Nature conservation

Biodiversity Reform

Biodiversity Offsets Scheme entry requirements

The Biodiversity Offsets Scheme applies to:

  • Local development (assessed under Part 4 of the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act 1979) that is likely to significantly affect threatened species or triggers the Biodiversity Offsets Scheme threshold 
  • State significant development and state significant infrastructure projects, unless the Secretary of the Department of Planning and Environment and the Chief Executive of OEH determine that the project is not likely to have a significant impact
  • Biodiversity certification proposals 
  • Clearing of native vegetation in urban areas and areas zoned for environmental conservation that exceeds the Biodiversity Offsets Scheme threshold and does not require development consent
  • Clearing of native vegetation that requires approval by the Native Vegetation Panel under the Local Land Services Act 2013 
  • Activities assessed and determined under Part 5 of the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act 1979 (generally, proposals by government entities), if proponents choose to ‘opt in’ to the Scheme.

The test of significance detailed in section 7.3 of the Biodiversity Conservation Act 2016 must be used to determine whether a local development is likely to significantly affect threatened species.

Proponents will need to supply evidence relating to the triggers for the Biodiversity Offsets Scheme Threshold and the test of significance when submitting their application to the consent authority.

The Biodiversity Offsets Scheme does not apply to exempt or complying development.

The Biodiversity Offsets Scheme Threshold

The Biodiversity Offsets Scheme Threshold is a test used to determine when is necessary to engage an accredited assessor to apply the Biodiversity Assessment Method (the BAM) to assess the impacts of a proposal.

It is used for local developments (development applications submitted to councils) and clearing that does not require development consent in urban areas and areas zoned for environmental conservation (under the State Environmental Planning Policy (Vegetation in Non-Rural Areas) 2017).  

The Biodiversity Conservation Regulation 2017 sets out threshold levels for when the Biodiversity Offsets Scheme will be triggered. The threshold has two elements:

  • Whether the amount of native vegetation being cleared exceeds a threshold area set out below
  • Whether the impacts occur on an area mapped on the Biodiversity Values map published by the Minister for the Environment

If clearing and other impacts exceeds either trigger, the Biodiversity Offset Scheme applies to the proposed development including biodiversity impacts prescribed by clause 6.1 of the Biodiversity Regulation 2017.

Area clearing threshold 

The area threshold varies depending on the minimum lot size (shown in the Lot Size Maps made under the relevant Local Environmental Plan (LEP)), or actual lot size (where there is no minimum lot size provided for the relevant land under the LEP).

Minimum lot size associated with the property Threshold for clearing, above which the BAM and offsets scheme apply
Less than 1 ha 0.25 ha or more
1 ha to less than 40 ha 0.5 ha or more
40 ha to less than 1000 ha 1 ha or more
1000 ha or more 2 ha or more

The area threshold applies to all proposed native vegetation clearing associated with a proposal, regardless of whether this clearing is across multiple lots. In the case of a subdivision, the proposed clearing must include all future clearing likely to be required for the intended use of the land after it is subdivided. 

Biodiversity Values Map threshold

The Biodiversity Values Map identifies land with high biodiversity value, as defined by clause 7.3(3) of the Biodiversity Conservation Regulation 2017. The Biodiversity Offsets Scheme applies to all clearing of native vegetation and other biodiversity impacts prescribed by clause 6.1 of the Biodiversity Regulation 2017 on land identified on the map.

Biodiversity Values Map viewer 

User Guide for this viewer.

Biodiversity Offsets Scheme Entry Tool

An on-line Biodiversity Offsets Scheme Entry Tool is available to assist developers, landholders and consent authorities to determine whether proposed clearing will be above or below the area thresholds or lies within an area mapped as having high biodiversity value. The tool generates a report that can be supplied with the development application. 

BOSET User Manual

‘Test of significance’

Proponents are also required to carry out a ‘test of significance’ for all development proposals that do not exceed the Biodiversity Offset Scheme Threshold.

This will determine whether impacts other than those associated with clearing of native vegetation will have a significant impact on biodiversity (in particular, threatened species).

If the ‘test of significance’ assessment indicates that there will be a significant impact, the proponent must carry out a BAM assessment in relation to the identified impacts. Special modules of the BAM have been developed to assess these types of impacts, even though these impacts cannot be presently measured in biodiversity offset credits.

The outcomes of the assessment will be included in the BDAR and must be provided to the consent authority. The BDAR will provide consent authorities with consistent and scientifically robust information about non-clearing impacts. The consent authority must consider the information in the BDAR when deciding whether to approve the development proposal and any appropriate conditions to mitigate the identified impacts.

Guidelines for how to apply the test of significance will be available shortly.  In the meantime, the existing ‘7-part test’ guidelines will provide a useful reference to help interpret the factors of the test of significance.

Impacts below the Biodiversity Offset Scheme Threshold and ‘test of significance’

The environmental impact of development proposals that do not exceed the Biodiversity Offset Scheme Threshold and will not otherwise have a significant impact on biodiversity values as assessed by the ‘test of significance’ will continue to be assessed under s 79C of the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act 1979.

Clearing of land in urban area and E2-E4 zones that does not exceed the Biodiversity Offset Scheme Threshold will continue to be regulated by Councils under Development Control Plans pursuant to provisions in the State Environmental Planning Policy (Vegetation in Non-Rural Areas) 2017 similar to clause 5.9 of the Standard Instrument Local Environmental Plan.

 

 

Page last updated: 18 October 2017