Friends of Grasslands

supporting native grassy ecosystems

PO Box 440
Jamison Centre
Macquarie ACT 2614


Ms Alison Stone
Executive General Manager
Crown Lands
NSW Trade & Investment
PO Box 2185
Dangar  NSW  2309

Dear Ms Stone

Crown Lands Legislation White Paper

Thank you for your letter of 28 March 2014 informing Friends of Grasslands (FOG) of the current status of the Crown Lands Management Review process (the Review) and for the invitation to make a submission on the Crown Lands Legislation White Paper (the White Paper).

This letter constitutes FOG’s submission on the White Paper. It expands on the views and recommendations in FOG’s letter of 22 January 2013 (see Appendix A) to Michael Carapiet, Chairman of the Crown Lands Review Steering Committee. This previous letter followed earlier FOG submissions in relation to travelling stock reserves and routes (TSRs). It briefly outlined the public environmental benefits of TSRs, stated concerns about the uncertain future of TSRs as a result of the Ryan Review into the former Livestock Health and Pest Authorities (LHPAs), and made recommendations related to recognising and managing their State and National environmental significance. The Crown Lands Management Review paper (Review paper), Chapter 4, confirms this significance by stating “... Many are still important because of their location in over-cleared landscapes and because of significant Aboriginal cultural heritage and ecological values”.

FOG recognises that TSRs are only one form of Crown land and that the scope of the Review and the White Paper extends to all of the estate managed by Crown Lands Division, which covers approximately 42 percent of NSW (33.6 million hectares) under 59,500 tenures. We also note that Western Lands leases comprise 88 percent of this estate, i.e. 29.56 million hectares under 6400 tenures. Apart from TSRs, both the Review paper and White Paper also acknowledge the public environmental values and benefits of other forms of Crown land, for example Western Lands leases, Crown reserves and commons. This submission attempts to address this broad scope from the perspective of FOG’s goals and interests, as described below.

FOG's goals and interests

FOG, founded in 1994, is a community group dedicated to the conservation of natural temperate grassy ecosystems in south-eastern Australia. FOG advocates, educates and advises on matters to do with the conservation of native grassy ecosystems, and carries out surveys and other on-ground work. FOG is based in Canberra and has a number of members in south-eastern New South Wales. Its members include professional scientists, landowners, land managers and interested members of the public. FOG believes that conservation of these threatened systems is not only important for the intrinsic benefit of the species within them, but that the health of these systems provides enormous economic and social benefit to humankind, directly through the provision of ecosystem services, such as providing habitat for pollinators and insectivorous birds and water filtration, but also indirectly through spiritual enrichment, reflection, recreation and aesthetic experiences. It is important to note that threatened entities fall under both NSW State and Australian Government threatened species legislation (the NSW Threatened Species Conservation Act, 1995 and the Environmental Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act, 1999, respectively).

FOG has an ongoing interest in the conservation and management of endangered native grassy ecosystems and their component species. Over the years FOG has visited numerous NSW public Crown land sites with significant ecological diversity and habitat values. These have included TSRs, Crown reserves, cemeteries, commons, roadside and rail reserves, ocean tidal zones and water reserves. FOG has also undertaken and continues to undertake practical “hands-on” work with a variety of land managers, including government agencies (Commonwealth, State, local), environmental NGOs (e.g. landcare groups) and private landholders. These activities include participation in advisory panels, on-ground conservation works and environmental surveys.

Comments on the Legislation White Paper

Overall we have considerable concerns with the White Paper. While we obviously cannot disagree that reducing the administrative cost and reporting burden associated with the management of Crown Lands has an economic benefit, the costs to environmental, Aboriginal and other community values appear to have been ignored. We believe the issues raised in our previous submission have been not been addressed.

The White Paper makes no appeal to sectors of the community concerned with protecting environmental, indigenous and other community values, and will not provide them with any assurance that these values will be protected let alone enhanced. It appears that what is proposed will allow the NSW Government to sell or otherwise walk away from its land-owning responsibilities. There is no mention of resources, or of how or whether TSRs and other Crown reserves will continue to be used for grassland conservation purposes.

