The NSW Government has announced the implementation of the Strategic Release Framework for Coal and Petroleum Exploration PDF (178 KB PDF). It creates a single, harmonised framework for the improved management of NSW coal and petroleum resources.

The Framework will give the Government greater strategic control over release of areas for exploration in NSW. It also introduces the Advisory Body for Strategic Release who will provide strategic advice to the Government on areas and methods of release. More detail on this body is provided below.

The Framework is enabled through legislation that the NSW Government commenced in December 2015.

The Framework recognises that there are competing uses for land, and seeks to balance these interests. The new approach guarantees that the release of areas for coal or petroleum exploration will only occur after environmental, social and economic factors have been considered and the community has had an opportunity to identify what they see as the issues.

No part of this process will replace the need for a development application if a project seeks to progress to production. Nor will it duplicate or pre-empt the outcome of any future development assessment.

This policy meets a number of recommendations and commitments made through:

Operational documents

The Strategic Release Framework for Coal and Petroleum Exploration is supported by a number of operational documents, as below and available in draft form. These include:

  • An exploration Resource Assessment that considers geological factors such as resource quality and quantity.
  • A Preliminary Regional Issues Assessment (PRIA) that considers social, economic and environmental issues relevant to a potential release area. This may be viewed at the Department of Planning and Environment's website.
  • The Operational Allocation guidelines, which allow existing coal mine operators and coal exploration project operators at an advanced stage of exploration to apply for an exploration licence in limited circumstances.

Advisory Body for Strategic Release

The Advisory Body for Strategic Release is key to the Strategic Release process, and plays an important role in the NSW Government's work to support the safe, sustainable development of the local coal and gas industry.

The key role of the Advisory Body is to conduct whole-of-government assessments and make recommendations to the Minister regarding where, when and how coal and petroleum resources are to be released for exploration to suitably qualified companies. The Advisory Body will provide recommendations on:

  • Areas to be released for exploration. This will be based on a preliminary assessment of potential areas including community engagement.
  • Auction price. The Advisory Body will recommend the most appropriate competitive auction price for each release area, based on defined cost recovery criteria.
  • Frequency of operation of the Framework, based on a range of matters including, market forecasts, progression of current mining leases, timeframes to reach production, and other Government considerations. Factors will differ between coal and petroleum.
  • Community engagement process for each Preliminary Regional Issues Assessment (PRIA).
  • Potential land use conflicts and how these may be managed.

An independent Chair will be appointed who will be joined by executive representatives from:

  • NSW Department of Industry
  • NSW Department of Planning and Environment
  • NSW Treasury
  • NSW Department of Premier and Cabinet.

The Advisory Body will be governed by its Terms of Reference PDF (52 KB PDF).