Nature conservation

Native animals

Purchasing land with high-priority koala habitat

The NSW Government has allocated funding to buy NSW properties with high-priority koala habitat that is occupied by koalas for management and conservation within the national parks system.

Koala populations across New South Wales are under increasing pressure and are declining despite a wide range of conservation initiatives, including protections through legislation, recovery programs and various community effort (see the Managing threats to koalas fact sheet).

This land purchase initiative will assist in the long-term conservation of the koala.

How much money is available to purchase land for koalas?

The NSW Government has allocated $10 million over five years to purchase and permanently conserve land in the national parks system that contains priority koala habitat.

Starting in 2016–17 and running through to 2020–21, the Office of Environment and Heritage (OEH) aims to spend around $2 million each year purchasing priority koala habitat.

What is priority koala habitat and how will it be identified?

During 2017 OEH is collecting information on koala presence, persistence and habitat. This information will be used to help OEH identify the most strategic areas for koala conservation. It will also guide OEH on areas that are suitable for purchase and addition to the national parks system.

Criteria for considering a property include:

  • presence of high-quality koala habitat
  • evidence of use by koalas
  • good connection to surrounding native vegetation
  • improvement in the management of threats to koalas in that region if the land is reserved
  • suitability of the property for inclusion in the national parks system.

Identifying priority koala habitat suitable for the reserve system

Not all land identified as having high koala values will be suitable for addition to the national parks system. OEH will assess whether the land is suitable from a general conservation and management perspective. These criteria are well-established principles for reservation as part of the national parks system and include:

  • the property’s proximity to existing national parks
  • specific management requirements and whether OEH has the capacity to manage the property
  • other natural and cultural values
  • value for money
  • competing land use interest such as potential for mineral resources and timber harvesting
  • the social and economic impacts of reserving the land.

For each property offered, OEH will first complete a desktop assessment of the land to determine its values and whether they align with the koala and other national park criteria.

If the desktop assessment indicates that there are insufficient values, OEH will decline the offer.

If the desktop assessment indicates that the property appears to hold values of interest to OEH, OEH will arrange to visit the property and fully assess the values.

If the full assessment determines the property holds a significant conservation value, OEH will determine its suitability for reservation and determine whether to proceed with the acquisition process or decline the land offer.

Do I have to sell my land if it has priority koala habitat?

No, selling land to OEH, whether it is leasehold or freehold, is always a voluntary process.

Office of Environment and Heritage does not compulsorily acquire private land for the national parks system and there is absolutely no obligation to sell land containing koala habitat.

There are other options to protect conservation values without selling the land to OEH. These are through OEH’s private land conservation initiatives that can be found on the NSW Biodiversity Conservation Trust webpage on the Sustain. Invest. Protect website.

Can I register an interest in selling my land with OEH?

As a landholder (titleholder), you can lodge an expression of interest asking OEH to consider your land for a potential purchase.

Please be assured an expression of interest does not obligate you to anything.

You can lodge an expression of interest by contacting the Reserve Establishment Team by:

Your expression of interest or offer should include the following information:

  • your best contact details (at least an address and contact number or email)
  • the location and description of the land (Lot and DP) or a map 
  • an asking price for land (if known)
  • any conditions associated with the offer of sale (if applicable)
  • why you think your land is important for koalas.

An expression of interest should not in any way influence your personal or business undertakings.

Will OEH also be actively looking for land which might have priority koala habitat?

Yes, OEH will also be looking for land which is available for sale on the open market which may have priority koala habitat.

In addition to this and the expression of interest process, OEH may also approach landowners directly seeking their interest in selling land to OEH.

Office of Environment and Heritage will only make direct approaches to landowners where the land is understood to:

  • have priority koala habitat
  • be affordable in the context of the available funding for land purchases
  • be suitable for addition to the national parks system.

Can others propose land which could be purchased?

Yes, community groups and other interested stakeholders can propose lands they feel may have priority koala habitat.

Office of Environment and Heritage will consider these proposals in context with identified priority koala habitat information, the proposal’s likely affordability and the proposal’s suitability for addition to the national parks system.

What is OEH’s standard process in purchasing land?

When OEH identifies land as being suitable for purchase and the land is available for sale, consent to purchase the land will be sought from the Minister for the Environment.

The steps OEH takes in purchasing the land are generally as follows.

  1. Office of Environment and Heritage will contract an independent market valuation.

    The valuation will be prepared by a registered valuer and will consider the condition of the land, improvements, highest and best use of the land, and an analysis of comparable market sales and demand.

    There are three things about the market valuation you should be aware of:

    • a market valuation is not the same as the Notice of Valuation prepared by the Valuer General (that is a land valuation assessed en masse for council rating purposes)
    • the valuation process does not place a special monetary value on environmental attributes, such as the presence or absence of koalas
    • OEH will not make its valuation report available to you.
  2. Office of Environment and Heritage will make a formal offer in writing based on the property’s market value.
  3. You decide whether to accept or reject the OEH land purchase offer or whether anything else needs to be discussed.
  4. Once everyone is in agreement, a Contract for Sale is prepared by the seller’s solicitor or conveyancer and is exchanged.

Who pays legal fees?

In selling your land, you are responsible for meeting your own legal costs regardless of whether or not a sale eventuates.

If I offer my property to OEH, how long would OEH take to purchase it?

If OEH agrees to purchase your land, all effort will be made to finalise the purchase as soon as possible.

All purchases are subject to the Minister for the Environment’s approval and the availability of funding. If insufficient funding is available in one financial year of the initiative, the purchase may need to be completed in the following financial year.

Can I sell part of my land and retain a portion?

Yes, although OEH will consider the purchase of part of a property or lot on a case-by-case basis.

To subdivide a lot or property, you may require the consent of Council. An application for subdivision may be refused through that process.

Who pays for fencing and surveying on subdivisions?

You would be responsible for meeting the costs associated with subdivision.

The subdivision must be surveyed prior to the sale of any portion of the property. You should consult the Dividing Fences Act 1991 to see if fencing or other means are required to properly identify boundaries. If required, it would be your responsibility to fence out subdivisions prior to the sale of the whole or part of the property.

Why has OEH approached other landholders in my region to purchase their land but not me?

There may be a variety of reasons why this is the case. Some reasons may be that:

  • funding may be already allocated to purchasing lands in identified strategic locations
  • while your property may have koala habitat, it may not be the highest priority relative to other habitats and regions
  • your property may not be the most suitable for addition the national parks system.

General information on the land acquisition process can be found on the OEH Aquiring land for conservation reserves webpage

Page last updated: 20 September 2017