The NSW Government has the responsibility to ensure that Crown lands are managed in the public interest. The public interest is to preserve and enhance their:

Each parcel of land (or sets of parcels of land) should be carefully and comprehensively assessed to determine its/their values. Standards need to be established for each site's management. From this all else will follow; for example, the sale, de-gazetting, leasing, issuing of permits, licencing or otherwise renting of lands should be subject to ensuring that the environmental, amenity and other values of interest to the community are protected and enhanced. Inability to make payments for rent of land in hardship cases should be accepted, provided that the values identified above are being protected and enhanced. Who and how lands are managed would not be major questions, provided that appropriate standards are maintained. Should selling off land potentially result in the identified values being degraded, then this should not be allowed to occur. However selling off or ceding lands so that they may be managed for their conservation values may be a desirable outcome. We address this further in our response to question 12 below.

It is not clear what the roles of Local Land Services (LLS), the Office of Environment and Heritage (OEH) and the NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service (NSW NPWS) are in this matter, though potentially, this question should be addressed.

The following addresses some of the specific issues and questions you are seeking comment on, as listed in Section 1.4 of the White Paper.

Re 3. Overview of Proposed legislation

1. How would developing one new piece of legislation to manage the Crown land estate benefit the community?

FOG recognises, as identified in the Review paper, that Crown land legislation and management in NSW are products of more than 120 years of ownership and management arrangements and that these don’t necessarily align with current knowledge, government and community needs and expectations, and with current environmental, social, and economic goals and objectives. It is understandable that over a 120-year time-frame, these arrangements have resulted in duplicated and redundant legislation, overlapping and unclear assignment of administrative responsibilities between government agencies, inconsistencies in management and accounting for similar parcels of land, and some Crown land no longer being used for its original purpose. It is also acknowledged that this has resulted in complexities, delays, backlogs, and uncertainty around decision-making and management, for both government and non-government stakeholders alike. We also note that there is another component of land that is not brought together under this legislation, namely, “paper roads”, many of which have high ecological values, and cause another level of administrative maintenance.

Certainly, from the perspective of a community group involved in public land management policy and practice, FOG would welcome any moves to reduce the amount and complexity of legislation governing Crown land that will increase its clarity, equity, consistency (internally and with other legislation), and will result in more efficient and effective environmental protection and management. If realised it would have the potential to reduce disputes, administrative load and costs, and wasted time and effort, for all stakeholders.

Therefore, in good faith, FOG supports in principle the proposal to consolidate the eight existing Acts and repeal the five redundant minor Acts in the understanding that it will provide:

2. Are the objects and provisions proposed for the new legislation appropriate to support Crown land management in the 21st Century?

Superficially the 10 proposed objects appear to be sound but are somewhat vague, open-ended, and lacking in substance. This contrasts with objects contained in other NSW Government legislation involving management of Crown land, for example the Local Land Services Act 2013 or even the current Crown Lands Act 1989. The proposed objects need to be further fleshed-out, with more explanation and definition needing to be provided to allow an informed evaluation to be made. For example, in the various objects, what are the meanings of the terms “benefit of the people”, “public interest”, “community”, “best use”, “where appropriate”, “appropriate system”, and “facilitate diversification of land use”?

The context for this is the extremely important ecological values of a significant proportion of Crown land parcels. Many of these parcels, which include TSRs, Crown reserves and other public spaces such as foreshores and water reserves, have been retained more-or-less undisturbed for more than 100 years and are often remnants in otherwise highly fragmented, disturbed and/or over-cleared landscapes. The values of Crown land parcels as habitat for a diverse range of vegetation types and species, and stepping-stones and corridors for movement of fauna and flora must be taken into account in any decisions as to their future use and management. This is further elaborated in FOG’s 2013 submission on TSRs, attached at Appendix A.

