land Councils to identify priority sites for potential housing and employment development.


Action 3.1.3 Facilitate the delivery of temporary housing for mining and seasonal or itinerant agriculture employees

The mineral, energy and agricultural sectors can generate rapid increases in temporary populations, increasing pressure on housing and accommodation, health, education and community services and infrastructure. This can also affect housing affordability and increase the cost of living.


Temporary accommodation offers an alternative to expanding permanent housing stock and avoids a potential oversupply of permanent housing in the longer term. Moree Plains and Liverpool Plains Shire Councils have permitted temporary workers’ accommodation in their local environmental plans. Other councils facing similar challenges could consider this approach.


Temporary accommodation for employees in the resource industry is currently available at Narrabri and Boggabri, and an additional temporary village is proposed at Werris Creek. The size and scale of these facilities require a strategic approach to planning in partnership with local communities.


In some circumstances, locating temporary populations on the outskirts of established urban areas may be preferable. This approach enables temporary residents to use and contribute positively to facilities that serve the entire community and to better integrate into these communities. This decision must be informed by an understanding of likely changes to economic opportunities over time.

  • Prepare planning guidelines for temporary accommodation of mining and agriculture employees to inform the location and design of future facilities to maximise social integration and economic benefits to local communities, and to minimise land use conflicts and amenity impacts.

Expected population growth and changing household types will increase the demand for new housing. A projected 15,700 new houses are likely to be needed to support the additional population and provide for changing household types.


Changes to household structure and a reduction in average household size will mean the growth in housing demand will continue to be higher than the population growth rate. In some locations the demand for housing will stabilise as a result of overall population decline.


Significant zoned land exists in each local government area to meet projected demand for residential and rural residential housing over the next 20 years. A number of councils have also identified additional land in their local growth management strategies to accommodate future demand.


Councils should maintain adequate supplies of zoned land to support new housing. Factoring in a modest housing surplus will provide a buffer against unforeseen constraints to development, including delays in the supply of housing, uneven rates of development or unexpected population growth. This is particularly important in the New England North West where population change has been difficult to predict due to variable external factors.


People on lower incomes in the region may find it difficult to access affordable housing without reducing their ability to pay for other essential items. This can lead to people experiencing housing stress when they are spending more than 30 per cent of their income on rent or mortgage costs. Affordable and social housing plays an important role in local communities by providing housing for workers in essential services and others on low incomes and it helps avoid issues associated with social disadvantage. Communities will have differing needs for affordable housing and local planning solutions will be required to help meet those needs.


Housing NSW has identified a moderate to high need for affordable housing in Moree Plains, Narrabri and Gunnedah. A moderate need for affordable housing is also recorded in Armidale and Tamworth.


Current and projected mix of dwelling types by local government area

Graph displaying current and projected mix of dwelling types by local government area in New England North West.

Action 3.2.1 Facilitate the supply of more affordable housing

The NSW Government recognises that more needs to be done to meet the housing needs of people on very low, and low incomes. The Government aims to develop a comprehensive approach to affordable housing that involves all stakeholders – the Government, councils and the private and community sectors.


Councils can help to improve affordable housing by including model controls and development incentives in their planning strategies and local environmental plans.

  • Prepare guidelines for local housing strategies.
  • Work with councils, where appropriate, to prepare local housing strategies that plan for a range of housing types and consider local affordable housing needs.
  • Consider amendments to relevant environmental planning instruments informed by updated strategies.

In 2011, around 90 per cent of the region’s housing was single detached.25 This proportion has remained relatively constant since 2001 and reflects the low density nature of settlements.


By 2036, the number of people aged 65 years or older is projected to increase to 26 per cent of the region’s population (an additional 20,900 people). This is the result of the natural ageing of residents and migration trends. By 2036, Glen Innes Severn, Gwydir and Tenterfield will have over one-third of their total population over the age of 65 years.


During the next 20 years, this ageing trend is expected to increase demand for greater housing choice, particularly in the regional cities of Tamworth and Armidale, close to services such as health and transport.


