Nick Thomas

Clayton Utz
Partner Sydney

Clients value him, not only as "a very personable, extremely commercial and highly knowledgeable lawyer," but also as one whose approach means: "You don't just feel like a client but like a member of a team."

– Chambers Asia Pacific


Nick is a leading expert in environment, planning, ESG, climate change, sustainability, water, property, regulated industries and government law, with a focus on infrastructure, land development, and energy and resources. With more than 25 years' experience collaborating with Commonwealth, State and local government as well as major corporations in a diverse range of industries, he has advised key players in many of Australia's most significant projects, transactions and environmental disputes. One of Nick's strengths is guiding projects through their entire lifecycle, from conception to operation. He advises at executive, board, and ministerial levels, and is known for delivering pragmatic solutions.

Nick has also been appointed a Fellow of the Environment Institute of Australia and New Zealand and was recently named Australia's best water lawyer by Best Lawyers (in association with the Australian Financial Review).

Notable Work
  • Inland Rail program: leading a team across three States advising Australian Rail Track Corporation (ARTC) on the program (a 1700km program of major rail projects), covering all aspects of environment, planning, ESG, native title, government, land access and acquisition, and transport regulation. Nick began advising during the business case development and is continuing his team's role throughout the life of the various Inland Rail projects, including on a wide range of transactions and dispute resolution.
  • Western Sydney International (Nancy Bird Walton) Airport: advising the Australian Government and subsequently WSA Co Ltd (as airport lessee) on environment, planning and ESG matters, as well as land acquisition and access, airport regulation and government laws. His role has spanned initial legislative drafting, two EIS processes, transactional work, strategic planning, approval design and implementation.
  • Transport infrastructure: advising government and private sector proponents on an extensive range of major transport infrastructure projects and operations, including road, rail, light rail, port and airport projects in NSW and other States and Territories.
  • Biodiversity / natural capital: advising on conservation and market development, natural capital initiatives and biodiversity transactions across Australia. Among other things, Nick has participated in design reviews for biodiversity market schemes in NSW and revisions to State and Commonwealth biodiversity laws, advised on innovative biodiversity enhancement projects and transactions, conducted workshops on nature positive initiatives, and acted on most of the biodiversity credit transactions to date in NSW (including devising many "first of kind" transaction structures).
  • Greenfield development projects, urban renewal and precinct development: advising public and private sector clients, on master planning and planning instrument drafting, feasibility advice, land transactions and land management (including contamination), assessments and approvals, project delivery and various forms of dispute resolution. Nick has advised major developers (such as Celestino, Dahua, Goodman, Lendlease, Lyon Group, Mirvac, Stockland), aged care providers (such as Opal, HammondCare, BaptistCare), major NSW universities, the NSW Department of Planning and Environment, Landcom, NSW Land and Housing Corporation, Defence Housing Authority and key local councils (including Blacktown City Council).
  • Natural disaster preparedness and planning, response and recovery: advising government and private sector clients, including on the development of resilience initiatives. Clients include infrastructure owners and operators, State metropolitan and rural fire agencies, State emergency services, and recovery agencies such as the Northern Rivers Reconstruction Corporation, the NSW Reconstruction Authority.Nick was recently invited to advise the New Zealand Government on natural disaster resilience.
  • Carbon regulation and carbon markets: advising government agencies and private sector clients in the mining, energy and land sectors across Australia on the Safeguard Mechanism, carbon credit regulation, carbon credit generation projects,carbon transactions and related government policy. Nick's work has included advising the Australian Government on the design of the reverse auctions and standard contracts for the Emissions Reduction Fund.
  • Clean energy solutions: advising a broad spectrum of clients, including on solar, wind, pumped hydro, biomass, energy from waste, hydrogen and P2X. Nick's experience includes acting for Origin Energy, AGL, Alinta, CWP Renewables, Hydro Tasmania and numerous other clients on existing and prospective projects, and for various proponents of hydrogen projects (both pilot and commercial scale). He has also advised the Australian Government on the development of its hydrogen policy, and the NSW Government on renewable energy policy and regulation, and on renewable energy projects for several NSW Government agency sites.
  • Water policy and regulation: advising public and private sector clients on (including legislation and policy development, implementation and dispute resolution), water infrastructure projects (development, operation and access), water markets and water trading. Nick has advised:
  • WaterNSW, Hunter Water, Sydney Water, the Department of Planning and Environment, IPART and the Australian Government; and
  • private sector water utilities, property developers, land owners in urban and rural areas, investors, and mining and energy generation corporations.
  • ESG issues and initiatives: advising a wide range of public and private sector clients including boards of major corporations and government agencies on ESG risk management (especially on greenwashing) and carbon reduction or net zero strategies; executives on sustainability policies and reporting (including assisting in the development of sustainability strategies); on the development and operation of certification and rating schemes (such as the development of the Infrastructure Sustainability rating scheme, an international "responsible steel scheme", a State stewardship scheme for paint products, and the Australian Government's Guarantee of Origin scheme); and on social licence creation and enhancement for corporations and specific projects.
  • Mining, onshore petroleum (CSG) and resource extraction projects: advising domestic and multinational operators, investors, financiers, community groups, and the Australian and NSW Governments. Nick has helped clients to carry out assessments and obtain approvals, obtain land access agreements and mining authorisations, address competing land uses and rehabilitation obligations, respond to regulatory investigations and resolve disputes. He has also worked with the NSW Government on the development of legislation and policy reforms for land access and compensation, and on the assessment of mining applications.
  • Waste management projects and operations: advising public and private sector clients on this, and waste regulation in infrastructure and property development projects. Nick's experience covers liquid and solid waste processing facilities, landfill facilities, water and biosolid treatment plants. He has assisted clients obtain approvals including resource recovery exemptions and orders, and advised on emerging solutions for waste management, such as energy from waste and biomass energy generation projects. He has advised on regulatory investigations and litigation relating to waste management projects.
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