FOG has particular concerns with objects (c) and (g) as outlined below.

c. To integrate social, economic and environmental considerations in decisions

This is the only object in which environmental considerations are specifically mentioned, though they are weakly stated. This is not appropriate, given the importance of the proposed legislation. It is also not consistent with the numerous references to and stated acknowledgement of the significant public environmental values and benefits of various types of Crown land contained in both the Review paper and White Paper. For example, the first sentence of the introduction in the White Paper states: “Crown land is an important asset for the community of NSW, providing opportunities for a vast range of community and economic activities, and preserving important heritage and environmental values”.

This object also contrasts significantly with other Crown land-related legislation such as the Local Land Services Act 2013, which has four objects containing environmental considerations and another related object that requires application of “...sound scientific knowledge to achieve a fully functioning and productive landscape”. Even the objects in the current Crown Lands Act have more strength and clarity in relation to environmental considerations, by virtue of items (a), (b) and (e) of the Principles of Crown land management Items which are tied to its objects (b) and (c).

FOG therefore recommends that the proposed objects be strengthened in relation to the environmental values and benefits of Crown land, along the lines of the objects of the Local Land Services Act 2013. At the very least the relevant objects and parts of the Principles of Crown land management of the current Crown Lands Act should be retained.

g. To encourage public use, enjoyment and, where appropriate, multiple use of Crown land

We believe that users of Crown land should also be made aware of the various values of the land they use and be encouraged to respect and care for these values. Although our focus is on environmental values associated with Crown land, there are, of course, other public values and benefits that users should be actively encouraged to appreciate, respect, and care for. Consequently we recommend that the wording of object g. be revised to include these additional considerations, for example:

“g. To encourage public use, enjoyment, appreciation, respect, care, and, where appropriate, multiple use of Crown land”

FOG is pleased to see that Section 1.3 of the White Paper states that “Environmental protection measures in the existing legislation, including provisions to prevent overstocking and overgrazing on Western Lands grazing leases, will be continued...”. However, we are concerned that it is then followed by the statement ”... Provisions that duplicate the protections in other legislation (such as the Native Vegetation Act 2003) will not be retained”. If the environmental protection provisions of other legislation are not to be duplicated they should at least be referenced, where appropriate, to indicate relevant linkages, for example, as has been done with references to the Native Vegetation Act 2003 contained in the Local Land Services Act 2013.

Re 4. Improved management arrangements for Crown reserves

The Review paper indicates that Crown reserves comprise around 35,000 reserves under 20,000 tenures, covering an area of approximately 3.25 million hectares, or just under 10 percent of the Crown estate. Of this 2.1 million hectares are indicated as comprising 10,415 reserves (TSRs) with 6,485 (~543,000 hectares) under the management of the former LHPAs (now LLS), 3,919 TSR with Crown Lands Division, 47 TSRs with councils, five with other NSW Government agencies, and one with a not-for-profit organisation. The remaining 1.15 million hectares, presumably, are comprised of reserves for environmental protection, cemeteries, recreation and sporting facilities, green spaces, beaches and foreshores, holiday accommodation, infrastructure, Government services, and other purposes.

3. Do you have any comments on the proposal to allow local councils to manage Crown land under local government legislation rather than under the Crown Lands Act?

This may be a reasonable proposal for Crown reserves that:

An issue of major concern is the potential for Crown reserves with significant environmental values to then have their purpose changed under local government legislation. This may result in gradual degradation or immediate destruction of those values that might otherwise be maintained or improved under their current purpose. This highlights the broader issue about the proposal, mentioned in the Review paper, to revise the whole Crown reserves framework to allow for change of gazetted reserve purposes to better facilitate multiple uses. We urge that such sites are identified and that available expertise in the local, regional and State spheres be sought as to their future management and uses. In some cases, responsibility should be taken up as a State responsibility. Can you provide more details on this that will allow assessment of potential implications?

It is also noted that the Review paper indicates that the willingness and capacity of councils and communities to take advantage of this proposal are unknown and that any transfer or divestment process should aim to maximise benefits to both levels of government, based on accurate and informed decisions. We are concerned that, without such capacity, decisions will be made to divest areas without due consideration of their conservation values.