Councils can prepare local strategies to encourage more housing for the ageing community, including supported accommodation and aged care facilities. Councils and the building industry should take a proactive approach to promoting ageing-in-place by adopting Livable Housing Australia’s Livable Housing Design Guidelines in development controls, where possible. The guidelines aim to increase the volume and variety of age-friendly housing that requires minimal or no adaptation as people age.


Case Study: Promoting ageing-in-place in the Gwydir Shire

Gwydir Shire Council has recognised that changing socio-economic and demographic dynamics mean they have to adapt local services to meet the changing needs of the community.


Gwydir Shire is projected to have the highest proportion of residents aged over 65 years in the region in 2036 – 38 per cent of the Shire’s total population. Migration data illustrates that outward migration of people in this age bracket is relatively small, indicating a strong preference to age-in-place.


Council has taken a proactive approach to providing health services and aged care housing to support its ageing population. The Council owns and operates self-care aged accommodation facilities, Multipurpose Health Services and Medical Centres at both Bingara and Warialda. The Council also provides training in aged care and nursing at Certificate III level for the shire’s residents via its Gwydir Regional Learning Centre.


Council has taken a holistic approach to reducing social isolation by providing a range of facilities that contribute to the wellbeing of aged persons in the community.


Current and projected population age distribution

Graph displaying current and projected population age distribution in New England North West

Action 3.3.1 Provide for a range of dwelling types in local controls

A greater mix of housing will be necessary to satisfy projected demand for smaller housing types, for example townhouses, villas and apartments (see graph below). Existing planning provisions across the region provide for a range of residential accommodation types in appropriate locations.

  • Provide for a diversity of housing types in local environmental plans.

The draft Plan aims to direct growth to existing urban areas that already have jobs, infrastructure, commercial and retail services, and transport connections. This will limit the potential land use conflict with surrounding rural and agricultural areas, and minimise the impacts on environmental and heritage values. New development will need to be integrated into existing urban areas and supported by the appropriate infrastructure.


Centres with a strong local identity and sense of place contribute to community wellbeing. Councils should consider locality planning as a way of enriching the quality of life and wellbeing of residents, for example, by providing recreation and sporting facilities, open space, and infrastructure and services that promote healthy and active lifestyles.


Wherever possible, opportunities should be provided to reconnect communities with the surrounding landscape. Walkways, cycleways and public transport will be provided to make access to these places easier.


Draft settlement planning principles

Principle Description

Principle 1

New land release areas should be identified through a comprehensive strategic planning process or local growth management strategy, which has been endorsed by the Department of Planning and Environment.

Principle 2

New land release areas should be located close to existing urban settlements to maximise the efficient use of existing infrastructure and services, including water, sewer, road and waste services.

Principle 3

New land release areas should be located to avoid and minimise the potential for land use conflicts with existing and likely future adjoining uses.

Principle 4

New land release areas should avoid areas of high environmental, cultural, and heritage significance and regionally important farmland or areas affected by natural hazards. Unavoidable impacts on biodiversity will be offset and Aboriginal and historic heritage will be appropriately managed.

Principle 5

New rural residential areas should be clustered to minimise land use conflicts, encourage a sense of community and efficient access to services.

Action 3.4.1 Direct future growth to the most appropriate locations by applying Draft Settlement Planning Principles

Future urban growth should be located to allow infrastructure to expand efficiently and cost-effectively. Proposals to release new land for residential, industrial or rural residential purposes will need to apply the Draft Settlement Planning Principles outlined in the below table. These principles will apply until the Statewide criteria for land release in regional NSW are in place. The criteria will provide for a consistent approach to identifying and planning for future growth across regional areas.

  • Require that future urban and rural residential land is only zoned if it is in accordance with the Draft Settlement Planning Principles.
  • Prepare Statewide land release criteria to assess locations for residential, rural residential and industrial uses across regional NSW to be used in settlement planning.


