ESD Best Practice Project

A ground breaking project was implemented by North Sydney Council over 18 months (2013 to mid-2014).

The Ecologically Sustainable Development (ESD) Best Practice Project has seen a comprehensive green audit test the effectiveness of Council’s own planning provisions. The intention was to improve the sustainability performance of new development by identifying and implementing best practice planning provisions - the very means by which Local Government can have direct effect on the long term structure and performance of the built environment.

The project adopted a whole-of-Council approach to assist in dealing with complex sustainability issues and has policy and work plan implications that extend right across the organisation beyond typical planning and assessment functions. The process and its outcomes can be used by other councils to assist in their drive towards sustainability, making the project significant on a regional and state-wide scale.



The ESD Best Practice Project essentially involved a 'green audit' of Council's LEP and DCP provisions and aimed to locate North Sydney's regulation of development relative to ESD best practice, and to outline actions required to achieve best practice. Improving the environmental sustainability of new development will assist in meeting the objectives of Councils Community Strategic Plan. The Project involved five areas of research, including:

  1. energy
  2. water
  3. waste
  4. biodiversity, and
  5. transport.

Each of these sustainability themes were approached using a three stage process:

  1. A review of the existing federal, State and local regulatory environment - This forms a basis for understanding the legal powers available to Council to influence ESD outcomes through new or amended planning provisions;
  2. A review of local authority ESD initiatives from Australia and overseas - This allows the identification of best practice criteria or specific best practice planning provisions ; and
  3. A review of North Sydney DCP controls against best practice.

The research lead to the development of 5 Action Plans which identified, or developed provisions that will improve the sustainability performance of new developments compared to current practice. This has been achieved through amendments to Council's planning provisions and implementation of other new initiatives.

On 13 May 2013, Council considered a report on how to achieve ESD best practice: PDS01 ESD BPP (13MB)

Attached to the report were a number of documents proposing how best practice is to be achieved, and incorporated:

  • 5 Actions Plans for energy, water, waste, biodiversity and transport.
  • Draft amendments to Draft NS DCP 2012.
  • ESD commitment tables to be completed and submitted with DA.
  • Green Roof and Wall Resource Manual.

On 2 September 2013, Council considered a post exhibition report: PDS01 ESD BPP post (17MB)  in conjunction with a post exhibition report on Draft NS DCP 2012.

Council subsequently resolved to adopt the ESD Project and its components subject to minor amendments in response to addressing issues raised in submissions during their public exhibition.


Adopted ESD Best Practice documents

Action Plans

ESD commitment tables

To be completed and submitted with Development Applications.

Green Roof and Wall Resource Manual

The North Sydney Council Green Roof and Wall Resource Manual seeks to provide guidance to the community regarding the construction, installation and maintenance of green rooves and green walls:

Green Roof and Wall resource manual (2MB)


Further Work

While the focus of the project was on the regulation of private development, opportunities were identified to extend and achieve best practice across other Council functions. Many outcomes of the project therefore reach beyond typical planning and assessment functions.

The project found that many local jurisdictions, both in Australia and overseas, seek to achieve greenhouse gas reduction targets by moving beyond the regulation of individual buildings to developing district-scale energy, heating and cooling infrastructure. This infrastructure allows for energy to be produced and distributed locally from low- or no-emission technologies, thus reducing dependence on coal fired energy. Consultants have been engaged to undertake preliminary work regarding the feasibility of this type of infrastructure in North Sydney with findings due in September 2014.

The project found that a number of regulatory initiatives regarding the sustainable management and re-use of stormwater are only unachievable as part of a comprehensive stormwater strategy extending beyond the assessment of individual developments. As a result, Council is now in the early stages of preparing an integrated Council-wide stormwater strategy. A stormwater levy is being considered by Council as a means to fund improvements in stormwater management and technical studies and catchment modelling are now being undertaken to inform the development of the broader strategy. Once finalised, the strategy will contain recommendations for improved management of stormwater, via both the planning and development systems as well as via the management of Council’s stormwater infrastructure.

The project found that best practice sustainable transport regulation involves the application of differential off-street parking rates based on access to public transport. Such an initiative must take into consideration flow-on impacts such as the impacts on on-street parking. As a result, Council is now preparing an integrated on-street and off-street parking strategy.

Please visit this page for updates or contact Neal McCarry of  Strategic Planning - Policy, on 9936 8100 for further information.