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Frequently asked questions

Preliminary Regional Issues Assessment

What is the Strategic Release Framework and why was it developed?

The Strategic Release Framework (the Framework) allows for the controlled, strategic release and competitive allocation of coal and petroleum prospecting titles in New South Wales. The Framework is designed to:

  • provide greater clarity and transparency in decision making relating to where exploration activities may take place
  • introduce a competitive process for determining who may undertake these activities.

The Strategic Release Framework was developed in response to the Independent Commission Against Corruption’s recommendations in 2013 relating to the allocation of coal resources in New South Wales.

In developing the Framework, the NSW Government also considered the commitments made in the New South Wales Gas Plan, which was released in November 2014 in response to the recommendations of the NSW Chief Scientist and Engineer on Coal Seam Gas (CSG) activities in New South Wales.

Further information about the Strategic Release Framework is available here at the Resources and Energy website.

What is a Preliminary Regional Issues Assessment (PRIA)?

The Strategic Release Framework (the Framework) recognises there are competing uses for land and seeks to carefully consider these interests. As a result, integral aspects of the Framework include community consultation and a preliminary assessment of social, environmental and economic matters relating to a potential release area.

The department will be responsible for conducting community consultation and advising the NSW Government about these social, environmental and economic matters. This is called a Preliminary Regional Issues Assessment (PRIA).

The Preliminary Regional Issues Assessment will primarily utilise current available information and data and consultation with the community and other stakeholders to identify issues to be considered in the assessment. The department will prepare an assessment report summarising key issues, opportunities and constraints associated with releasing an area for exploration. This report will help inform the NSW Government’s decision-making about what areas to release.

What does the Preliminary Regional Issues Assessment (PRIA) assess?

The Preliminary Regional Issues Assessment will focus on identifying potential social, environmental and economic issues at a high level. Relevant issues could include:

  • significant environmental concerns
  • potential land use conflicts
  • potential immediate and cumulative impacts on local communities of potential development following release for exploration
  • impacts on existing infrastructure and growth zones.

How is the assessment conducted?

The Preliminary Regional Issues Assessment will:

  • utilise data contained in existing data-sets or other relevant information sources to provide information about the key social, environmental and economic considerations in the proposed area
  • examine potential risks and constraints at the time the assessment is conducted
  • examine issues that would be useful in informing and potentially affecting a decision whether or not to release an area (either wholly or in part) for potential coal or petroleum exploration.

Who decides what land will be released for exploration?

The NSW Minister for Resources is responsible for releasing an area for exploration under the Mining Act 1992 (for coal) or the Petroleum (Onshore) Act 1991 (for petroleum). The Minister will receive advice from the Advisory Body for Strategic Release, which is made up of an independent chair and senior representatives from the Department of Premier and Cabinet, NSW Treasury and the Department of Planning and Environment.

More information on how the Minister makes a determination is available at the Resources and Energy website.

When will Preliminary Regional Issues Assessments be undertaken?

If the NSW Minister for Resources nominates an area for potential release for exploration, the Advisory Body for Strategic Release will consider the potential to proceed with an assessment. If there is merit to proceed, the Advisory Body will request the department commence the Preliminary Regional Issues Assessment.

How do Preliminary Regional Issues Assessments related to the standard exploration and planning process?

The Strategic Release Framework is an additional consideration phase that comes before the standard resource exploration process. It is only applicable to new potential coal or petroleum exploration areas. The Preliminary Regional Issues Assessment is the assessment phase including community consultation that seeks to understand potential social, environmental or economic impacts of new coal or petroleum exploration in the area. This information is gathered to add to the initial resource assessment to inform the decision of the NSW Minister for Resources about whether to release an area (either wholly or in part) for coal or petroleum exploration.

The Preliminary Regional Issues Assessment does not in any way guarantee future exploration licences or planning approvals will be granted by the NSW Government to develop gas resources in these areas.

How can the community get involved?

Once the decision has been made to conduct a Preliminary Regional Issues Assessment, the department will begin consulting with the community on issues to be considered in the assessment. Consultation will seek registrations of interest through advertisements in relevant newspapers and other forms of direct communication with the community and other stakeholders.