Neighbourhood Planning Principles

  • Future growth is compatible with existing and potential land uses and community expectations for growth.
  • Proposed development standards for growth areas reinforce positive aspects of the streetscape and adjoining development by promoting appropriate separation and scale. 
  • New residential development should respond to site characteristics such as topography and climate.
  • Development should be designed to make sure there is public access to an adequate supply of appropriately located public open space and recreation areas, to provide for a range of recreational uses and visual amenity.
  • Future growth considers the regional settlement hierarchy.
  • Future growth areas will be located where they minimise potential adverse impacts on environmental and cultural heritage values and will avoid areas most affected by physical constraints such as flooding, bushfire or mine subsidence, or that have high cultural significance. Unavoidable impacts on biodiversity will be offset and Aboriginal and historic heritage will be appropriately managed.
  • Future growth areas will have the capacity to promote energy efficiency and water sensitive urban design.


Action 3.4.2 Promote quality urban design in neighbourhoods and centres

High quality urban design can improve community wellbeing, increase the economic viability of development and deliver social and environmental benefits, for example, providing more opportunities for walking and cycling can contribute to healthier lifestyles.


Neighbourhoods and centres should be designed to meet the different needs of the community – children, young people, families, singles, people with disabilities and the ageing community.


Urban areas should have access to natural features, with sufficient open space for community recreation, social interaction and nature conservation.


The Neighbourhood Planning Principles, outlined below, have been developed to promote quality urban design. Council development controls should incorporate provisions that achieve these outcomes.

  • Encourage councils to apply the Neighbourhood Planning Principles when preparing their local environmental plans and development control plans for new release areas and in strategic planning to revitalise town centres.
  • Consult with councils, agencies and industry representatives to review and update the neighbourhood planning principles.


Action 3.4.3 Encourage healthy living by increasing options for walking and cycling

Transport for NSW, in partnership with councils, has created a number of programs in centres to increase opportunities for people to be more active and therefore healthier. They include the Cycling Towns Program, Walking Communities Program, the Connecting Centres Cycling Program and NSW Bike Week.


These programs focus on:

  • prioritising infrastructure improvements for two-kilometre walking catchments and five‑kilometre cycling tracks that lead to town centres, as well as improving access to transport interchanges; and
  • using information and events to promote walking and cycling as a form of transport.


  • Work with councils to develop and implement programs that improve opportunities for walking and cycling.

Together, the NSW and Commonwealth Governments have invested over $382 million to improve health services in the region over the last five years.26 This includes the redevelopment of Narrabri Hospital, the New England North West Regional Cancer Centre, the University of Newcastle’s Education Centre in Tamworth and the University of New England’s Tablelands Clinical Education Centre in Armidale. Tamworth Rural Referral Hospital has also been upgraded and Armidale Hospital will be upgraded by 2019.


The NSW Government is continuing to invest in the redevelopment and expansion of health services. The NSW Rural Health Plan aims to build healthy rural communities and reduce inequities between rural and metropolitan areas by providing access to high quality care and improving the integration of health services.


With an ageing population, the delivery of healthcare is likely to change. Health services will increasingly be delivered through the home or community-based ambulatory care services. Access to health facilities will still be necessary when clinically required.


The expansion of the mineral and energy resource, agriculture and food processing sectors will provide career and training opportunities across a number of fields. The region has leading education providers that are offering courses and pathway programs to help people pursue careers in these sectors.


The NSW Government is also investing in education infrastructure in the region which is based around the University of New England and TAFE New England. It is funding a $6.6 million upgrade to the Tamworth TAFE to provide community services, health, plumbing, facilities for people with disabilities, and an Indigenous Learning Centre. Upgrades to Moree East Public School and Narrabri Public School are also ongoing.


The Department of Planning and Environment will work with Transport for NSW to prioritise connections to health and education facilities when bus network planning is undertaken.


Providing more workplace learning and trade skills training by using or upgrading existing infrastructure is becoming more common. Funding from the Australian Government is providing opportunities to develop trade workshops or technical facilities that provide training in trade specialities that are important to the region’s economic growth, including engineering, primary industries and hospitality.


The NSW Government’s Smart and Skilled program will help the region’s residents improve their skills and gain employment.