The concept of State and local land introduced in the Review paper appears to be primarily directed at the future ownership and management of Crown reserves. Bearing in mind that reserves classified as local land would be transferred to councils outright, FOG supports the key point in Chapter 2 of the Review paper that “Further consultation is required to test the state and local land criteria and identify implementation issues associated with the proposed delineation between state and local land.”  Ideally, land with identified conservation values that is identified to be retained as State land should be made part of the NSW conservation estate, managed by NSW NPWS.

4. What are your views about the proposed new management structure for Crown reserves?

The proposal to move from the current three-tier management structure to a two-tier structure appears to have merit on the understanding that:

The management of multiple reserves by a single Crown reserve manager is desirable because of its potential to provide consistency of public land management, combined with the appropriate expertise, funding and resources, for example, as FOG has recommended with regard to protecting the public environmental benefits of TSRs (see letter in Appendix A below). This also includes a recommendation to consult with stakeholders to develop a consistent, State-wide management framework for TSRs. These recommendations could similarly be extended to other types of Crown reserves having public environmental benefits.

FOG agrees that community input to reserve management is an important principle of Crown land management and should continue under the new legislation with provisions for governing and advisory structures such as community advisory committees.

5. Do you have any further suggestions to improve the governance standards for Crown reserves?

The White Paper indicates that the “... Minister will be given flexibility to determine the extent of control to be exercised over the work of a Crown reserve manager” and that “... The level of approval and reporting requirements will be tailored to match the complexity of the reserve management task and the competence and professional expertise of the Crown reserve manager”.

The Review paper indicates the Government’s priorities are for improved transparency, accountability, and consistency of management. This is also echoed to some degree in the proposed object (b) of the proposed legislation “b. To provide a system of management for Crown land that is efficient, fair and transparent”. Therefore to meet these various goals:

Other streamlining measures

6. Are there any additional activities that should be considered as ‘low impact’ activities in order to streamline landowner’s consent?

FOG has no comment on this question.

7. Are there any other ways to streamline arrangements between the State and local governments?

FOG has no comment on this question.

8. In addition to the suggestions provided, are there any other ways to ensure that the public is notified of the proposed use or disposal of Crown land - and their views taken into account – that would be appropriate to include in the new legislation?

FOG has no comment on this question.

Better provisions for tenures and rents

9. Do you support the concept of a consistent, market based approach to rents, with rebates and waivers for hardship and public benefits for certain uses of Crown land applied where appropriate?

FOG has no comment on this question.

10. Is five years a reasonable amount of time to give tenure holders who currently pay below the statutory minimum rent to move to paying the minimum level of rent as required under the new legislation?

FOG has no comment on this question.

11. To avoid rent arrears issues for incoming tenure-holders, should the new legislation automatically transfer any rental debt to a new tenure-holder on settlement, or require any outstanding arrears to be paid prior to transfer or settlement?

FOG has no comment on this question.

12. What kinds of lease conditions should be considered ‘essential’, for the purposes of providing for civil penalties?

We believe that, prior to divestment of land, conditions should be placed on appropriate land uses that reflect the ecological conditions. Conditions may include retention of trees within certain zones or within defined cover value thresholds (to allow for thinning of thickly coppicing regrowth), shrubs, fallen timber, rocks and other habitat elements.

13. Should Crown land be able to be used for all forms of carbon sequestration activities?

This needs to be considered more carefully. There is insufficient information and analysis in both the Review paper and White Paper to make an informed judgement to reasonably answer this question. Can you provide more information? Otherwise in the absence of this information the answer is “no”!

Greater flexibility for Western Lands leases

14. What additional activities do you think should be permitted on Western Lands leases without the need for approval?

In the context of lands that do not retain environmental values, we have no comment. Such environmental values include ecological values as well as functional values such as erosion mitigation and water absorption.

15. Bearing in mind the fragile nature of much land in the Western Division, in what situations do you think it would be appropriate to allow Western Lands leases to be converted to freehold?

