Threatened species ‘test of significance’

What is the ’test of significance’ and how is it related to species impact statements, the Biodiversity Offsets Scheme and threatened species licences?

The threatened species test of significance is used to determine if a development or activity is likely to significantly affect threatened species or ecological communities, or their habitats. It is applied as part of the Biodiversity Offsets Scheme entry requirements and for Part 5 activities under the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act 1979.

The test of significance is set out in s.7.3 of the Biodiversity Conservation Act 2016.

If the activity is likely to have a significant impact, or will be carried out in a declared area of outstanding biodiversity value, the proponent must either apply the Biodiversity Offsets Scheme or prepare a species impact statement (SIS).

The environmental impact of activities that will not have a significant impact on threatened species will continue to be assessed under s.111 of the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act 1979.

Threatened species licences

A threatened species licence is required for actions likely to harm threatened species or ecological communities, or their habitats. A threatened species licence is a class of Biodiversity conservation licence, legislated under Part 2 Division 3 of the Biodiversity Conservation Act 2016.

For more information about how a threatened species licence is assessed, read Licence to harm a threatened species or ecological community.

Species impact statement

If a proposed activity will have a significant impact or will be carried out in an area of outstanding biodiversity value, and the proponent does not opt in to the Biodiversity Offsets Scheme, a SIS must be prepared and agreement sought from the Chief Executive of Office of Environment and Heritage.

The requirements of an SIS are set out in s.7.6 of the Biodiversity Conservation Regulation 2017. The proponent must also seek and comply with the Office of Environment and Heritage Chief Executive’s requirements for SIS preparation.

Transitional arrangements

The test of significance and requirements for an SIS were previously set out in the Threatened Species Conservation Act 1995. These have been incorporated into the Biodiversity Conservation Act 2016 and Biodiversity Conservation Regulation 2017, with some minor changes.

Transitional arrangements have been put in place for Part 5 activities to allow time for assessments that started under the Threatened Species Conservation Act 1995
to be completed.