NSW Department of Planning and Environment

The New England North West includes some of Australia’s most productive agricultural land, along with a network of vibrant cities and centres across diverse landscapes. These assets will be the foundation of a prosperous future.

The strong economic base will underpin new and emerging industries to create one of the most dynamic regional economies in NSW.

The focus of the future is to leverage the distinctive regional identity to promote intensive agriculture, horticulture, green industries, renewable energy generation and tourism.

The natural environment, cultural features and events will continue to attract tourists and offer diversity within an economically sustainable region.

Agricultural production accounts for 17.5 per cent of the State’s gross agricultural value, the second highest regional contribution in NSW.1 The strength of the sector will rely on favourable climate and soils, access to national and international markets, strong broadacre cropping and grazing sectors and emerging intensive agriculture and food processing sectors.

The region’s cities and centres are rich in heritage, history and character. As the principal places for jobs, commerce, health, education and industrial activity, they will be a focus for economic activity.

The Tamworth Regional, Armidale Regional, Inverell, Narrabri, Gunnedah, Glen Innes and Moree Plains local government areas will be home for most of the expected population in 2036.

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Direction 1 – Expand agribusiness and food processing sectors

Intensive agriculture and food processing are the fastest growing agriculture-related sectors. A more diverse agricultural sector will offset the challenges of agricultural restructuring.

Large livestock and food processing facilities, such as abattoirs and milling operations, can leverage changing global population and food consumption trends. Potential expansion of these sectors is demonstrated by the already growing poultry sector around Tamworth, Gunnedah and Liverpool Plains.

A strategic approach to intensive agriculture and food processing will avoid land use compatibility issues and protect the long-term viability of their operations, while also facilitating opportunities for expansion across different rural sectors and communities.

Agribusiness plays a vital role in supporting agricultural production, and includes professional agricultural services, storage and warehousing, machinery and equipment, transport and logistics, and food, beverage and other product outlets.

These uses should be permitted in a range of locations and existing agribusiness sites protected from the encroachment of inappropriate land uses that might limit their operations.

Appropriate co-location of related industries will maximise infrastructure, decrease supply chain costs, increase economies of scale and attract investment. Industries that co-locate also have the potential to use the by-products and waste materials of other industries to create new products and services.

SMART Region Incubator

Funded under a $1 million grant from the NSW Department of Industry’s Boosting Business Innovation Program, the University of New England’s SMART Region Incubators are smart workspace hubs in Tamworth and Armidale.

The incubators support sustainable employment and jobs growth, assist the establishment of small to medium enterprises and focus on youth employment. They bring like-minded and entrepreneurial individuals and teams together, often resulting in shared creative thought and collaboration.

The Tamworth incubator provides access to research data for commercial agribusiness and agricultural technology opportunities.


1.1 Prepare a Regional Intensive Agribusiness Strategy to foster ongoing investment and to specify guidelines for intensive agriculture, food processing and mapping for suitable future precincts for these uses.

1.2 Promote the expansion of agribusiness and associated value-adding activities through local plans.

1.3 Protect intensive agriculture clusters in local plans to avoid land use conflicts, particularly with residential and rural residential expansion.

1.4 Encourage commercial, tourist and recreation activities that complement and promote a stronger agricultural sector, and build the sector’s adaptability.

Direction 2 – Build agricultural productivity

The New England North West is home to some of Australia’s largest, most efficient and productive farmers and graziers.2 This expertise is a competitive advantage that must be harnessed for the region to remain one of the State’s food and fibre heartlands.

The NSW Department of Industry is developing and implementing 10-year action plans under the Agricultural Industry Action Plan to guide industry and government investment and activities to grow the cotton, broadacre grains and livestock grazing sectors.

Fostering innovation and competitiveness will be essential to securing sustained growth in the agricultural sector over the next 20 years.

Agricultural research and development, the presence of institutions like the University of New England, and SMART Farm Innovation Centre in Armidale, will continue to nurture agricultural innovation.

