Port of Newcastle is the largest port on the East Coast and is recognised as a state significant site due to its importance to the NSW economy.

A robust planning framework exists to efficiently manage the planning and development of land within the Port of Newcastle. 

The Port Lease requires that all development on port leased land must:

  • be core port infrastructure or port services;
  • be consistent with the Port of Newcastle Port Development Plan; and
  • have the relevant approval, consent or permit under the relevant planning legislation.

Download the Port of Newcastle Development Plan 2023-2028

Planning Framework

​The principal planning instrument that applies to the land managed by the Port of Newcastle is the State Environmental Planning Policy (Three Ports) 2013, known as the ‘Ports SEPP’.

Application of the Ports SEPP to the Port of Newcastle commenced on 31 May 2014. The aim of the Ports SEPP is to allow the efficient development, redevelopment and protection of land at the Port of Newcastle for port purposes.

All land within the Newcastle Port Planning Area is zoned SP1 – Special Activities (SP1), with the exception of the Crown lease land at the entrance to the harbour. This area is unzoned land.

The SP1 Zone provides for the development of a broad range of port related, industrial, infrastructure and associated land uses. The purpose of the SP1 zone is to maximise use of the waterfront areas to accommodate port facilities and industrial, maritime industrial and bulk storage premises that benefit from being located close to port facilities. It is also to ensure the efficient movement and operation of commercial shipping, and to provide for the efficient handling and distribution of freight from port areas through the provision of transport infrastructure.

There are a range of approval pathways set out in the SEPP (Three Ports) 2013, known as Ports SEPP, for development within the Port of Newcastle, including Exempt Development, Complying Development and Development with Consent.

Key Features of the Ports SEPP

  • Single zoning – SP 1 Special Activities across entire Port.
  • Permissible land uses reflect the range of port facilities and ancillary land uses central to the operation of the port.
  • Sensitive land uses such as schools, hospitals and residential development are not permitted.
  • Specific Exempt and Complying Development provisions are available on Port land to provide for streamlined assessment and approval process for common port infrastructure.

Approval Pathways

There are a number of  pathways set out in the SEPP (Three Ports) 2013, known as Ports SEPP, for development within the Port of Newcastle, including Exempt Development, Complying Development and Development with Consent.

Exempt Development

An Exempt Development must have minimal environmental impact and meet minimum standards. It does not require planning or construction approval.

Exempt Developments can include building alterations, paving, fencing, railway tracks, site investigations and the maintenance of existing port facilities.

The Ports SEPP defines around 40 Exempt Development activities.

Complying Development

A Complying Development Certificate (CDC) is an alternative to a Development Application (DA) and can be issued if a proposed development complies with specific predetermined development standards and planning controls.

There are 19 categories of complying development identified in the Ports SEPP. Complying Development includes a range of typical port facilities and infrastructure, such as offices and storage buildings, conveyor systems, dry bulk storage silos, road and rail terminals, loading, unloading and cargo handling facilities, wharfs and other berthing infrastructure.

A certifier, such as a Newcastle City Council certifier or a private certifier, is responsible for issuing CDCs.

Development with Consent

All other development within the Port requires development consent and will be subject to the development assessment process in the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act 1979.

The consent authority for development is the Minister for Planning.

This category includes development of bulk liquids storage facilities for hazardous or dangerous goods, business premises, industry and warehouse and distribution centres for non-port related development.

State Significant Development and State Significant Infrastructure typically covers large scale development such as port facilities with a capital investment value of more than $100 million, major capital dredging, or large scale or hazardous industrial facilities.


If you have any questions, please contact our Environment and Planning team.
Phone: +61 2 4908 8200 Email: