Nature conservation

Biodiversity Reform

About the Biodiversity Conservation Act 2016

On 25 August 2017 the land management biodiversity conservation reforms commenced. This introduced some significant changes to the way we protect our biodiversity, how we regulate a range of development activities on land and how the impacts of these activities on the natural environment are managed.

This page provides a background and overview of the biodiversity conservation framework.

What's in the Biodiversity Conservation Act 2016

PartTitleInformation

Part 1

Preliminary

States the name, commencement date and purpose of the Act. Details the application of the Act to terrestrial environment and what biodiversity and biodiversity values mean for the purposes of the Act. It also includes definitions of key terms used in the Act.

Part 2

Protection of plants and animals

Establishes the offences and limited defences under the Act. It also sets out the framework for biodiversity conservation licences that provide authorisation to undertake activities that would otherwise be an offence.  This replaces the previous licencing regime under the Threatened Species Conservation Act 1995 and National Parks and Wildlife Act 1974.

Part 3

Areas of outstanding biodiversity value

Establishes a new instrument for the conservation of areas that meet established criteria. This replaces critical habitats under the Threatened Species Conservation Act 1995 and deems the existing critical habitats to be areas of outstanding biodiversity value.

Part 4

Threatened species and threatened ecological communities

Sets out a new process for listing threatened plants and animals and aligns with standards developed by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).

Establishes the biodiversity conservation program (known as Saving our Species) for threatened species and threatened ecological communities

Establishes the Scientific Committee and sets out its functions

Part 5

Investment strategy and private land conservation agreements

Establishes the private land conservation framework, and the requirements to develop a Biodiversity Conservation Investment and a biodiversity values map. This part establishes the three types of private land conservation agreements and prescribes content, duration and variation and other provisions.

Part 6

Biodiversity offsets scheme

Establishes the biodiversity offsets scheme, including provisions for establishing a method to assess biodiversity; the creation of, and dealings with, biodiversity credits, scheme for accreditation and the Biodiversity Conservation Fund.

Part 7

Biodiversity assessment and approvals under Planning Act

Sets out biodiversity assessment requirements for different activities, including state significant development or infrastructure and when a Minister’s concurrence is required

Part 8

Biodiversity certification of land

Establishes the framework for biodiversity certification

Part 9

Public consultation and public registers

Sets out uniform requirements for consultation and the publication of registers under the Act

Part 10

Biodiversity Conservation Trust

Establishes the body Biodiversity Conservation Trust, and sets out the Trust’s functions

Part 11

Regulatory compliance mechanisms

Sets out the range of compliance mechanisms including stop work orders, interim protection orders, remediation orders, biodiversity offsets enforcement order and directions relating to protected animals and threatened species of animals.

Part 12

Investigation powers

Sets out the investigative powers including authorised officers, powers to require information and records and powers under the Act.

Part 13

Criminal and civil proceedings

Sets out liabilities for offences and types of proceedings that may be taken and orders that may be made.

Part 14

Miscellaneous

Includes provisions for the establishment of a Biodiversity Conservation Advisory Panel, biodiversity information programs, delegations of functions and relationship of the Biodiversity Conservation Act to other Acts.

Schedules

Schedules

Schedule 1 – Threatened species

Schedule 2 – Threatened ecological communities

Schedule 3 – Extinct species, species extinct in the wild and collapsed ecological communities

Schedule 4 – Key threatening processes

Schedule 5 – Protected animals

Schedule 6 – Protected plants

Schedule 7 – Provisions relating to members and procedure of Threatened Species Scientific Committee

Schedule 8- Members and procedures if Board of Biodiversity Conservation Trust

Schedule 9- Savings, transitional and other provisions

How we manage land and conservation activities

Key reform areas

Land mangement and biodiversity conservation framework components

 

Legislative framework

New legislation introduces a balanced approach to land management and biodiversity conservation in NSW.

  • Key elements of the land management and biodiversity conservation framework are a new Biodiversity Conservation Act 2016 (BC Act), amendments to the Local Land Services Act 2013 (LLS Act), and associated regulations.
  • The purpose of the BC Act is to maintain a healthy, productive and resilient environment for the greatest well-being of the community, now and into the future, consistent with the principles of ecologically sustainable development.
  • The State Environmental Planning Policy (Vegetation in Non-Rural Areas) 2017 aims to preserve urban amenity through preservation of urban vegetation, and protect biodiversity values of urban vegetation.

Simplifying land management

Landholders have more choices to manage native vegetation on their property to improve agricultural productivity and biodiversity outcomes.

  • The LLS Act regulates rural native vegetation and land management.
  • The Native Vegetation Regulatory map designates rural land into:
    • category 1—exempt land, where clearing can be carried out without an approval or notification processes
    • category 2—regulated land, where landholders may need an approval to clear.

More information about the land management framework.

Ecologically sustainable development

The biodiversity conservation legislation establishes a framework for assessing and offsetting biodiversity impacts from proposed development:

  • A biodiversity offsets scheme delivers a transparent, consistent, and scientifically-based approach to biodiversity assessment and offsetting. It implements an avoid, minimise, and offset framework, and recognises there are some types of impacts that are not acceptable.
  • A biodiversity assessment method delivers a single, clear and scientifically robust approach to assess biodiversity impacts from development, and applies to development that is likely to significantly affect threatened species/ecological communities.

The concept of serious and irreversible impacts is fundamentally about protecting threatened entities that are most at risk of extinction from potential development.

Private land conservation

More than 70 per cent of NSW is under private ownership or Crown leasehold. Government investment helps landholders to protect and conserve high-value biodiversity on private land.

Native plants and animals

NSW’s legal protection of threatened species and protected native animals and plants are strengthened and modernised.

  • Saving our Species is the government’s strategic management framework, outlining management actions to secure NSW’s threatened plants and animals in the wild for the next 100 years. As part of the land management and biodiversity conservation reforms, the government committed a further $100 million over five years from 2016–17.
  • The BC Act establishes a new instrument for the conservation of areas that meet established criteria for an area of outstanding biodiversity value.
  • The reforms introduce a risk based approach to wildlife licensing. This means that:
    • low-risk activities will be exempt from regulation
    • moderate-risk activities will be regulated by enforceable codes of practice
    • high-risk activities will continue to be licensed.
  • There are offences for harming and picking threatened species, ecological communities and protected plants and animals.
  • Strong deterrents are in place for illegally dealing in and possessing protected animals and protected native plants.
  • Approaches to listing and conserving threatened species and ecological communities have been modernised, including eligibility criteria for determining a species' or community’s risk of extinction.
  • The BC Act establishes a new biodiversity conservation advisory panel to provide expert advice.

Background to the reforms

The current system is the product of extensive independent review and stakeholder and community engagement and input. The reforms modernise the state’s land clearing and conservation laws.

Timeline for biodiversity reforms, from 2014 independent review publishing to 2017 commencement of the legislation
Page last updated: 27 August 2019