Communities in NSW will have a greater say in the management of crown land under an historic bill passed in the NSW Parliament.

Lands Minister Niall Blair said on Wednesday the new Crown Land Management Bill 2016 will pull together eight existing pieces of legislation into one, streamlined system “that will involve far greater engagement with the community”.

“For the first time in the history of the crown land legislation, consulting with local communities will be mandatory prior to any major decision that significantly changes the public’s use and enjoyment of crown land,” Mr Blair said in a statement after the bill passed through the Legislative Assembly on Wednesday.

However, the NSW opposition has warned the bill could pave the way for a “fire sale” of public land to agencies.

“This is a sneaky attempt by this government to give its own real estate hucksters the green light to put up a sale sign on public land,” Labor leader Luke Foley said in a statement last month after the legislation was proposed.

“Almost half of NSW is in the public’s hands and most people would want it to remain that way, despite the best efforts of Mike Baird to sell it off.”

Mr Blair insists the bill is about putting communities “at the heart of decisions about their land”.

He also emphasised enshrining the importance of crown land to indigenous Australians.

“The new legislation will require environmental, social, cultural heritage and economic considerations to be taken into account in decision making about crown land,” he said.

  • In my view there is rarely ever a justifiable case for absolute disposal of public land to private interests. However I do believe that justification can be made for leasing some such land [preferably for not more than 50 years, given today's rapidly changing social and economic environment] where there is clear, substantial, and continuing, public benefit obtained over the life of such lease.
    I also consider that the most appropriate financial medium for effecting any such lease would be via inviting relevant and qualified private entity(ies) to put a 'bid price' on a parcel of 'Community Purpose Bonds' to be made available by the Government for such purpose, to allow the 'bidding party' to secure the lease rights and related use and/ or development rights over the relevant leased land, for the term of the lease.
    The only situation I can see where actual disposal of public land might be justified is where an 'equivalent' exchange of appropriate land area and value' is involved in return and, again, where there is no diminution of the value of the over-riding public interest and benefit resulting from any such exchange.