The NSW Government has announced a draft Strategic Release Framework for Coal and Petroleum Exploration PDF (259 KB PDF). It creates a single, harmonised framework for the improved management of NSW coal and petroleum resources.

The draft Framework will give the Government greater strategic control over release of areas for exploration in NSW. It will introduce 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 draft Framework will be enabled through legislation that the NSW Government will be bringing forward.

The draft Framework recognises that there are competing uses for land, and seeks to balance these interests. The new approach includes identifying areas for release only after environmental, social and economic factors have been considered and the community has had an opportunity to identify what it sees as the issues.

This will all occur before the allocation of any new coal or petroleum exploration or assessment title.

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 draft policy meets a number of recommendations and commitments made through the:

  • The Independent Commission Against Corruption's (ICAC) recommendations on reducing opportunities and incentives for corruption in the management of NSW coal resources,
  • the Coal Exploration Steering Group (CESG) recommendations on where, when and how coal resources are to be released for exploration to suitably qualified companies, and
  • the NSW Gas Plan, which was released in November 2014 in response to the recommendations of the NSW Chief Scientist and Engineer on Coal Seam Gas (CSG) activities in NSW, and
  • the draft documents that have been released reflect the outcomes of the public consultations undertaken by the Coal Exploration Steering Group. See below for further information on how to make a submission.

Operational documents

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

  • A Resource Assessment that considers geological factors such as resource quality and quantity
  • A Preliminary Regional Issues Assessment 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 government has finalised 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.

Opportunity for comment

The draft policy framework, resource assessment and operational allocation guidelines reflect the outcomes of the public consultations undertaken by the Coal Exploration Steering Group.

The opportunity to comment has now closed. The Government has taken these comments in to account to update the operational allocation guidelines and will also use them to update the other policy and operational documents.

Advisory Body for Strategic Release

The Advisory Body for Strategic Release is key to the Strategic Release process, and will play 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 will be 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 geological factors, and social, economic and environmental issues, and
  • The method of allocation to use. The Advisory Body will recommend the most appropriate competitive allocation process for each release area, based on knowledge of the resources and likely competition levels.

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

  • the Division of Resources and Energy
  • 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 (194 KB PDF).