Reserve planning

Reserve planning (also known as strategic planning) is an important component of your role as a non-council Crown land manager (CLM). Strategic plans consider the current state of the Crown reserve that the CLM has care, control and management of, establishes the future direction and goals that you wish to achieve for the reserve, and identifies what actions need to be undertaken to achieve these goals. The lifecycle of a strategic plan is 5-10 years.

At a minimum, the strategic plan needs to:

  • ensure that the existing and proposed use of the Crown reserve is consistent with the reserve purpose,
  • include an analysis of how current activities on the Crown reserve aligns with the priorities of the Crown Land State Strategic Plan 2031,
  • consider the assets of a reserve,
  • outline current and proposed projects, and
  • consider the funding streams available to the reserve, including income and grants.

The department encourages all CLMs to prepare a strategic plan for all Crown reserves in their care, control and management. The department has prepared a template Strategic Plan for non council CLMs to use. If you need any assistance of advice on preparing a strategic plan, contact the department.

While all reserves should have a strategic plan in place for management of reserves more complex non-council Crown reserves may require a dedicated Plan of Management (PoM). The process for preparation of a PoM for non-council CLMs is detailed below and requires Ministerial consent. Plans of management information for Council CLMs is available in the Council CLM section.

Plan of management

A plan of management is the document that defines the value, use, management practices and intent for the broad public purpose for which the land has been reserved or dedicated.

The plan of management should be consistent with the public purpose for the reserve and the principles of Crown land management, as well as other guidelines, policies, and legal requirements that may apply to the reserve. These may include the provisions of environmental planning instruments (for example, a local environmental plan) and development control plans (DCPs) made under the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act 1979, and threatened species or native vegetation controls.

Plans of management must be prepared in accordance with the Crown Land Management Act 2016 (CLM Act) and adopted by the minister administering the CLM Act.

A single plan can be prepared for a number of reserves or commons, if they are managed by a single CLM.

Simple plans of management will tend to include the same content as more complex plans of management, but in varying levels of detail. Content will generally include:

  • the values of the reserve – what the community sees as important or valuable about the reserve
  • a map of the reserve - showing cadastral (boundaries) and other information
  • a location map
  • a description of the reserve and its current purpose and uses
  • any legislative restrictions on the reserve such as local zoning requirements
  • the presence of native vegetation, or important or threatened natural features or species
  • whether the land is subject to specific controls on clearing relating to erosion protection (see Environmental management)
  • any particular risk matters, such as flooding, bushfire or hazardous terrain
  • proposed additional uses if appropriate (see below for information on additional purposes)
  • locational context (surrounding land uses)
  • acceptable uses (if a use additional to the existing purpose is proposed, a clear statement is required as to why the additional purpose is appropriate)
  • strategies
  • an action plan.

A CLM may, with the consent of the minister, prepare a plan of management for a Crown reserve. Plans of management also require formal adoption by the minister. Draft plans should be forwarded to the department for referral to the minister. Once a plan of management is in place it should be subject to regular review.

The minister can also request a CLM prepare a plan of management, or have one prepared by the department that would then be given to a CLM for comment.

Many reserves will not need a plan of management as the reserve land may be easy to manage and its operations relatively straightforward. However, the use of more formal management strategies may still assist in the operation of these reserves and should be prepared and implemented where appropriate.

Plans of management consolidate information about the reserve and its users, and clearly state what, why, how and by whom the values of a reserve are being managed.

Plans of management do not need to be lengthy documents. In some cases they might be a short written statement about how the reserve is to be managed in line with its purpose. In other cases a more detailed document may be required to resolve differing opinions as to how the reserve should be managed.

Why prepare a plan of management?

A plan of management can fulfill many purposes. A CLM can use a plan of management to, for example:

  • set out strategic directions
  • outline operational and day-to-day use and management
  • act as a conservation tool
  • contain directions for development and provision of infrastructure
  • specify how broader legal and policy requirements are to be applied to the particular reserve
  • create a concept design for future developments
  • provide a landscape master plan
  • collate information in a single document for ease of reference
  • identify and minimise any risks, including any potential emergencies
  • develop a budgeted program for maintenance and development work
  • ensure the environment is appropriately managed
  • define and resolve tenure matters
  • provide for an additional purpose for a reserve.

