The Department of Infrastructure, Planning and Natural Resources was established by Public Sector Employment and Management (Infrastructure, Planning and Natural Resources) Order 2003 on 1 July, 2003 (1) The Department consisted of the following:
all branches of the former Department of Urban and Transport Planning;
all branches of the former Department of Sustainable Natural Resources;
the staff from the Department of Lands who were principally involved in the administration of the Western Lands Act, 1901; and
the Office of private Forestry (formerly of the Department of Lands).
The Government's purposes for the establishment of the Department were as follows:
to form one department for the purpose of making integrated decisions about natural resource management and land use planning; that is to bring the social, economic and environmental agendas together to promote sustainability;
improve service delivery and provide clear, concise and co-ordinated information to customers;
to simplify policy and regulation to resolve confusion and duplication;
to reduce costs and redirect savings back to the community;
to link decisions about vital infrastructure with the broader plans for NSW; and
to devolve decision making to the communities that those decisions affect.
The tasks of the Department included:
Providing integrated advice to Government on decisions affecting land use and natural resource management;
Developing the regulatory environment for land use and planning;
Establishing a framework for development control: and
Administering decision about natural resource allocation and establishing a regulatory environment for natural resource decisions.
The Department carried out five main functions for the government
1. Strategic advice, direction setting and Policy Development;
The aim of this function was to provide informed and strategic policy advice to Government on all areas within the responsibility of the Department including: population and settlement priorities and the consequent land use, transport and infrastructure priorities in key locations across the State. Initial emphasis was on Sydney, the Central Coast, major regional and coastal centres.
Attention was given to the broader regulatory environment for land use planning, natural resource allocation and development control. A major task was the integration of natural resource policy to protect and sustainably use, manage and allocate natural resources, and to ensure the retention and sustainability of productive agricultural and forestry communities.
The Department also sought to introduce demand management strategies for water, infrastructure and transport to ensure Government expenditure is targeted to those areas of greatest need.
This function also included the planning, coordination and prioritisation of infrastructure provision such as transport, water and sewerage, schools and health care facilities, to support the Government's strategic direction.
2. Assessment and Approval for Land Use Management and Natural Resource Allocation;
This function involved the co-ordination and integration of assessments for natural resource allocation and land use management for infrastructure, forestry and other development and land uses.
3. Natural Resource Management and Allocation;
This function involved managing access to natural resources, such as water, through regulation, licensing and pricing.
The Department oversaw the allocation of financial resources in the form of grants or annual budgets to catchment management authorities, local government organisations and non government agencies; and led negotiations with the Commonwealth government on national natural resource policy, water reform and the administration of the NAP and NHT.
4. Regulation and compliance;
The Department strove to ensure compliance with laws administered by it by adopting a strategic approach to compliance-based on risk management and to ensure protection of the environment.
It audited the performance of catchment management in accordance with their agreements with the Minister; and it also monitored and supported local government regarding their application of land use regulation and development controls.
5. Research, Advice and Education
The Department ensured informed decision making by engaging in quality research within the areas within its responsibility. It engaged in public education on natural resource conservation and management, land use planning, energy conservation and flood mitigation. (2)
The Department of Infrastructure, Planning and Natural Resources was abolished on 29 August 2005 and its branches transferred to the Department of Energy, Utilities and Sustainability; the Ministry of Transport; the Premier’s Department; the Cabinet Office; and the two newly created Departments of Planning [III] and Natural Resources.(3)
(1) NSW Government Gazette 20 June 2003 p. 5899- 5900
(2) DIRNR Directions from the Department of Infrastructure, Planning and Natural Resources web site. http://www.dipnr.nsw.gov.au/aboutus/the_vision.html accessed 20/11/2003
(3) Public Sector Employment and Management (Planning and Natural Resources) Order 2005 [NSW Government Gazette No.108, 26 August 2005, p.6385.]