Zoning Under The New NSW Planning System

21/04/2013 11:01 pm


The New NSW Planning System proposes radical changes to how land is zoned in NSW. Fewer zones will exist under the new system, where genuinely incompatible land uses are separated, while allowing for a broader scope of complementary land uses to develop within individual zonings.

The final list of zones has not been determined in the legislation and will be developed by the Planning Department with councils and key stakeholders in the coming months. The table below outlines a set of indicative new zones that the Planning Department is proposing:


New Zones Comparison Table


Existing Zones Indicative Zones
RU1 Primary ProductionRU3 ForestryRU4 Primary Production Small Lots

Resource Zone

RU2 Rural LandscapeRU6 TransitionE3 Environmental Management

Rural Zone

R1 General ResidentialR2 Low Density ResidentialR3 Medium Density ResidentialR5 Large Lot ResidentialRU5 VillageE4 Environmental Living

Residential Zone

(Include Suburban Character Areas)

R4 High Density ResidentialB4 Mixed Use

Mixed Use Zone

B1 Neighborhood CentreB2 Local CentreB3 Commercial CoreB8 Metropolitan CentreRE2 Private Recreation

Commercial Zone

B6 Enterprise Corridor

Enterprise Zone

B5 Business DevelopmentB7 Business Park

Employment Zone

IN1 General IndustrialIN2 Light IndustrialIN4 Working WaterfrontW3 Working Waterways

Light Industrial Zone

IN3 Heavy Industrial

Heavy Industrial Zone

E1 National Parks and Nature ReservesE2 Environmental ConservationW1 Natural Waterways

Environmental Protection & Hazard Management Zone

RE1 Public RecreationW2 Recreational Waterways

Open Space and Recreation Zone

SP2 Infrastructure

Infrastructure Zone

SP1 Special ActivitiesSP3 Tourist

Special Purpose Zone


The current zoning system under the NSW Standard Instrument combines use and the intensity of development. Therefore multiple zones are required for a particular use. This prescriptive approach of attempting to narrowly define the use of every parcel of land has resulted in a long list of zones and a desire from local governments to introduce additional zones.

The new planning system will move from a prescriptive based zoning system to a more performance based system. The Planning Department argues that in today’s economy, there are fewer activities that are genuinely incompatible, and therefore, the focus should be on the impacts of the development on the community.

Under the new planning system, zoning will be one of a number of tools available to councils for achieving the vision of an area. A strategy for an area will describe the type of development that should occur and zoning will focus on use, while the impact and intensity of a proposed development will be assessed via development guides. Based on this position, Local Plans (planning control documents) will have fewer zones and zones will be more open.

An open zone is one where a diversity of land uses are permitted in a zone. Uses that achieve the zone objectives will be listed and any other uses not defined as prohibited will be captured as permissible uses. Closed zones will still be available to restrict land uses in areas of environmental significance and hazard constraints.

Zones will be standardized across councils in both form and content. Local context will be allowed for within development guides. The system will still allow for a separation of genuinely incompatible categories of land use, but will have a reduced focus on the intensity of the uses.

Local Plans will zone land according to the envisaged primary function of an area, for example, residential, industrial and commercial. Zones will be shown visually using maps that are designed to be accessed electronically. The application of zones to particular land will be evidence based and reflect Strategy.

The New Planning system proposes the introduction of a new Enterprise Zone. The purpose of this zone is to attract investment and stimulate economic growth in areas where it is needed. The Enterprise Zone will be used to encourage investment by providing for the broadest range of uses.

The new system also proposes developer ‘no go’ zones. Suburban Character Areas are to be utilised by councils and communities who want to preserve the significance of the urban character of a particular area. Suburban Character Areas will form an element of the Residential zone.