Non-urban land


Non-urban land is land in a rural or environmental zone. This land does not have the right to build a house due to the size of the property.

Non-urban land represents legacy issues and in the MidCoast, these issues also exist in paper subdivisions. Paper subdivisions are found in several locations including:

  • North Arm Cove
  • Pindimar
  • Bundabah
  • Carrington and
  • Copeland

If you want to buy or build a house on a non-urban lot, you need to establish if the property has a dwelling entitlement or is an existing holding.

For a fee we can undertake a search to see if the lot has a dwelling entitlement or is an existing holding.

A dwelling entitlement lets you know if development is allowed, but it does not guarantee that you will get approval to build. An application for Development Consent is still required.

Dwelling Entitlement Information Request

There are rules about building and development, clearing trees and vegetation, bushfire hazard reduction, camping and occupying non-urban land.

You may be fined or prosecuted if you carry out these activities without approval.

What are 'paper subdivisions'?

'Paper-subdivisions' were created in the 1800s and early 1900s. This was before the introduction of planning legislation.

They often have no formal roads, drainage, town water, sewer or electricity.

For more information:

There are no plans to rezone non-urban land in paper subdivisions for residential or urban purposes in the MidCoast.

The Draft MidCoast Rural Strategy (2021) considered rezoning non-urban land in paper subdivisions across the MidCoast for residential or urban use.

The initial review found the constraints in paper subdivisions did not support rezoning. For details see the Paper Subdivision Analysis Report.

The strategy and report are on public exhibition until 28 January 2022 - Know Your Rural Zone | Have Your Say (

Why do I pay rates on non-urban land?

Under the Local Government Act 1993, we must levy rates on all land, whether it can be built upon or not. As a result non-urban land is NOT exempt from rates.

The only land which is exempt from the payment of rates is as follows:

  • vacant crown land
  • national parks
  • state forests
  • schools
  • reserves and
  • land used for charitable or religious purposes

The zoning and the activities allowed on properties in paper subdivisions is a planning matter. This is separate from property values and the calculation of land rates.

We use rate funds to maintain, improve and provide services and facilities for the whole of the community across the region.

The rates paid by property owners may not relate directly to the services, infrastructure or facilities used by each ratepayer (e.g. not all ratepayers will use parks, a public library or a cycle path), rather, they contribute to the services and facilities that are available to all who live within our local government area.

Each year as part of the budget process, the elected Council determines the rates and charges for the financial year.

Additional information on Land Values and the Valuer General is available at Home - Valuer General of New South Wales (

Find out more about how rates are calculated How We Calculate Your Rates - MidCoast Council (

Can I build on non-urban land?

Can I build a house?

You can only build a house after you have approval.

We only consider applications to build dwellings on non-urban land where the land:

1. Has a dwelling entitlement under the relevant Local Environmental Plan; and

2. It can be demonstrated that the land is suitable for development

More information on dwelling entitlements is available in:

Can I build a shed?

State Environmental Planning Policy (Exempt and Complying Development) 2008 allows for certain low impact development to be carried without our consent. This is 'exempt development'.

Exempt development must not involve the removal or pruning of a tree or other vegetation without approval.

Examples of exempt development on rural land could include:

  • a farm building (shed or a shipping container) if the land is already used for agriculture.
  • A shipping container on bush fire affected properties within declared areas, for a limited time period.

‘Agriculture’ is defined as a genuine business enterprise with a distinct commercial purpose.

The Draft Rural Strategy and Paper Subdivision Analysis Report have found that the majority of properties in paper subdivisions are not suitable for commercial agricultural purposes. This is due to limited lot sizes and a lack of legal, publicly constructed and maintained access roads and infrastructure.

  • It is illegal to live in or occupy a shed or shipping container.
  • It is also unlawful to install plumbing and drainage for toilets, basins, showers and rainwater tanks in sheds, shipping containers or outbuildings without approval.

Can I remove vegetation from non-urban land?

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

For information on clearing vegetation for bushfire hazard reduction purposes go to NSW Rural Fire Service website.

Can I remove vegetation for another reason?

If you wish to remove vegetation the following approvals are required:

Native vegetation:

The Local Land Services Act 2013 legislates clearing of native vegetation on rural land. Hunter Local Land Services administers the act in the MidCoast.

For more information please go to Land management in NSW - Website - Local Land Services

Clearing in environmental zones for agriculture:

This is regulated under the State Environmental Planning Policy (Vegetation in Non-Rural Areas) 2017.

This policy provides a framework for land clearing associated with routine agricultural activities.

Council's Vegetation Management Policy applies and development consent is not required.

These policies do not apply to paper subdivisions as they are generally unsuitable for commercial agricultural activities.

Clearing in coastal wetlands or littoral rainforest:

This is regulated under the State Environmental Planning Policy (Coastal Management) 2018 requires development consent from Council.

Threatened species or ecological communities:

When clearing land that could contain threatened species, threatened ecological communities or protected plants a biodiversity conservation licence may be required. Further information is available on the DPIE website.

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

Can I camp on non-urban land?

Yes, you can camp on the land you own. Prior approval is not required for the installation of up to two caravans, campervans or tents on any land. They can't be occupied for more than two days at a time and not more than 60 days (in total) in any single period of 12 months.

Apart from structures permitted under the State Environmental Planning Policy (Exempt and Complying Development) 2008 you will need Council approval. This includes for structures you may want to use when camping such as a concrete slab, shelter/carport or rainwater tank.

Trees and vegetation cannot be removed, pruned or damaged for camping or building of any structures.