Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Faculty of Law


This thesis is set at the juncture of urban growth management, natural resource conservation and environmental protection. Specifically, it examines the management of development – typically the spread of urbanisation – on the rural-urban fringe of towns and cities, from the perspective of conservation and protection of the natural resource and environmental qualities of these areas. The broad problem statement or research question that this thesis seeks to address is: How can urban growth and development pressures on the fringe of Australian cities and towns – and in particular the Sydney region – be managed so as to assist in the conservation of natural resources and protection of the biophysical environment? The thesis contends that a wide range of tools or mechanisms should be available to planners and used to manage the environmental or natural resource impacts of urbanisation. The thesis aims to identify the required broad approaches and specific mechanisms for the management of natural resources and land use planning as it relates to urban growth, based on the adoption of three fundamental concepts or frameworks. First is the recognition of the importance of natural resource conservation and environmental protection as an essential characteristic, and objective, of growth management policy, particularly in the context of protecting these values at the juncture of urbanisation on the peri-urban fringe. Second is the acknowledgement of the significant role of the notion of ‘property rights’ in land use planning and decision-making. The third element of the conceptual framework is the utilisation of innovative approaches to growth management, based on concepts such as ‘smart regulation’, marketbased instruments, and integrated strategic planning and resource management – that is, beyond traditional ‘command and control’ regulation.

Considerable reliance in the methodological approach adopted for this thesis is placed on primary qualitative research in the form of a number of substantial interviews conducted with a number of officers or office-holders in several government and non-government organisations. Attitudes, perceptions and issues in relation to various growth management tools are distilled through these interviews, with a view to ascertain their rationale, implementation and effectiveness. Information from both primary (i.e. interview) and secondary (i.e. investigation of published or publicly accessible material) original research sources are integrated to progress and complete the analysis of various growth management tools, programs and initiatives currently in place by State and local government organisations in the Sydney region and its environs.

The significance of this thesis lies in the contention that it deals with both an original area of investigation and a problematic contemporary environmental planning issue. Its originality lies in the fact that the thesis seeks to examine the interface of urban growth management and natural resource conservation/environmental protection from the perspective of the appropriate tools or mechanisms to be used in a planning policy and statutory response to these problems. Added relevance of the thesis is provided by the case study to which it is applied, the Sydney region and its environs, where the management of the various aspects of urban growth – including environmental protection and the maintenance of natural resources – is particularly challenging. Particular focus is devoted to the significance and geographic extent of biodiversity, agricultural land and water catchments around Sydney and, by implication the consequential importance of appropriately managing urbanisation so as to achieve a more sustainable city. Application of the approaches and tools identified in this thesis are relevant for the realisation of more sustainable urbanisation generally.

Further specific areas where it is believed that the thesis makes a contribution are in relation to:

Consideration of the range of broad approaches for the implementation of planning policy and the specific tools or mechanisms available within these approaches.

Identification of some of the more innovative tools used in existing government schemes or programs that are available to address the environmental and natural resource aspects of managing urban growth management.

Investigation of the problems associated with the implementation of these tools, and a preliminary assessment of their likely effectiveness of application by State and local government in the Sydney region.

Recommendation of an appropriate array of policy responses to the issue of managing urban growth in the Sydney region in a way that is compatible with the maintenance of the environmental quality and natural resource conservation – and hence the sustainability and liveability – of Sydney. Specifically key mechanisms such as transfer and purchase of development rights, offsets, conservation covenants, public acquisition of land prior to urbanisation, planning bonuses, cluster subdivision, and financial incentives are identified as warranting further consideration.