Planning and approval

The onshore gas industry in NSW relates to the exploration, assessment and production of natural gas, coal seam gas and tight gas reserves, and later, decommissioning and rehabilitation.

The industry is focused on exploration and appraisal activities with two approved onshore gas production activities at Camden, and Narrabri. On 30 September 2020, the NSW Independent Planning Commission approved the Narrabri Gas Project, subject to conditions.

Agencies involved

The agencies involved in planning assessment and approval functions in NSW for onshore gas activities include

  • The Division of Mining, Exploration and Geoscience within the Department of Regional NSW — responsible for administering petroleum titles under the Petroleum (Onshore) Act 1991 including Petroleum Exploration Licences (PELs), Petroleum Assessment Leases (PALs) and Petroleum Production Leases (PPLs).
  • The Department of Planning, Industry and Environment —  responsible for assessing development applications for major onshore gas projects classified as State Significant Development (SSD) or State Significant Infrastructure (SSI) under the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act 1979, delivering the Mining and Resources Policy, co-ordinating the Strategic Release Framework for Coal and Petroleum Exploration, and establishing and maintaining the Major Projects Portal.
  • The Natural Resources Access Regulator and Water NSW —  responsible for the management and regulation of NSW’s surface water and groundwater resources and assessing the potential impacts of an onshore gas development applications on water resources, their dependent ecosystems, culturally significant sites and existing water users as well as issuing Water Access Licences (WALs).
  • The Independent Planning Commission — responsible for determining SSD and SSI development applications where there is significant opposition from the community, conducting public hearings for development applications and other planning and development matters and providing independent expert advice on any planning matter (but not development applications) when requested by the Minister for Planning and Public Spaces or Secretary of Department of Planning, Industry and Environment.

Role of the EPA

The EPA is not a consent authority for onshore gas activities in NSW and does not determine if onshore gas development applications will be approved. The EPA does have a role in assessing and providing specialist input into environmental pollution matters during the planning assessment process. In addition to providing its own specialist input, the EPA draws on scientific expertise from other government agencies, including the Division of Environment, Energy and Science within the Department of Planning, Industry and Environment.

Where a PEL, PAL, PPL, SSD or WAL is approved/issued for onshore gas activities, the EPA is responsible for issuing the required environment protection licence (EPL) under the Protection of the Environment Operations Act 1997.

The EPA, as the lead regulator for onshore gas activities in NSW, is then responsible for regulating the conditions of these approvals.

Information about onshore gas proposals

  • The Common ground portal has explanations of mining and production titles, and overlays them on an easy to use spatial viewer.
  • The DIGs portal gives access to reports, publications and geotechnical information regarding exploration, geological and mining activities.
  • The Major Projects Portal has information on major development applications including SSD and SSI proposals and their status.
  • The Independent Planning Commission website has information on proposals referred to the commission for determination. 
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