crownConclusions from the NSW Auditor General’s Performance Report on Crown Lands:

The audit examined the Department’s: • strategy for the use of Crown land • compliance with legislative requirements and policies for Crown land management • systems for ensuring quality and transparency in decision-making for leasing and sales of Crown land • engagement with stakeholders when leasing or selling Crown land.

“The Department is not currently managing the sale and leasing of Crown land effectively. The Department has made some improvements recently, but these are not yet fully implemented and as such it needs to make a concerted effort to manage ongoing risks.

The Department’s overall governance of decision-making for the sale and lease of Crown land is inadequate. Most guidance for staff is significantly out of date, which has led to inconsistent decision-making. There is low compliance with policy including in relation to rebates on rent, debt management, rent redeterminations and direct negotiation of leases and sales. Oversight of decisions has been limited, with no quality assurance or post-decision review processes. The Department has not monitored tenant compliance with lease conditions.

The Department complies with statutory requirements to notify the public about its decisions, but does not provide consistent opportunities for people to understand or have a say in decisions about the sale and lease of Crown land. Balancing the competing demands of multiple stakeholders in Crown land is challenging. There have been recent examples of better communication. However, consultation with stakeholders varies and does not always allow for meaningful opportunities for input.

The clarity of strategic direction for the Department’s management of Crown land has improved over the last twelve months. This could be strengthened further with clearer indicators for social and environmental outcomes to assist the Department to achieve a better balance between the competing priorities involved in Crown land management. It would also enable the Department to demonstrate its achievements in these areas.”

Other types of Crown Land Reserves not covered by the report – Coastal Areas and Waterways (including structures), Travelling Stock Routes, Western Division.

A couple of points with regard to Stakeholder Engagement:

2.2 Decision-making is not transparent There is minimal public information about decision-making processes The Department’s decision-making processes for sales and commercial leases are not transparent to stakeholders. This means that a potential sale or lease applicant, or an interested member of the public, will find it difficult to be informed about or scrutinise the Department’s decisions.

2.3 ……The language used in the notices is formal and would be difficult for a member of the public to understand (see Exhibit 7). It is difficult to know which piece of land the Department is referring to without technical knowledge of the way land is described. The use of more modern and simple language and communication would increase the reach of these notifications without a significant increase in cost to the Department.