See 14. above.

Stronger enforcement provisions

16. What are your views about the proposal to strengthen the compliance framework for Crown lands?

The White Paper makes a good case for the new legislation to strengthen and update current enforcement provisions for non-compliance. It also makes a good case for increasing the number of provisions in the new legislation to make them more comprehensive and consistent with other legislation for managing public land. The proposed enforcement provisions as outlined in relation to auditing, increased officer powers, offences and penalties, and other provisions appear to be consistent with achieving the goal of a strengthened compliance framework.

FOG generally supports the proposals for strengthened enforcement provisions as outlined in section 8.3 of the White Paper. The proposal (section 8.4) for compliance-sharing with other agencies has merit in its potential to realise resource efficiency benefits across agencies. An example, as suggested in the Review paper, is by authorising national parks rangers to inspect Crown lands adjacent to national parks that are difficult for Crown Lands Division to monitor, either for reasons of difficulty of access or lack of on-ground staff. However, compliance-sharing with other agencies will need further consideration, as this may introduce complexities with the potential to undermine and weaken the new legislation, for example by:

17. Do you have any suggestions or comments about proposals for the following:

FOG has no comment on this question.

Minor legislation

18. Do you support the repeal of the minor legislation listed?

Yes, as long as other relevant State legislation is enforced.

19. Do you see any disadvantages that would need to be addressed?

The White Paper indicates “... Many commons have environmental and Aboriginal or other heritage values...”. FOG’s concern would be that the environmental (and other) values of commons may either be unnecessarily degraded or destroyed under new management regimes, particularly where, under current arrangements, these values are well managed and/or have sound management plans and funding in place.

In closing we thank you for the opportunity to input to this part of the Review process. We trust that it will be of assistance. We would appreciate updates on the progress of the Review and any further opportunities to contribute to public consultation.

Sincerely yours


Sarah Sharp

18 June 2014




Friends of Grasslands

supporting native grassy ecosystems

PO Box 987, Civic Square ACT 2608

phone: 02 6288 2413



Mr Michael Carapiet
Crown Lands Review Steering Committee
Catchments and Lands Division
Department of Primary Industries
PO Box 2185
Dangar  NSW  2309

Dear Mr Carapiet

Travelling Stock Reserves and the Crown Lands Review

Friends of Grasslands (FOG) is a community group dedicated to the conservation of natural temperate grassy ecosystems in south-eastern Australia. FOG advocates, educates and advises on matters to do with the conservation of grassy ecosystems, and carries out surveys and other on-ground work. FOG is based in Canberra and has a number of members in south eastern New South Wales. Its members include professional scientists, landowners, land managers and interested members of the public. FOG has an ongoing interest in the conservation and management of our endangered native grassy ecosystems and over the years has visited a number of travelling stock reserves and routes (TSRs) with significant ecological diversity and habitat values.

FOG is writing to you as it understands that, following the February 2012 Report On The Review Of The NSW Livestock Health And Pest Authority (LHPA) Model prepared by Terry Ryan (Ryan Review) for the NSW Minister for Primary Industries, future management of TSRs is being considered as part of the Crown Lands Review. This follows on from FOG’s September and November 2011 submissions to the Review of the Livestock Health and Pest Authorities (LPHAs). The purpose of this letter is to:

Public Environmental Benefits of TSRs

TSRs currently provide and can continue to provide major public environmental benefits through their conservation of unique parts of NSW’s natural heritage. These benefits are also of national significance. This is in addition to other public benefits of TSRs, i.e. agricultural, ecosystems services, cultural, historical, and recreational.

It is well documented and well recognised that TSRs often contain the best examples and largest remaining repositories of native grasslands, grassy woodlands, and other grassy ecosystems that were once widespread across NSW rural landscapes. It is also well recognised that the variety, extent and condition of grassy ecosystems commonly found in TSRs are poorly represented in the formal NSW and national reserve systems. Many TSRs contain important remnants of NSW and Commonwealth listed threatened vegetation communities. In our region examples of these communities include Natural Temperate Grassland, Box-Gum Woodland, and Snow Gum Woodland. They also support many NSW and Commonwealth listed critically threatened native plant and animal species, such as the Grassland Earless Dragon (possibly the most threatened of Australia’s reptile species).