The region’s institutions lead the way in research and development into farm efficiency and technologies that can sustain productivity, foster environmental sustainability, open market opportunities and maintain a competitive edge.

Reliable telecommunications will also be critical to enabling farming innovations.

The New England North West can maximise opportunities associated with growing global connectivity and international trade agreements.

By harnessing new markets presented through these processes, the entire supply chain can benefit, including transport infrastructure and facilities such as silos, abattoirs and saleyards, supporting secondary processing facilities, and transport and logistics industries.

The New England North West is uniquely positioned to foster stronger relationships with the adjoining Darling Downs in Queensland and develop new supply chains to export produce to Asian markets via the Brisbane West Wellcamp Airport, while also maximising export opportunities associated with Tamworth Regional Airport and the Port of Newcastle.


2.1 Develop industry-specific action plans to grow cotton, broadacre grains and grazing sectors and address sector-specific considerations through local plans.

2.2 Facilitate research and development institutions through local plans and identify opportunities to grow and promote innovation in the agricultural sector.

2.3 Promote investment in the agricultural supply chain through local plans by protecting these assets from land use conflict and the encroachment of incompatible land uses.

Direction 3 – Protect and enhance productive agricultural lands

Fertile and productive agricultural land needs to be protected for long-term food and fibre security and to capitalise on increasing demand for agricultural products. Highly productive agriculture requires ready access to water (including irrigation), high-quality soils and suitable climate.

The NSW Government’s Biophysical Strategic Agricultural Land mapping identifies agricultural land that is significant to the State (see the map below). There is an opportunity to complement this mapping with regional-scale mapping that reflects regional climatic and geological conditions.

Agriculture and State Forest

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Mapping of important agricultural land will be prepared to inform land use planning decisions. This mapping will be supported by guidelines that outline matters for consideration when determining development on or in proximity to important agricultural land.

Agricultural land has historically been protected by limiting rural land subdivision. Minimum subdivision standards for rural zones will be used to enhance the viability of the agricultural sector, and maximise production efficiencies by limiting land fragmentation. Limiting the development of dwellings that are not a primary residence or associated with agriculture will also help to avoid potential conflicts with agricultural activities.

Before approving secondary dwellings or detached dual occupancies in rural areas, councils should consider possible land use conflicts and impacts on local agricultural activities. Local environmental plans can also support the agricultural sector, with farm boundary adjustments and subdivisions creating a primary production lot without a dwelling and rural worker dwelling controls. The provisions should offer flexibility and opportunity while preventing fragmentation.

Identifying suitable areas for smaller agricultural holdings that can support activities (such as horticulture) will minimise land use incompatibility and prevent ad hoc fragmentation of land. Councils can also identify certain agricultural areas for inclusion in the primary production small lot zone.

Biosecurity risks increase as a result of trade, the spread of feral and exotic species, tourism, climate variability and competing priorities for resources, can threaten agricultural land.3 Biosecurity risks can be minimised through risk assessments, taking into account biosecurity plans and applying appropriate buffer areas.

Forests support tourism and recreation activities, and provide wood products. They play a strong environmental role in terms of water quality, native habitat and connectivity with other forests, such as national parks. Planning for long-term timber supplies must balance the value and compatibility of agricultural lands with plantation forestry. Protecting timber supplies, processing facilities and related forestry industries from encroachment of incompatible land uses is essential.

Travelling Stock Reserves move livestock and provide supplementary grazing areas in times of drought. These reserves can contain significant biodiversity and Aboriginal cultural heritage values and must be carefully managed to balance the needs of travelling stock and the conservation of native species.

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3.1 Map important agricultural land and develop guidelines to support the implementation of the important agricultural land mapping through local plans.

3.2 Limit urban and rural residential development on important agricultural land, including mapped Biophysical Strategic Agricultural Land, unless it is in a strategy that is:

  • agreed between council and the Department of Planning and Environment; and
  • consistent with the guidelines for councils on important agricultural land.