Action 3.5.1 Realign health services to the needs of the community

A number of health facilities across the region are expected to realign their services in response to the changing health needs of the population. Multipurpose health facilities may help to provide integrated health and aged care services outside of hospitals.

  • Identify capacity for health facilities to align their functions and services in response to the changing health needs of the community.


Action 3.5.2 Facilitate planning for additional primary and secondary school places

The Department of Education and Communities is preparing a long term strategic plan to 2031, as well as regional plans and school cluster plans to respond to changing demands across the State.


By 2031, there are expected to be around 450 more primary school places and 300 more high school places in public schools in the New England North West.27 The projected growth in the number of school-age children is likely to be accommodated in existing schools. The Department will monitor changes in demand in all the region’s public schools over time and plan for additional school places as required.


Private schools are also important contributors to primary and secondary education and will continue to provide services throughout the New England North West.

  • Continue to develop a revised service model and approach to school asset planning.
  • Monitor the rate and uptake of development in centres and new release areas to respond to increased school enrolments

New development will be located to maximise the use of existing infrastructure and leverage the capacity to cost-effectively extend services. Proposed new land releases and development should demonstrate how they will be supported by existing infrastructure or how new infrastructure can be provided and funded, prior to approval.


The NSW Government will support councils and infrastructure and utility providers to identify appropriate sites and capacity to provide for future needs, including water security, wastewater service capacity, electricity supply, emergency service facilities, cemeteries and crematoria.


Water infrastructure

Groundwater and bulk storages are used for agriculture and town water supplies and maintaining a secure yield is a priority for the region. The NSW Government’s Water Security for Regions program, part of the Restart NSW fund, has been set up to improve water security. Under Water Security for Regions, $366 million has been reserved to help communities prepare for future drought conditions. Projects including dam augmentation, pipeline and bore works and water efficiency mechanisms are being funded to help farmers and regional industries deal with drier conditions.


A number of projects have been undertaken in the region including the Glen Innes Off Stream Storage project, Wallabadah Bore and Pipe project (Liverpool Plains), Willow Tree Pipeline project (Liverpool Plains), and Baa Baa Water Supply Provision project (Narrabri Shire).


Current bulk water supplies can support the forecast town water supply to 2036. Dam safety upgrades are under way or have recently been completed at Chaffey, Keepit, Split Rock and Copeton.


Electricity infrastructure

Energy providers need to understand development activity across the region to undertake their service planning. Early engagement between mining and renewable energy companies and the operators of the transmission/distribution network will reduce long lead-in times for planning.


TransGrid has identified short term constraints for the 132 kV transmission system supplying the Gunnedah, Narrabri and Moree areas, however, options to resolve these constraints are being considered. TransGrid has commenced construction of a new substation in Tamworth, which is a major investment into the reliability and efficiency of current and future supply for homes and industries.


The northern NSW supply system has also been identified as a longer term supply constraint and the region is projected to exceed transmission capacity. As part of the Northern Telecommunications Link Project, TransGrid will connect communication systems to the North Coast to meet regulatory requirements and to maintain a reliable electricity supply for northern NSW.


In recent years, Essential Energy has completed upgrades to zone substations at Armidale, Inverell and Tamworth to secure predicted electricity demand. The existing electricity distribution network will meet forecast electricity demand across the region to 2036.


Action 3.6.1 Coordinate urban growth and infrastructure delivery

Councils should undertake detailed infrastructure service planning to establish that land can be feasibly and economically serviced, prior to rezoning. This will support the timely release and development of land. Councils should also undertake detailed design investigations and analyse the infrastructure requirements associated with rezoning proposals.

  • Support the work of councils to complete detailed infrastructure plans to support new land release.


Action 3.6.2 Monitor development activity to support infrastructure planning

The New England North West Housing and Land Monitor was introduced to monitor housing, jobs and infrastructure delivery. It provides information about the rate at which land is being developed and the nature of housing approvals across the region on an annual basis. This information will be used to adjust infrastructure and service priorities to match changing growth patterns.
  • Continue to monitor development activity and regularly report on growth across the region.

Page last updated: 09/10/2019