Plans of management are a good way of setting directions and providing a framework for the strategic and operational use and management of a reserve.

Note: Under the NSW Local Government Act 1993 (LG Act), it is mandatory to prepare a plan of management for land defined as 'community land'. Community lands are owned directly by a local council. As such, Crown land is not part of a local council’s holding of community land and is therefore not captured in the LG Act.

Requirements of the Crown Land Management Act 2016

The CLM Act does not specify when to prepare a plan of management. A CLM may, with the consent of the minister, prepare a plan of management. However, the minister may also require a CLM to prepare one.

If a plan of management is prepared, it must be done in accordance with the legal requirements of the CLM Act. These requirements are summarised below and in the diagram below.

  • A draft plan of management may be prepared by the CLM (with the prior consent of the minister) or by the minister.
  • The minister may prescribe the content of the plan and a time limit for its completion. Alternatively, the minister can prepare a draft, but must refer a copy to the CLM for its consideration.
  • A draft plan of management must follow the department’s Community Engagement Strategy. This allows for consultation and a 42-day exhibition period.
  • The minister has the final say regarding the content of the plan. If the minister adopts the final version, the CLM must comply with it. This means the CLM must not undertake developments or activities that are not included in the plan.
  • The minister has the right to amend or revoke the plan at any time. Any proposal to amend the adopted plan requires public exhibition of the amended plan for a period of at least 42 days.

Plan of management process for non-council CLMs-page-0.jpg

How to prepare a plan of management

Before preparing a plan of management you should contact the department. The CLM must seek prior consent from the minister to prepare a plan of management.

Follow the steps outlined below.


  1. Determine the aim of your plan of management.
  2. Determine what you need to draft the plan (both people and money).
  3. Identify and collect together the information available on the reserve.
  4. Identify any sources of funding available to prepare a plan of management. Funding may be available through, for example, the Crown Reserves Improvement Fund.

People resources and community consultation

  1. Identify who will manage the plan of management process.  Will it be the CLM as a whole, a subcommittee, an employee, or a committee with representatives from the community (which may include a department representative). One tip is to make sure you have a single person responsible for the overall preparation and delivery of the plan of management.
  2. Prepare a project brief to guide those responsible for drafting the plan. The project brief should describe the scope of the proposed plan of management, including the major issues that should be addressed, and should include provision for a community involvement program.
  3. The CLM should forward the draft project brief to the department for review. CLMs should keep the department informed of the progress of the work and the content and proposals in the plan.
  4. Select the person(s) responsible for preparing the plan of management. An external consultant may be selected to undertake research, write the document and conduct community consultation.

Community consultation

  1. The general community should be involved in the preparation of the plan so that visitors’ expectations can be identified and considered. Refer to the Visitors on Crown land section. Community involvement may include identifying the values of the reserve. It is important to consult the community at the time the draft plan is prepared; not at the end of the process.


  1. The plan is drafted to include:
    1. the reserve purpose and values
    2. desired outcomes
    3. strategies based on identified values and issues
    4. appropriate actions to be undertaken, clearly indicating by whom, within what timeframes, indicative cost and priority.

Exhibition, consideration of submissions, and adoption

  1. The draft plan of management is made available to the public for comment through exhibition, notice of which must be given by:
    1. publishing a notice in the Government Gazette and
    2. advertising in the local newspapers.
  2. The CLM should consider all comments received and decide whether the draft plan should be altered in order to address any identified issues.
  3. The CLM submits the plan, plus any comments received from the public exhibition, for ministerial approval.

Implementation and monitoring

  1. Once a plan of management has been approved and adopted by the Minister, the CLM must carry out and give effect to the plan.

    CLMs should regularly monitor and evaluate the progress of the implementation and review the action plan, for example annually. This may involve staff supervision to check that actions are undertaken, regular site inspections, the collection of data, and a review of the CLM’s financial statements. The results of this monitoring can then be measured against the intended outcomes of the plan of management, in order to assess the overall success of the implementation.

