A NSW Government website

Coastal Crown Land Guidelines

The Coastal Crown Land Guidelines (PDF, 288 KB) will ensure a clear and consistent approach to coastal Crown land management in NSW. The guidelines explain how coastal Crown land management aligns with NSW legislation, clarifying planning and approval requirements, and formalising current processes and procedures.

Importantly, the guidelines integrate coastal Crown land management with Coastal Management Programs (CMPs) and Plans of Management (PoMs) prepared by local councils in consultation with communities.

The guidelines will assist councils and other Crown Land managers in managing coastal Crown land in an integrated and strategic way and make it easier for everyone to understand how decisions are made.

Under the guidelines, Crown Lands will also ensure that coastal risks such as beach erosion and coastal inundation are identified prior to leases and licenses on coastal Crown land being issued or renewed.

This page summarises the guidelines. You can also read the complete guidelines for further details.

Frequently asked questions

Where do the guidelines apply?

Coastal Crown land includes many beaches, headlands, estuaries and waterways. It includes the seabed and subsoil to 3 nautical miles off the coastline.

On coastal Crown land, there are also: 

  • 10 national surfing reserves
  • 25 regional harbours
  • 21 river entrance break walls
  • more than 90 holiday parks.

The guidelines do not apply to ports at:

  • Sydney Harbour (Port Jackson)
  • Botany Bay
  • Port Kembla
  • Port Hunter (Newcastle).

These ports are managed under the Ports and Maritime Administration Act 1995.

Under the guidelines, Coastal Crown land also includes both Crown land and Crown roads located within the coastal zone as defined under Part 2 of the Coastal Management Act 2016.

What coastal hazards affect Crown land?

Coastal hazards that may need to be monitored and managed on Crown land include: 

  • beach erosion
  • coastal and tidal inundation (flooding)
  • unstable coastal cliffs
  • unstable coastal lakes or watercourse entrances.
Who did the Crown Lands team consult when developing the guidelines?

Crown Lands consulted with: 

  • other agencies within the former Department of Planning and Environment
  • the Department of Primary Industries – Fisheries
  • Transport for NSW (Maritime Infrastructure Delivery Office).

The development of the guidelines was an action in the Marine Estate Management Strategy 2018-2028, and the guidelines were presented to and noted by the Marine Estate Agency Steering Committee. 

Will there be more consultation with the community?

The guidelines integrate with coastal management programs and plans of management that councils prepare in consultation with communities. Through these processes, the public is consulted on priorities for the use of coastal Crown land. 

These are priorities such as: 

  • environmental conservation and restoration
  • public amenity and enjoyment
  • commercial development
  • cultural needs. 
What legislation manages and protects coastal Crown land?

Crown land is managed under the Crown Land Management Act 2016. The NSW Government also uses a wider Coastal Management Framework to manage complex coastal and marine issues:

  • Coastal Management Act 2016
  • Marine Estate Management Act 2014
  • Fisheries Management Act 1994
  • State Environmental Planning Policy (Resilience and Hazards) 2021.

Under this framework, multiple agencies work together to manage the coast in a strategic and integrated way. 

How will the guidelines be applied?

The guidelines will be applied to decision-making for coastal Crown land and the management of coastal issues. This includes the:

  • plans of management that local councils prepare for Crown land they manage under the Crown Land Management Act 2016
  • coastal management programs and other strategic plans that land managers prepare, in line with coastal management programs the Crown Lands team manages under the Crown Land Management Act 2016
  • assessment of certain applications for landowner’s consent to use coastal Crown land, submitted under the Environmental Planning and Assessment Regulation 2021 
  • assessment of applications for Crown land tenures (lease or licence applications) under the Crown Land Management Act 2016.
Do the guidelines allow seawalls on Crown land to protect private property?

The guidelines confirm that private coastal protection works on the open coast should be contained within a landowner's private freehold land. This is so the protection works do not affect community Crown land.

Crown land may only be used for seawalls or similar hard structures on the open coast to protect private property in cases where it is justified. This includes where: 

  • there is also a major public or environmental benefit
  • the proponent agrees to meet all costs
  • the proponent legally protects  the NSW Government from any liability associated with the works. 

This requirement specifically applies to the open coast.

The Crown Lands team may consider allowing private coastal protection work to spread onto Crown land on the open coast if it meets these criteria:

  • The development will address historic legacy issues.
  • There will be a major public or environmental benefit.
  • If the landowner agrees to meet all costs to set up required tenures.
  • If the landowner agrees to legally protect the government from all liability associated with the works, including ongoing maintenance costs.
Will the guidelines affect existing Crown land tenures?

