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Update on addressing flood risk in planning decisions

We support a risk-based approach when assessing planning proposals and development applications. This approach considers the risk relating to the type of development proposed and the flood risk specific to its location.

Our focus is on delivering a safe and sustainable future. This is part of our efforts to ensure the planning system is adaptive, responds to climate change and supports resilient communities.

Addressing flood risk in planning decisions

To help councils and other planning authorities apply a risk-based approach to flooding assessment, we have released planning circular PS 24-001: Update on addressing flood risk in planning decisions (PDF, 618 KB) that provides advice on:

  • existing flood-related planning policies that planning authorities should continue to consider to address flood risks
  • flood matters that planning authorities should consider when making decisions for planning proposals, local and regional development applications, state significant development and state significant infrastructure.

The circular sets out councils' responsibilities in managing flood risks in their local government areas. The circular also provides updates on flood-related policy initiatives underway, including action taken in response to the 2022 NSW Flood Inquiry.

The circular is based on policies and obligations for managing flood risk that are intended to help planning authorities make informed decisions when assessing the overall merits of each development proposal.

Read the circular

Case studies

We've developed a series of case studies that demonstrate how the advice on flood matters within the circular can be applied when assessing developments with varying flood risk (low, medium and high). The case studies include:

Frequently asked questions

What does the 'ability of proposed development to withstand flood impacts' mean?

The ability for a proposed development to withstand flood impacts is to be determined during the assessment of the application. A Flood Impact Risk Assessment should be considered during this assessment. The flood risk management guideline LU01 Flood impact and risk assessment provides a best practice approach to preparing a Flood Impact Risk Assessment.

Flood impacts include, but are not limited to, loss of human life, damage to property, flood level changes, changes in flood duration, velocity change, change in inundation frequency, change in frequency of isolation, flood function categorisation change and hazard categorisation change. Flood impacts will vary depending on the scale of the flood event that occurs.

What does 'high risk proposal' mean?

Page 3 of the circular is intended to help determine if a proposal is high risk. For example, a proposal that may be considered high risk could be for a sensitive use development located in a floodway with limited evacuation opportunities.

What do the words 'flood behaviour' mean?

Flood behaviour includes the extent, depth, velocity, hazard, function and duration. Flood behaviour will vary depending on the scale of the flood event. The Flood Risk Management Manual 2023, particularly the guidelines FB01 Understanding and managing flood risk and LU01 Flood risk impact and risk assessment, can assist in determining possible constraints posed by flood behaviour.

What are 'high risk' catchments, and where are they?

The 2022 NSW Flood Inquiry identified high-risk catchments as the Northern Rivers, Hawkesbury-Nepean, Georges, Tweed, Macleay, Richmond, Hunter, Clarence and Shoalhaven catchments.

Where can I find more information about the 28 flooding recommendations made by the 2022 NSW Flood Inquiry?

The 28 recommendations are discussed in the summary report from the 2022 NSW Flood Inquiry.

For more information, email [email protected]