    If the proposals set out in the plan are not being met, the CLM should consider either devoting more resources to its implementation or, where this is not feasible, proposing certain amendments to the plan with the permission of the minister.

Updating of plans of management

  1. The desired outcomes of the plan of management should be relevant for five to ten years. At regular intervals, as per the timeframe of the plan, the management strategies should be reviewed and updated if required. The fact that a plan of management has ministerial approval does not mean that the management direction cannot change in the future. Ministerial approval can be given to amend a plan provided the proposed changes have been exhibited for public comment.

Content of the plan of management

Following are some guidelines as to content of a plan of management.


The introduction should cover:

  • the legal status of the land i.e. whether it is reserved or dedicated, and what the reserve purpose is
  • a description of the land that the plan covers (this could be as simple as the lot and deposited plan number)
  • a map of the land and a location map
  • the principles of Crown land management
  • the process of developing the plan and community consultation undertaken
  • the main legislative and policy requirements that apply to the reserve e.g. the CLM Act.

Aim or desired outcomes

Generally the aim of the plan of management should be to clearly articulate, in one place, how the reserve is to be managed.

The CLM may desire other outcomes, such as to provide the framework for developing the land, to deal with specific issues, or to improve the financial position of the reserve, as examples.

Reserve purpose and value

The first thing to clarify when developing a plan of management is the purpose of the reserve. The purpose for which the land is reserved will point to the value of the reserve and provide the basis for relevant management activities. For example, there is no clear connection or value in establishing a child care facility at a reserve where the purpose is environmental conservation.

In addition, the plan of management should clarify the values of the reserve. For example, is the reserve’s value primarily because of its natural resources such as vegetation, its cultural values such as historic houses, or social values such as showground events. Other values include education, recreation, visual, scientific, or as a resource for future generations.

The plan of management must be based on the purpose of the reserve and its values. There are always management issues associated with a reserve, and while it is important that a plan of management clarifies how these issues will be resolved, the plan should not be based on these issues.


A plan of management should have a clearly specified timeframe. The priorities for reserve management can change over time, so the timeframe of the plan should not be too long. Typically the timeframe is five to 10 years.

Preparation of the first plan of management for a reserve may take up to two years. The subsequent review and update of the plan should not be a difficult or time-consuming process because a large part of the contents will not change.

However, in some circumstances it may be necessary to amend significant portions of the plan. For example, the values and expectations the community puts on the reserve may change over time. The process of reviewing plans of management helps to articulate such changes in value and may lead to a proposal to change the purpose of the reserve.

Visitor management and facilities

Public use and enjoyment of the reserve is consistent with the purpose of most reserves managed by CLMs. The plan of management should outline:

  • what activities are and are not allowed on the reserve
  • what facilities are required now and within the timeframe of the plan of management to provide for those activities.

Disabled access requirements and other special services (if required) should be addressed.

Where activities are additional to the purpose for which the land was set aside, it needs to be clear that the plan of management is authorising an additional purpose or purposes to permit those activities.

Environmental management

The plan of management should indicate the environmental values that need to be protected and how this will be achieved.

Common issues to address include management of bushfire risk, weeds, feral animals, threatened species, heritage structures, Aboriginal cultural heritage.

The plan of management should also address sustainable use of resources, for example recycling programs and water conservation.

Commercial management

Income-producing avenues for the reserve should be explored in the plan of management. Funding is an issue for many reserves and income-producing opportunities need to be maximised. Any commercial use of a reserve must be consistent with the reserve purpose unless an additional purpose is authorised in a plan of management, a lease granted by the minister, or by other separate authorisation by the minister.

It may be that areas of the reserve can be leased or licensed. Details of any existing or proposed new leases or licences should be incorporated in the plan. The plan should also include a statement that the granting of any commercial lease or licence opportunities will be dealt with by way of public competition.