Current tenures are not affected. The guidelines ensure that coastal risk is identified before tenures are issued and/or renewed, so that appropriate decisions can be made.

What are the key principles of the guidelines?

There are 5 key principles that Crown Lands will follow under the guidelines:

  1. Crown land management should align with Coastal Management Programs (CMPs)
    1.1. Any CMP being prepared by a council in accordance with the Coastal Management Act 2016, should be referred to the department in draft form at key stages of its development and before the CMP is adopted by council.

    1.2. Any CMP that proposes actions or activities to be carried out by the department or that proposes actions that relate to or affect Crown land, must be formally agreed to by the department before the CMP is submitted for certification.

    1.3. If the department has agreed to a CMP action under the provisions of the Coastal Management Act, it is likely that it is broadly consistent with the objects of the Crown Land Management Act 2016. This means that the department’s consideration of any directly related dealing or authorisation under the Crown Land Management Act 2016 will be streamlined.

    1.4. Dealings and approvals under the Crown Land Management Act 2016 or the Roads Act 1993 for coastal Crown land must have regard to and should be consistent with any relevant CMP.

    1.5. Any plan of management prepared with respect to coastal Crown land:
    (a) must have regard to any relevant CMP, or in the absence of a CMP, the objects of the Coastal Management Act.
    (b) should consider the coastal hazard and climate change risks that are relevant to coastal Crown land

  2. Coastal hazard risks should be considered when issuing tenures over coastal Crown land 
    2.1. Any significant risks posed by coastal hazards, both now and in the future, including risks from climate change, should be considered before a tenure, for example a lease, license, permit or easement, is issued over coastal Crown land.

    2.2. The terms and conditions of all tenures -including renewals- over coastal Crown land are to be commensurate with the level of risk posed by coastal hazards, both now and in the future, including risks from climate change.

  3. Coastal protection works on coastal Crown land on the open coast, should be low impact or non-structural, where feasible or practicable 
    3.1. Low impact or non-structural measures that restore or enhance natural defences, for example foreshore realignment, dune or foreshore reshaping, beach scraping, vegetation management and habitat restoration, should be considered in the first instance to mitigate risks from coastal hazards.

    3.2. Structural coastal protection works wholly or partly located on coastal Crown land on the open coast may only be considered if low impact or non-structural measures are not feasible or effective and only then if they are consistent with a relevant CMP.

  4. Private structural coastal protection works on the open coast should be wholly located within the boundaries of the property the works are intended to protect 
    4.1. Private structural coastal protection works on the open coast should be contained wholly within the proponent’s private freehold land unless extenuating circumstances apply.

    4.2. Private structural coastal protection works, wholly or partly located on coastal Crown land, will only be considered when extenuating circumstances apply, that is, where:
    (a) low impact or non-structural measures are not feasible or effective (refer Principle 3)
    (b) they are consistent with a relevant CMP (refer Principle 1)
    (c) historic, legacy issues will be addressed by the works
    (d) there is a substantial public and/or environmental benefit to be derived from the works.

    4.3. Landowner’s consent that is being sought by a private proponent for a development application for structural coastal protection works, wholly or partly on Crown land on the open coast, will only be considered if the following conditions are met to the satisfaction of the department:
    (a) the proponent can satisfy the conditions in clause 4.2 
    (b) the proponent agrees to enter into a deed of agreement which may cover, amongst other things, agreement to enter a tenure(s) subject to certain conditions and the creation of easements
    (c) the proponent agrees to meet all the department’s costs in relation to the deed of agreement
    (d) the proponent agrees to pay all necessary costs for designing, seeking approval and constructing coastal protection works, including compensation for creation of easements and any other matter necessary to facilitate the structure for example, community engagement, Native Title compensation, Indigenous Land Use Agreements, section 24FA protection under the Native Title Act 1993 (Cth).
    (e) the proponent agrees to indemnify the State of NSW from all liabilities associated with the works.

  5. Non-Commercial dredging on coastal Crown land should be in the broader public and/or environmental interest
    5.1. The department may consider applications for non-commercial dredging works and/or undertake dredging, as required, to maintain navigation channels and harbour entrances, and/or to meet environmental, coastal management and beach renourishment needs.

    5.2. Dredging works must have regard to and should be consistent with any relevant coastal management program.

    5.3. Where the department has provided an approval for or undertaken non-commercial dredging in active marine margins, the spoil should, within practical limits, be returned for use within the active marine area of the coastal sediment compartment, with the highest priority accorded to use where beach nourishment is identified as an action in a relevant coastal management program.