3.3 Manage the interface between important agricultural lands and other land uses by incorporating controls in local plans that manage compatibility between land uses, and undertaking land use conflict risk assessments where potential conflicts are identified through rezoning processes.

3.4 Secure the ongoing agricultural viability of rural land holdings by:

  • incorporating appropriate minimum subdivision standards and local planning provisions for rural dwellings in local plans to manage potential conflicts with agricultural activities; and
  • monitoring annual changes in landholding sizes for each local government area.

3.5 Minimise biosecurity risks by undertaking risk assessments, considering biosecurity plans and applying appropriate buffer areas.

3.6 Facilitate long-term requirements for plantation forest land and processing facilities by restricting the encroachment of incompatible land uses.

3.7 Finalise a NSW Travelling Stock Reserve State planning framework to guide the management of travelling stock reserves and help guide the development of regional travelling stock reserve management plans.

Direction 4 – Sustainably manage mineral resources

The region’s diverse geology has potential for mineral and energy exploration and production. The Gunnedah coal basin contains the State’s third largest coal reserves and coal seam gas potential. The New England North West also contains deposits of gemstones, industrial minerals and extractive materials, with many small-scale mines in operation.

The NSW Government has recognised the importance of protecting important farmlands such as the Liverpool Plains and continues to seek a reduction in the encroachment of exploration licenses into these areas.

New England North West’s resources provide the raw materials for major infrastructure projects, new housing, and industrial and agricultural businesses. These resources must not be affected or sterilised by the encroachment of sensitive land uses. Mining activities need to be undertaken sensitively to minimise negative impacts on the environment, important agricultural land, neighbouring businesses and the community.

Mineral resource extraction can benefit and affect communities in different ways during the mining lifecycle. The sustainable management of mineral resources must consider and balance varying impacts to produce sustainable economic, social and environmental outcomes.

While mining activities have specific operational needs that can compete with other land uses, they are also temporary and depend on the productive life of the facility or resource. Once extraction sites 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.

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 Council of Australian Governments (COAG) Standing Council on Energy and Resources Multiple Land Use Framework includes planning principles in this regard.

Information about 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 resources 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 identifies the process for the controlled, strategic release and competitive allocation of new exploration licences. Under the draft Framework, new exploration licences would only be issued after an assessment of resource potential; economic, environmental and 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.

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4.1 Consult with the NSW Division of Resources and Geoscience when assessing applications for land use changes (strategic land use planning, rezoning and planning proposals) and new developments or expansions.

4.2 Protect areas of mineral and energy resource potential through local strategies and local environmental plans.

4.3 Protect infrastructure that facilitates mining from development that could affect current or future extraction.

Direction 5 – Grow New England North West as the renewable energy hub of NSW

The region can be a leader in renewable energy, thanks to potential sources of solar, bio-waste, hydro, wind and geothermal. It receives 19 to 20 megajoules daily of solar exposure, making it the second highest solar penetration region in NSW.

View Renewable energy potential maps on the Resource and Energy website.

A strategic and integrated approach to renewable energy projects will leverage new opportunities and help meet the NSW Government’s goal of a carbon-neutral NSW by 2050.

The Department of Industry’s Renewable Energy Action Plan (2013) guides renewable energy development. It streamlines negotiations between network service providers and investors to make timeframes for grid connections more competitive.

Existing proposals for large wind and solar farms will generate employment and investment from construction, operations and connection to the State’s electricity grid.

Incorporating small-scale cogeneration measures into the design of new developments and providing employment lands for research and development opportunities will further support the sector’s growth.

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5.1 Diversify the energy sector by identifying renewable energy resource precincts and infrastructure corridors with access to the electricity network.

5.2 Facilitate appropriate smaller-scale renewable energy projects using biowaste, solar, wind, hydro, geothermal or other innovative storage technologies.