Leasing and licensing issues

Where plans of management are to make provision for the leasing and licensing of facilities to commercial operators or special interest groups, they need to address:

  • the sustainable use and management of the reserve
  • the size and scale of the proposed area or facility in relation to the size of the reserve
  • the relationship of the proposal to development on adjoining land or on other land in the locality
  • landscaping provisions, including the preservation of trees and other vegetation and enhancement of the visual experience and amenity values of the reserve
  • provision of adequate infrastructure, water, electricity and sewerage
  • provision for adequate protection and management of environmental features and/or hazards such as landform stability, coastal erosion, erosion control, drainage and flooding, bushfire, buffer zones, vegetation and landscaping, waste control and noise and lighting
  • the social and economic effect of the proposal on the reserve and the locality
  • the character, siting, scale, shape, size, height, design and external appearance of the proposal
  • provisions for the protection and maintenance of any heritage buildings, archaeological values or sites, indigenous values or sites, or threatened species critical habitat
  • criteria for the erection of signs for the proposed use. Preferably the aim should be for minimal signage, and for product advertising and sponsorship signage to have minimal impact on the landscape or amenity of the reserve and surrounding locality
  • the amount of traffic, parking, loading unloading and manoeuvring likely to be generated by the proposal and how it can be provided without compromising other uses and users of the reserve.

Refer to Leases and Licences section for further information.

Financial management

There have been examples where proposed plans of management have little chance of being implemented because funds are not available to carry out the intentions and/or the plan does not address how such funds will be sourced.

A plan of management should indicate the level of current income and expenditure available to the reserve manager, the likely source of other available funds (both current and proposed), and how these might be used to implement the plan of management.

Risk management

The plan of management should outline how risks are and will be managed. For example, if a risk assessment has not been completed, this could be a high-priority action in the plan of management. Alternatively (and preferably) the risk assessment should be undertaken at the same time as the plan of management and actions for addressing identified risks included in the action plan.

A risk management checklist can assist in identifying risks and appropriate response strategies.

Risk management should include how the reserve will be maintained in a safe manner and include bushfire management (if appropriate).

Action plan

The areas of management mentioned above provide the strategic framework for the management of the reserve. An action plan is also required to set out how the strategies will be achieved. The action plan should identify for each of the above strategies (and any other strategies included in the plan of management):

  • actions required
  • priority
  • indicative cost
  • timeframe for achievement
  • person(s) responsible for implementation.

Plans of management that provide for an additional reserve purpose

A plan of management may authorise a purpose additional to the public purpose for which the land was dedicated or reserved.

The CLM Act sets out the consultation and other processes that must be followed in the preparation of a plan of management that authorises an additional purpose. The community will have a say in the proposal through the community consultation and public exhibition components used in the preparation of the plan of management.

If the CLM is seeking to prepare a plan of management that proposes an additional purpose, the reserve manager must advise the minister of the proposal when seeking the minister’s prior approval to prepare the plan of management.

The minister may also direct a CLM board to prepare a plan of management that considers an additional purpose. The minister can specify the matters that must be addressed within the draft plan of management and can also impose conditions.

The minister may require the CLM to consult on the draft plan with any persons or bodies, and to exhibit the draft plan in accordance with the notice. The minister may alter or amend the plan at any stage prior to adoption, and may stop the preparation of a plan of management that authorises additional uses or not adopt the plan.

In deciding whether to adopt a plan of management that authorises an additional purpose, the minister must have regard to the declared purpose of the reserve, the compatibility of the additional purpose with the declared purpose, the principles of Crown land management, impacts on native title and the public interest.

Helpful hints and common pitfalls

Keep plans of management as simple as possible. While it is important to collect and keep detailed information about the reserve, this is probably best placed in an appendix to the plan of management or a resource document on the reserve.

Hold workshop sessions with the community, prior to preparing and/or gaining consent from the minster to prepare a plan of management. That way, the community’s views and expectations can be used to help determine the future direction of the reserve and its management. Workshops could be facilitated by an independent consultant.

The preparation of a plan of management does not need to be an expensive or complicated process. Some CLMs might find it easier to first work through the items covered by this handbook and determine how they relate to the management of the reserve. The outcome could then provide a draft management plan, which could then be finessed through public consultation to become an adopted plan of management.

Most importantly, consult with the department as early as possible in the process, for advice and direction.

Currently adopted plans of management and draft plans of management available on the department's website are a good starting point for understanding generally what is involved in a plan of management. Remember to contact the department before commencing work on a plan of management.

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