Consultation outcomes

on the Watercourse, Wetlands and Riparian Lands Study

We have reviewed all 935 submissions received in response to the public exhibition of the Conservation Zones Review and Technical Studies.

The main aim of this exhibition was to seek feedback on a draft methodology for the use of Conservation Zones across the Northern Beaches.

You can read the Consultation Report below which summarises the key issues and Council’s response to this feedback. You can also view the redacted submissions received through the public exhibition. The snapshot is also a great overview of the issues raised.

If you have any questions about this study or the consultation outcomes, please call the Strategic and Place Planning Team on 1300 434 434.

Next steps

We anticipate many of the issues raised can be resolved by potential changes to the draft methodology which Council is currently investigating.

Where areas of dispute remain about the accuracy of Council mapping of criteria used in the review, we will engage relevant consultants and contact those landowners who have requested a site inspection.

We are expecting to commence site visits from May 2023.

We are also meeting with the Department of Planning and Environment to discuss the Review, the submissions received, and possible changes. This is important because the Department will have the final say about any proposed zoning changes resulting from the Review.

The outcomes from the Review will help us develop a draft Northern Beaches Local Environmental Plan and Development Control Plan, which will be presented to Council and exhibited for community feedback in 2024.

We will continue to keep you updated.

Engagement history

We are creating one new planning framework that will guide and manage future development in the Northern Beaches.

Our planning framework is made up of a Local Environmental Plan (LEP) which is used to control development of land in a Local Government Area and a Development Control Plan (DCP) which provides detailed local planning and design guidelines to support the planning controls in the LEP. A new LEP and DCP for the Northern Beaches will provide a clearer, simpler and fairer set of planning rules.

To establish these rules, we have carried out several technical studies to identify the issues and recommend controls for specific environmental characteristics.

One of those studies is the Draft Watercourse, Wetlands and Riparian Lands Study. This study reviewed the existing controls relating to watercourses, wetlands and riparian lands and identified new riparian and wetland buffers to be incorporated into a new LEP and DCP.

Your feedback on our Draft Watercourse, Wetlands and Riparian Lands Study will help us understand if we have got the right balance of due diligence and avoiding difficult development application requirements.

Note: Council recently picked up an error in the mapping tool. The buffer zone has now been correctly updated to 30m from the riparian corridor, as described in the Study, rather than 40m from watercourse centreline, as was previously presented. This will be reflected in any further exhibition of the maps through the Draft DCP process. This error does not affect the Conservation Zone Review mapping and proposed zone changes.

Snapshot of the study

The Draft Watercourse, Wetlands and Riparian Lands Study (the Study) summarises a series of technical studies undertaken by environmental consulting firm BMT Commercial Australia Pty Ltd, which reviewed existing planning controls across the three former Councils (Manly, Warringah, Pittwater) associated with watercourse, wetland and riparian matters, and provided recommendations and updated mapping to be incorporated into a single Northern Beaches Council Local Environment Plan (LEP) and Development Control Plan (DCP).

The Study comprises Council’s objectives, key terms and definitions, and a draft set of watercourse and wetland maps, including proposed buffers to riparian corridors and wetlands, that apply a consistent mapping methodology across the local government area (LGA).

Northern Beaches LGA has seven major catchments which drain to our coastal lagoons, directly on to the beaches, or into North Harbour, Middle Harbour and Pittwater. Approximately 637 kilometres of watercourses and 240 hectares of wetlands are in the LGA.

Watercourses, wetlands and the riparian land surrounding them are important ecological systems that support aquatic and terrestrial habitat and wildlife, provide connectivity and biodiversity, reduce impacts from stormwater runoff and pollution, and contribute to the character, aesthetics and recreational value of the local area. It is important to protect these areas not only for their own intrinsic significance, but also for the benefits they provide in terms of downstream waterbodies and in modulating flood response.

Northern Beaches Council aims to protect, enhance and restore watercourses, wetlands and riparian land while ensuring protection of public and private property across the Northern Beaches. Council must consider the environmental impacts and risks associated with development adjacent to watercourses and wetlands before giving development consent. The three former Councils mapped and assessed watercourses and wetlands differently, so this Study is necessary to provide a fair and consistent mapping methodology across the LGA.

The outcomes of the Study include:

  • Consistent terms and definitions regarding watercourse, wetlands and riparian land.
  • Objectives to protect or improve the environmental values and functioning of watercourses, wetlands, and riparian land
  • Delineation of riparian corridor widths based on stream order and State Government guidelines, and the development of watercourse categories based on vegetation mapping - Category 1 (Native Vegetation) and Category 2 (Disturbed and Cleared).
  • Proposed additional 30 metre buffer for riparian corridors on each side of the watercourse. A 100 metre buffer is proposed from the edge of wetlands.
  • New proposed watercourse and wetland maps including proposed riparian and wetland buffers for inclusion in the Northern Beaches LEP/DCP (

The Study and associated maps provide a consistent and evidence-based approach to mapping watercourse and wetland values and buffers across the LGA.

Is the proposed approach to mapping watercourse, riparian corridors, wetlands and associated buffers in the Study a fair way of ensuring that impacts of development on watercourses, riparian corridors and wetlands are adequately considered?

Read more about the technical studies that informed the Conservation Zones Review

Our Conservation Zones Review has been informed by a series of technical studies that identify areas with high environmental value and significant environmental hazards.

You can find out more about each of the technical studies by clicking on the boxes below.

Have a question?

To learn more about this study, please contact:

Name Strategic and Place Planning
Phone 1300 434 434 (during business hours)
In writing

Marked 'Watercourse, Wetlands and Riparian Study', Northern Beaches Council, PO Box 82 Manly NSW 1655.