NSW Department of Planning and Environment

Natural disasters

Natural disasters can have a significant impact on homes across NSW, from bushfires and floods during the Australian summer to beach erosion caused by east coast lows.

Many people affected by these natural disasters face challenges in obtaining planning approvals for the rebuild or repair their homes due to changes in planning controls over time.

The NSW Government is committed to helping our communities recover after natural disasters.

The department is working with local councils to look for ways to future-proof our planning system by reducing barriers to development approval for applicants seeking to rebuild their homes after natural disasters.

A new clause for rebuilding and recovery

On 23 June 2021, the NSW Government introduced a new provision to give councils the flexibility they need to make it easier for homeowners to rebuild or repair their homes after a natural disaster.

Councils can now use an optional clause in the Standard Instrument (Local Environmental Plans) Order that gives them the flexibility to help homeowners rebuild after a natural disaster.

Councils will still be required to complete a merit assessment of the development; however, the rebuild or repair cannot be refused based on any development standards in the local environmental plan (LEP).

This will save applicants time and money as they will not need to submit an application to vary development standards in order to get their development application approved.

The department has prepared a guidance document (PDF, 92 KB) to assist councils and practitioners to implement the clause for development applications where it applies.

Councils can adopt the clause

The Natural Disasters Clause, which has already been adopted by 32 councils, allows councils to approve appropriate applications to repair or rebuild homes after a natural disaster.

The clause is now included as an optional provision in the Standard Instrument LEP Order. This means that councils can adopt the provision as part of a planning proposal process, incorporate as part of a housekeeping amendment at a later date. The clause enables councils to nominate zones to which it will apply.

If you are a council that is interested in adopting the clause, please email our project team at disaster.recovery@planning.nsw.gov.au or contact your regional team. Alternatively, you can read our frequently asked questions (PDF, 113 KB) for more information about the clause.

Page last updated: 17/01/2023