How the PADACS program and assessment tools operate
PADACS (PVPs, agreements, data and customer service) is a customer relationship management (CRM) software tool used to capture information relating to either PVPs (property vegetation plans) or DAs (development applications).
The native vegetation assessment tools (NVAT) are objective, computer based, decision support programs. They help catchment management authorities (CMAs) deliver incentive payments to landholders to conserve and enhance native vegetation on their properties and to assess whether clearing proposals meet the requirements of the Native Vegetation Act 2003 (NV Act).
The area to be assessed is mapped using a GIS tool and then the NVAT tools are run to determine what impact the clearing or conservation will have on salinity, water quality, biodiversity (including threatened species) and soils.
- Salinity - either the SBI (salinity benefits index) or SM (salt mobilisation) tool is run depending on the location of the property in the State. Clearing is deemed to improve or maintain salinity outcomes if there is no predicted increase in long-term average in-stream salinity. When vegetation cover is changed, rainfall run off and infiltration change. These changes influence the amount of salt that can be transported to a stream. The tools calculate the difference to in-stream salinity levels resulting from changes to vegetation cover and can be influenced by rainfall, soil type, landscape position, slope, vegetation cover, groundcover as well as the distribution of salt stored within the catchment.
- Water quality - the water quality tool is used to determine the width of riparian or riverside buffers that are then mapped into the assessment. The width of the buffer is determined by the size of the stream and its location in the landscape. Clearing within 20 metres of a prescribed stream or around certain wetlands will generally not be approved because it is deemed to cause negative impacts to water quality. Clearing native vegetation elsewhere within the buffer zone may be approved if suitable water quality offsets are provided.
- Biodiversity - the biodiversity assessment comprises of two tools being the BioMetric and the Threatened Species tools. BioMetric measures the impact (either positive or negative) that clearing or conservation will have to an area of land. In most circumstances it allows for offsets to balance the negative impacts of clearing. However, in some instances, if the vegetation type is extremely overcleared, or is of a very high importance then no offset could replace the loss and therefore the clearing would not be approved as it would be deemed not to improve or maintain environmental outcomes. The Threatened Species Tool allows for clearing where offsets would improve the habitat of specific threatened species to at least the same extent as the habitat values lost through the proposed clearing. The assessment does not allow clearing where impacts are unsustainable for a local population of a threatened species.
- Soils - the land and soils capability (LSC) tool uses information on slope, soil characteristics, drainage and landform to determine if the proposal is on sensitive terrain (sensitive terrain includes sand dunes, water and wind erosion, mass movement such as landslides, acid sulphate soils, shallow soils, rockiness, and soil structural issues). Based on this information, the LSC tool calculates a hazard risk number, and this number determines if the clearing will maintain or improve environmental outcomes, and therefore whether it will be approved.
The NVAT tools then weigh up the positive and negative impacts of different management actions that the landholder can apply (such as strategic grazing, retaining dead timber etc), and help the CMA staff to make a decision based on the best scientific information and satellite imagery available.
CMAs use these tools and their local knowledge to assess each proposal. CMAs are able to apply their own discretion to make minor variations or override the NVAT tools where they have more detailed local data or expert advice. The Native Vegetation Regulation 2005 specifies the aspects of the NVAT tools that cannot be changed by these minor variations.
A CMA may also develop a policy to allow minor clearing that will improve the quality of native vegetation in the long term. Proposals under this sort of policy would not have to be assessed using NVAT, but a PVP would still be required. Policies must first be exhibited for public comment and approved by the Minister under clause 28 of the NV Act.
This system of native vegetation management for NSW has been developed to accommodate changes to the rules as new or better information becomes available, and will continue to be refined as scientific knowledge improves.
If a CMA, a landholder or a community group have new information they believe should result in a change to NVAT, they can make a submission to DECC. The independent Natural Resources Commission evaluate submissions and make a recommendation to the Government.
Page last updated: 12 September 2012