Direction 6 – Deliver new industries of the future

Green industries will emerge as businesses identify new opportunities and productivity gains associated with environmental sustainability. These sectors will be at the heart of considerable innovation and can gain greater success with local partnerships between industry, government and educational institutions.

Green industries will lead to the development of high-tech infrastructure or research and technology. In doing so, industry can underpin activity in other complementary manufacturing sectors.

Identifying an adequate supply of employment land with the necessary infrastructure will attract investment in existing and emerging industry sectors. Consideration should also be given to the location of industries that can promote resource and infrastructure sharing and policies.

Opportunities for research and development institutions will be secured with suitable employment land, including the creation of clusters around key education institutions, and by incorporating tools into local planning policies to encourage establishment. These industries may also require land with access to transport and freight corridors, protected from encroachment by sensitive or incompatible uses.


6.1 Encourage green industries by reviewing local plans to ensure land use zonings reflect industry requirements.

6.2 Prepare a regional economic development strategy that promotes opportunities for the diversification of the economic base by identifying key enabling infrastructure and other policy interventions to unlock growth.

Direction 7 – Build strong economic centres

Growing cities and centres as places of commerce, retail and social activity will support tourism, foster a strong sense of place, and enable services to be efficiently delivered for residents and adjoining communities.

Commercial and Industrial

Clusters of economic activity around precincts will continue to be a source of economic diversity and higher skilled employment. The vitality of central business precincts within cities and centres will be promoted. New commercial precincts should be avoided outside of centres. Where out-of-centre commercial areas are proposed, they must be of an appropriate size to their service catchment.

Well-located employment land is a key component to a successful centre. Employment land supply will be encouraged in locations supported by freight access and protected from encroachment by incompatible development. Certain industries may need to be located away from centres due to their type, scale and nature, and this should be addressed in local growth management strategies.

Health and Education

The ageing population will increase demand for health care and social assistance. Encouraging the growth of health precincts around hospitals will enable complementary business co-location, shared infrastructure and a more convenient experience for patients. Accommodation options for patients and their families may also need to be identified to support people who travel to access health services.

The education and training sector will continue to attract and retain younger residents who will deliver services to the growing and ageing population.

The NSW Department of Education is reviewing its approach to asset and network planning through a strategic plan to 2036 to identify schooling needs and improve education delivery.

The University of New England is also building on its strong agricultural, agribusiness, education and medical focus to provide specialist courses that can capitalise on global industry and workforce changes.

The National Broadband Network will enhance digital connections and facilitate innovation, knowledge-intensive industries and small businesses. It will also give people more options to enjoy the region’s lifestyle, while accessing wider markets. The growth of knowledge industries will drive demand for purpose-built business facilities in well-located accessible areas that offer the benefits of agglomeration, corporate prestige, amenities and proximity to cost-effective labour.

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7.1 Develop local growth management strategies and use local plans to reinforce regional cities and centres as the primary locations for commerce, housing, tourism, social activity and regional services.

7.2 Focus retail and commercial activities in central business precincts and develop place–making focused planning strategies for centres.

7.3 Develop proposals for new commercial centres only where they:

  • demonstrate positive social and economic benefits for the wider community;
  • maintain the strength of the regional economy;
  • are consistent with the Interim Settlement Planning Principles at Appendix A;
  • respond to retail supply and demand and innovations in the retail sector;
  • maximise existing infrastructure (including public transport and community facilities) commensurate with the scale of the proposal; and
  • enhance the value of the public realm.

7.4 Facilitate economic activity around industry anchors, such as health and education facilities, through planning controls that encourage clusters of complementary uses and address infrastructure needs.

7.5 Promote an appropriate mix of land uses and prevent the encroachment of sensitive uses on employment land through local planning controls.

7.6 Deliver an adequate supply of employment land through local growth management strategies and local environmental plans.