Another important role TSRs play is to create connectivity and habitat corridors across the landscape, forming a network that connects with stock routes and corridors in other States. These interstate connections are important for biodiversity and ecological health overall. The way in which the TSR network is managed will have effects well beyond NSW borders

Concerns with the Ryan Review

FOG’s principle concern relates to Recommendation 8 of the Ryan Review which states “Devolve management responsibility for all the public lands currently dedicated as travelling stock reserves and routes to the DPI Division of Catchments and Lands. The LHPA be required to make the public benefit case at the local level for the LHPA to retain management of any individual area of Crown Land for livestock purposes.”

The TSR network is a major public asset, comprising some 600,000 - 700,000 hectares in the eastern part of NSW and 1.7 million hectares in total including Western Division lands. FOG would have expected that comprehensive assessments of the various environmental and other (economic and social) values of TSRs using a multidisciplinary team would have been justified, not the least in recognition of and out of respect for the roles that TSRs have played since the early 1800s in preserving NSW’s natural and human heritage, and in their contribution to NSW’s (and Australia’s) economic and social development. The Ryan Review does not appear to acknowledge in full the historical significance and debt owed to the TSR network and its management agencies for the various public benefits they have provided.

Whether by design or accident, the environmental values of the TSR network are testimony to the effectiveness of the former Pasture Protection Board and Rural Lands Protection Board systems and the LHPA system in managing TSRs for agricultural purposes on behalf of rural landholders whilst simultaneously providing a range of other public benefits. However, we acknowledge that with any system of management there is always scope for ongoing improvement, and that the cost of maintaining TSRs has not been spread evenly across the community. In this regard, FOG was disappointed to see no suggestion in the Ryan review of the possibility of LHPAs receiving additional funding from a range of government and private sources to manage TSRs for their broader values to the NSW public. As well, there are a number of other mechanisms that could be used to protect and manage TSRs, including selling off sites subject to the application of ‘voluntary’ conservation covenants, retention of larger ones as nature reserves or addition to adjoining existing reserves, and encouraging Bush Heritage and other similar groups to buy them (and resell if that is their policy).

FOG is concerned that transfer of TSRs to the DPI Division of Catchments and Lands with possible retention by LPHAs has the potential to fragment further the TSR network and lead to further loss of corporate knowledge, management expertise and skills from the LHPA system. The Ryan Review has not suggested any safeguards and mechanisms to ensure that the environmental values and benefits of TSRs are maintained or enhanced during and after handover to the DPI. Conversely we are not aware of any NSW Government policy guidance on what will happen to TSRs that revert to the DPI, and are not aware of any Government guarantee that will prevent them being sold off. Break-up of the TSR network amongst a range of different users and owners is likely to irreversibly damage its environmental values and integrity, and will exacerbate threats to native biodiversity in NSW.

A further concern is with Travelling Stock Routes, rather than the Reserves themselves. These are wide corridors alongside roads, often many kilometres long and relatively narrow, but some may be as much as a kilometre wide in places. Many of these retain significant values which are often different from the fenced-in Reserves. Protection of these Route areas should be ensured where they have values such as very old trees, a particular cohort of species, or connectivity values.

FOG recommendations

Given that we believe that the public environmental benefits of high conservation value TSRs are of both State and national significance FOG is advocating that:

Local Land Services and Crown Lands review

We are aware of the Local Lands Services restructure of DPI, CMAs and LHPAs, and the broader review of Crown Lands you are conducting. We would appreciate some more information on the Crown Lands Review process, particularly in relation to how it will assess, maintain and enhance the public environmental benefits of TSRs. Could FOG be advised of the timing and notification place of public consultation for the Crown Lands Review?

We look forward to your response to the above.

Sincerely yours



John Fitz Gerald


22 January 2013