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Land Negotiation Program

It is important that NSW Crown land is held by the most appropriate landholder so the people of NSW can gain positive social, economic, cultural and environmental benefits. It is also important to retain land of State significance for future generations.

The Land Negotiation Program (the program) is a new initiative of the NSW Government that sets out to achieve this and is a response to recommendations from the Crown Lands Management Review (2014). The program assesses the most appropriate ownership and management of Crown land.

Program benefits include:

  • local ownership of Crown land to advantage local communities
  • reduced red tape and the regulatory burden on local government
  • more efficient and streamlined land management
  • recognition of the importance of land to Aboriginal people and to support sustainable spiritual, cultural, environmental and economic benefits for Aboriginal people.

How the program works

Voluntary negotiations will be held between the NSW Government, the NSW Aboriginal Land Council, Local Aboriginal Land Councils (LALCs), and local government councils to consider Crown land in a given area (e.g. local government areas or LALCs) and explore which party may be best placed to own that land in recognition of each party’s interests in the land (as outlined above).

There are four stages to the land negotiation process:

Land negotiation process

Assessing the land

Information about all Crown land parcels in the negotiation area will be made available via LandsLink, a new web-based spatial system developed for the program. Each negotiating party participating in the program and other government agencies will have access to LandsLink and training provided to them.

State and local land considerations

All Crown land that is considered under the program is subject to comprehensive assessment by the NSW Government, including under the State land criteria and Local land criteria. This is to ensure that:

  • Crown land that is of State significance and is required to be retained by the State for the benefit of the people of NSW is kept in the Crown Estate, and
  • land that is of predominantly local significance and would benefit from local ownership is identified.

State land

  • Is of significance to all the people of NSW and includes iconic sites, land of high environmental or heritage value, land that currently provides, or is required for, planned core government services and infrastructure, and is part of a state or regionally significant system or network.
  • Is guided by the NSW Government’s State land criteria.

Extensive consultation takes place across the public sector to ensure that all land that meets the State land criteria is identified.

A State Land Criteria Map that is a guide to land of State significance will be shared via LandsLink. Land parcels identified as meeting State land criteria can still be assessed by the negotiating parties for potential transfer in the negotiation process.

Local land

  • Is being used or has the potential to be used for community purposes, such as parks, gardens, local sports fields, recreation centres, community centres, swimming pools, tennis courts, scout halls and libraries.
  • Potential for transfer to local government councils or LALCs.
  • Is guided by the NSW Government’s local land criteria.

Prior to negotiations, local government councils strategically assess potential Crown land parcels that meet the local land criteria.

LALCs are also encouraged to strategically investigate and assess potential Crown land for transfer in the negotiation process consistent with their rights under the Aboriginal Land Rights Act 1983.

Co-management arrangements between negotiating parties will be encouraged.


All parties negotiate through a facilitated process to achieve agreement. When agreement is reached it is formalised using Aboriginal Land Agreements and Local Land Agreements.

Aboriginal Land Agreements (ALAs)

On 1 July 2015, the NSW Government enacted Section 36AA of Aboriginal Land Rights Act 1983, which provides for ALAs. ALAs allow for the strategic settlement of multiple land claims and for flexibility in providing the social, cultural and economic outcomes intended by the Aboriginal Land Rights Act 1983. They are an additional option to the existing land claim mechanism under Aboriginal Land Rights Act 1983.

Note: ALAs do not replace the existing Aboriginal Land Claims (ALCs) process. Land claims continue to be processed on an individual basis against criteria specified under Section 36 of Aboriginal Land Rights Act 1983. ALAs are a new mechanism based on negotiations that have the potential to allow for the settlement of multiple ALCs.

The NSW Government in partnership with the NSW Aboriginal Land Council developed the Aboriginal Land Agreement Negotiation Framework (2016) to ensure ALA negotiations are fair and likely to succeed in the shared objectives of:

  • speeding the processing of ALCs
  • providing more sustainable social, cultural and economic outcomes for LALCs and Aboriginal communities from the return of land
  • providing greater certainty to all parties over Crown land.

The framework defines the scope of ALA negotiations, provides principles that will guide how negotiations are conducted, and prescribes procedural elements to ensure negotiations are fair and likely to succeed.

Local Land Agreements (LLAs)

Local land will be transferred to local government councils under the new Crown Land Management Act 2016 via LLAs. Councils will then own and manage that land under the Local Government Act 1993.

The majority of Crown land transferred to local councils will be classified as ‘community land’ and will continue to be available to the community for social, recreational, sporting, environmental, cultural and economic purposes. Exceptions will be provided for Crown land that clearly meets the definition of ‘operational land’, for example waste transfer stations.

Update on the Land Negotiation Program's Expressions of Interest

In July 2017, the Minister invited Expressions of Interest (EOI) from all local government councils (Councils) and Local Aboriginal Land Councils (LALCs) to participate in the next round of the Land Negotiation Program (the program).

The EOI period closed on 1 September 2017 and 83 responses were received from Councils (63) and LALCs (20), demonstrating significant interest in the program.

On 21 November 2017, the Minister approved 17 new areas to participate in the program over the next three years consistent with Cabinet and Expenditure Review Committee approvals: six in 2017/18, five in 2018/19 and six in 2019/20.

The following guidelines explain the Expression of Interest process:

More information