7.7 Ensure employment land delivery is maintained through an annual New England North West Housing and Land Monitor.

Direction 8 – Expand tourism and visitor opportunities

The New England North West hosts major events including the Australian Celtic Festival in Glen Innes, AgQuip in Gunnedah, Armidale Autumn Festival and the Tamworth Country Music Festival.

There is an opportunity to expand tourism visitation and expenditure given the spectacular environment, diverse landscapes, climate and friendly communities.

Additional nature-based and adventure-based prospects such as the Sport UNE Mountain Bike Trails and the Moree Water Park will continue to attract additional visitors. Broadacre farming areas and other agricultural pursuits can also offer farm-based tourism. The region’s many cultural sites will provide the potential for regional tourism trails linked by scenic drives.

Destination management plans or other tourism focused strategies will showcase existing tourism sites and activities, build relationships with the network of regional airports and capitalise on emerging tourism trends. Consultation throughout the preparation of these plans with Destination NSW is encouraged to maximise opportunities.

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.

The region’s first people, the Anaiwan, Banbai, Bundjalung, Githabul, Gumbaynggirr, Kamilaroi, Kwaimbul, Ngoorabel and Dunghutti, have a rich cultural heritage. Consultation with local Aboriginal people will identify opportunities to celebrate and recognise this cultural heritage, which in turn could provide opportunities to empower local Aboriginal communities.

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8.1 Facilitate tourism and visitor accommodation and supporting land uses where appropriate through local growth management strategies and local plans.

8.2 Prepare destination management plans or other tourism-focused strategies that:

  • identify culturally appropriate Aboriginal tourism opportunities;
  • encourage tourism development in natural areas that support conservation outcomes;
  • strategically plan for a growing international tourism market; and
  • align with the Destination Management Plan prepared by Destination NSW.

8.3 Promote opportunities to expand visitation to regionally significant nature based tourism places, such as the Oxley Wild Rivers National Park, Mount Kaputar, Gwydir Wetlands State Conservation Area, hot artesian mineral waters at Moree and koala colonies at Gunnedah.

8.4 Advocate for large-scale and high-quality tourism development in regional cities and other areas identified within the Destination Management Plan prepared by Destination NSW.

8.5 Implement Destination NSW’s Draft Aboriginal Tourism Action Plan 2017 – 2020 when finalised.

Direction 9 – Coordinate growth in the cities of Armidale and Tamworth

Armidale and Tamworth will accommodate over half of the region’s population by 2036. Each city has assets that support a growing population and the provision of services to the wider region.

Development of accommodation, health, education, food and entertainment will add further value to city economies. These opportunities will be magnified by upgrades to airport infrastructure, promoting greater visitation to the cities and New England North West. Armidale and Tamworth will continue to develop their own distinct identity.

The expansion of Armidale Hospital, greater enrolments and services at University of New England and place-based planning initiatives will be the catalysts for development of Armidale city centre. New residents will be attracted to Armidale’s employment opportunities, health services, education, lifestyle, art and cultural facilities.

Tamworth’s higher-order health facilities and regional sports and entertainment precinct will support residents and attract visitors for major events. Tourism and community life will be further bolstered by retail and commerce along Peel Street and recreation at Bicentennial Park.

Precinct plans for each city will ensure development is well placed, fosters local character and maximises place-based opportunities. High-quality design outcomes will be a priority for each city, particularly for high-order facilities, landmark developments and gateway sites. Libraries, civic centres, parks and emergency service facilities can be an exemplar for best practice design, energy and water conservation and place-making.

These holistic plans will be supplemented with activation plans, developed collaboratively between councils and the Department to provide a framework for immediate opportunities and coordinated investment. The activation plans will provide a design-led approach to support the city centres as vibrant focal points of community activity.

Armidale regional city growth precincts

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Tamworth regional city growth precincts

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9.1 Deliver precinct plans to provide a holistic vision and planning framework for the regional cities.

9.2 Prepare activation plans for the regional cities.

Page last updated: 28/07/2022