Non-Urban Lands

Council regularly receives enquiries about 'Non-Urban Land', in North Arm Cove, Pindimar, Bundabah, and Carrington localities.

People are often unaware that the use of the land is highly restricted, and rates are still payable even on empty blocks.

If you have bought, or are thinking about buying land in these areas please be aware of what you can and cannot do with the property.

On this page:

What Is 'Non-Urban Land'?

”Non-Urban Land" is land that is in a rural or environmental zone,has an area of less than 40 hectares, and may not have any development entitlement. Many of these properties have restrictions that do not allow a dwelling house or other structures to be built on the land.

Non-urban lands were created by 'paper-subdivisions' in the 1800s and early 1900s, before the introduction of planning legislation. More information on paper subdivisions is available from the Department of Planning and Environment .

There are rules about building and development, clearing trees and vegetation, bushfire hazard reduction, camping and occupying non-urban land and you may be fined or prosecuted if you carry out these activities without approval. It is important that you get your own town planning, legal or other advice if you want to remove vegetation, build anything or occupy your land.

Non-urban land is NOT exempt from rates. Councils are required to charge rates on private land under the Local Government Act 1993. Great Lakes Council, because of the limited use of non-urban land, charges the lowest rates possible.

There is no plan to rezone Non-urban land for urban purposes. This is reflected in the Tea Gardens/ Hawks Nest Conservation and Development Strategy (2003) adopted by Great Lakes Council and the State Government’s Mid-North Coast Regional Strategy (2009) .

If your property is in a rural or environmental zone, and has an area of less than 40 hectares you may need to establish whether or not the property has a dwelling entitlement. Council can do this search for you on a cost-recovery basis if you lodge a Request for Determination of Existing Parcel Rights (Dwelling Entitlement Advice) form.

Council has prepared a detailed fact sheet  to explain why this situation exists and what the restrictions mean for owners of Non-Urban Land.

Frequently Asked Questions about Non-Urban Land

Can I build a house on my Land?

Before you start building a house on your land you must have approval. A house can only be built on non-urban land if it is an ‘existing holding’, is part of a Council approved subdivision (after the introduction of planning legislation) or has an area of more than 40 hectares. A Development Application (DA) for building a house may be lodged if your land is under 40 hectares but this is reviewed on a case by case basis. See the Great Lakes Local Environmental Plan 2014 Clause 4.6 for more information on this rule.

Do I need approval for a shed or small building?

The State Environmental Planning Policy (Exempt and Complying Development) 2008 (Often called the Codes SEPP), allows some buildings and structures without Council approval, but strict rules apply.

It is illegal to live in or occupy a shed. It is also unlawful to install plumbing and drainage for toilets, basins, showers and rain water tanks in sheds or outbuildings without approval from Council.

The Codes SEPP may also allow some building or development on your land without approval from Council if it is related to another use on the same land. For example, a farm building may not need approval if the land is already used for Agriculture. ‘Agriculture’ is clearly defined in Great Lakes Local Environmental Plan 2014 and it must be a genuine business enterprise, have a distinct commercial purpose and character and must be carried out for the purpose of financial gain. The planting of fruit trees or vegetable patches for personal use is not considered to be an agricultural activity having a commercial purpose or character.

Please check with Council before commencing any building by calling the Customer Service Centre on (02) 6591 7222.

Can I remove trees or clear my land without approval?

No. There are strict rules about the removal of trees and vegetation on non-urban land. Approval is needed for the removal or clearing of any native vegetation. In these areas the clearing of trees and vegetation is not allowed except in very limited situations.

To seek approval for removing trees a ‘Tree Removal Application’ may be lodged with Council. You may also need the approval of the Office of Environment and Heritage under the Native Vegetation Act 2003 which controls the clearing of native vegetation on rural land.

It is also unlawful to remove, prune or damage trees or vegetation on neighbouring properties without consent from the owner.

Can I remove trees and vegetation to reduce the risk of bushfire?

Written approval for bushfire hazard reduction must be obtained from the NSW Rural Fire Service. The Rural Fires Act 1997 allows for ‘Bushfire Hazard Reduction’ in some situations. ‘Bushfire Hazard Reduction’ includes work done in a bushfire emergency (such as removing fuel and making fire breaks) or work that is done as part of a Bushfire Risk Management Plan that has been approved by the Rural Fire Service.

Bushfire Hazard Reduction work can be carried out without consent in very limited circumstances. Clearing of your land is not generally considered to be bushfire hazard reduction if you do not have written approval from the Rural Fire Service.

Can I camp on or occupy my non-urban plot of land?

Camping is restricted to 60 days per year, and a permit is required from Council before you can camp. No camping equipment can remain on the land when not in use. For more information, see the section below which applies to all private land.

Camping On Private Land

Camping is not permitted on any private land, whether vacant or built upon, unless a permit is obtained from Council beforehand.  A camping permit will only be issued to allow camping by the landowner and / or his immediate family for up to 60 days in one year. 

Caravans and the like are not allowed to be permanently located on non-urban land. Conditions of the permit include ensuring the removal of all structures including caravans from the site at the expiration of the permit. No camping equipment can remain on the land when not in use.

You need Council approval before building any structure on your land such as a concrete slab, shelter/carport or rainwater tank. Trees and vegetation cannot be removed, pruned or damaged for the purpose of camping.

Council's policy Camping on Private Land, can be viewed for more information.

 You can download an 'Application to Camp' below.  A prescribed fee is payable when submitting the application.