Management plans for commons

A management plan is a formal document that details the strategic and/or operational (day-to-day) management of a common. It may also enable the commons trust to broaden the activities and purposes, where appropriate, for which the common can be used.

The minister administering the Commons Management Act 1989 (the CM Act) may require a commons trust to prepare a management plan. Alternatively, commons trusts can prepare their own draft management plans without the minister’s permission.

A management plan is required where any activity (generally other than pasturing and watering stock) is proposed for a common, irrespective of its size.

Where formal management plans do not exist, the use of the common by the commoners for pasturing and watering their stock is permitted by the CM Act, and management of the common generally is to be in accordance with the CM Act and the Commons Management Regulation 2018 (the CM Regulation), including any by-laws.

Commons trust board members should discuss any need or requirement for a management plan with the department.

Clause 29 of the CM Regulation sets out the minimum requirements for a management plan. In addition, a management plan should:

  • be consistent with the objectives of the common, and the purpose for which the land was originally set aside
  • provide for any suitable and permissible additional or alternative uses that are supported by the commons trust and community (and are subject to a resolution passed by not less than 75% of the commoners in accordance with Section 27 of the CM Act)
  • be supported by the commons trust board, so all commoners and employees understand the importance of its implementation
  • be thorough and comprehensive and address all issues of relevance to the particular common (for example workplace health and safety, bushfire prevention)
  • be flexible and simple, so it is easy to understand and is adaptable to a quickly changing environment
  • focus on continual improvement, so the commons trust learns from any mistakes and prevents similar problems recurring
  • involve and inform commoners and employees so they understand their role and why the commons trust needs an effective plan
  • allow for regular review and updating.

Smaller commons, or commons with simple uses and management practices, could prepare a simple and shorter management plan, whereas a large commons with many users or one within environmentally sensitive areas may need to prepare a more comprehensive and detailed management plan.

Additional regulation through by-laws

Commons trusts can also regulate activities on commons by adopting by-laws.

Where a commons trust has not adopted a by-law and the common has been in existence at 1 September 1991, the model by-law in Schedule 1 of the CM Regulation applies.

Commons trusts that wish to make new by-laws or amend existing ones (including the model by-law if it applies) must discuss their needs with the department. The department can also help with gaining consent from the Governor of New South Wales.

Preparing management plans

There are three options regarding the preparation of the management plan:

  1. Commons trusts can prepare their own draft management plans without the prior permission of the minister, but if they do so they must provide a copy of the draft to the minister.
  2. The minister might direct the commons trust to prepare a draft plan, in which case the minister can prescribe its contents and a time limit for its completion.
  3. The minister might decide to prepare a draft plan.
    1. For commons formed before September 1991, the minister must provide the trust with a copy of the draft plan, make the draft plan available for public comment for a minimum of 14 days and require the commons trust to hold a public meeting to discuss the content of the plan. Further, if the draft plan proposes uses which are inconsistent with the use of the common before September 1991, the approval of at least 75% of the commoners present at a special general meeting is required before the minister can adopt the plan.
    2. For commons formed after 1 September 1991, the minister may (but is not required to) make the draft plan available for public comment. Notwithstanding any decision in this regard, the minister must require the commons trust to hold a public meeting in respect to the plan. Further, the minister has the final say as to the content of the plan.

If the draft management plan is adopted by the minister, the commons trust must implement that plan and comply with it. The commons trust cannot allow or undertake any activities not contained within an adopted management plan. The minister may amend or revoke a management plan at any time.

What must be included in a management plan

All commons in existence on 1 September 1991 are governed by the transitional management plan in the CM Act, unless they have had a new management plan adopted under the CM Act.

Section 29 of the CM Regulation requires a management plan to:

  • specify the purposes for which the common may be used
  • identify those entitled to use the common
  • identify those responsible for the maintenance of the common and the methods by which it is to be maintained
  • identify those responsible for the cost of maintenance.

Commons trust board members should discuss the requirements for a management plan with the department, which can assist with decision-making.

See Plans of management for further information on preparing plans of management which, while not strictly applicable to commons, provides helpful general assistance.

See Environmental Management for information on environmental factors that may affect the commons land. Where relevant to a particular site, these factors should be addressed in the management plan.

Regulatory requirements

  • By-laws: Commons Management Act 1989Section 9
  • Preparing draft management plans:  Commons Management Act 1989Section 25
  • Referral of draft plans to commons trusts:  Commons Management Act 1989Section 26
  • Adoption of management plans:  Commons Management Act 1989Section 27
  • Amendment or cancellation of management plans:  Commons Management Act 1989Section 28
  • Basic requirements for the contents of a management plan:  Commons Management Regulation 2018 – Clause 30

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