Nature conservation

Biodiversity Reform

Local government information and resources

Local government is a key partner in the conservation and management of biodiversity and threatened species in New South Wales.  

The Biodiversity Conservation Act 2016 (BC Act) commenced on 25 August 2017. This page provides a resource for local government to support implementation of the new biodiversity assessment and approval framework.

Commencement of the Biodiversity Offset Scheme

From 25th February 2018 in most local government areas, any new application for development consent or modification to an approved development under Part 4 of the Environmental Planning & Assessment Act 1979 (EP&A) (not including State Significant Development) will be subject to the biodiversity assessment requirements of the Biodiversity Conservation Act 2016.

Transitional arrangements will continue to apply to activities under Part 5 of the EP&A Act, major projects and mining projects as outlined in the BC (S&T) Regulation.

Additional Interim Designated Areas declared

The Minister for Environment has declared seven additional local government areas as Interim Designated Areas: Cessnock, Newcastle, Port Stephens, Lake Macquarie, Maitland, Central Coast and Coffs Harbour. In addition, the West Dapto Urban Release Area in the Wollongong local government area has been declared as an Interim Designated Area.

Former planning provisions continue to apply within Interim Designated Areas. Applications for development consent, or modification to an approved development, under Part 4 of the EP&A Act (not including State Significant Development) will continue to be assessed under former planning provision until the 24 November 2018. This has been extended for three months from 24 August 2018.

‘Opt in' by agreement provisions, set out in clause 28(2) of the Biodiversity Conservation Regulation (Savings and Transitional) 2017, only apply to Part 4 development in limited circumstances. Refer to transitioning from the former legislative framework or local government questions and answers for more information.

Transitional arrangements

Find out more information about arrangements for transitioning from the former legislative framework.

Development assessment

The BC Act, together with the Biodiversity Conservation Regulation 2017, outlines the framework for assessment and approval of biodiversity impacts associated with developments that require consent under the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act 1979.

The Act introduces a Biodiversity Offsets Scheme.  A development to which the Biodiversity Offset Scheme applies will be required to prepare a Biodiversity Development Assessment Report to accompany a development application.

More information on the Biodiversity Offsets Scheme is available.

Biodiversity certification is another key tool under the Biodiversity Conservation Act 2016 that is important for local government, and is integrated in the Biodiversity Offsets Scheme. More information about biodiversity certification.

Threatened species test of significance guidelines

Threatened species test of significance guidelines relating to the section 7.3 of the BC Act can be accessed at Threatened species test of significance.

Vegetation management

The State Environmental Planning Policy (Vegetation in Non-Rural Areas) 2017 (‘Vegetation SEPP’) regulates the clearing of vegetation in urban local government areas, as well as urban and environmental zones across the State, where clearing does not otherwise require development consent under the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act 1979

Read more about the Vegetation SEPP, including Frequently Asked Questions for Councils, at the NSW Planning and Environment Vegetation SEPP webpage.

The Local Land Services Act 2013 (LLS Act) regulates the management of vegetation on rural land.  Read more about when the LLS Act applies at Native Vegetation Regulatory Maps.

The Biodiversity Offset Scheme will also apply to certain vegetation clearing activities regulated by the Vegetation SEPP and the LLS Act. Read more about when the Biodiversity Offsets Scheme applies.

Development control plans and the Vegetation SEPP

Where the Vegetation SEPP applies and the Biodiversity Offsets Scheme does not apply, vegetation clearing activities are managed locally by Councils.

Previously, Councils relied on clauses 5.9 and 5.9AA of the Standard Instrument – Principal Local Environmental Plan and the Native Vegetation Act 2003 (NV Act) to manage local vegetation. The NV Act was repealed by the Local Land Services Amendment Act 2016.

The Vegetation SEPP has substantially reproduced the effect of clauses 5.9 and 5.9AA, allowing Councils to continue to regulate clearing of native vegetation through their development control plan (DCP). Existing DCPs that prescribe vegetation for the purposes of clauses 5.9 and 5.9AA will continue to have effect.

Arrangements for local vegetation regulation are outlined in more detail below. Look for a scenario that describes your DCP to better understand regulation of native vegetation clearing in your local government area.

Council has a DCP that requires a permit for clearing threatened species, threatened ecological communities and protected plants not associated with development consent.

Clearing of native vegetation that exceeds the biodiversity offset scheme threshold will require approval from the Native Vegetation Panel or delegate.

For clearing that does not exceed the biodiversity offset scheme threshold, Council can continue to regulate the clearing of native vegetation that is not authorised by a development consent through using their existing DCP and permits issued under the Vegetation SEPP.

Council has a DCP that requires development consent for clearing threatened species, threatened ecological communities and protected plants that are not associated with another activity requiring development consent.

Clearing of native vegetation that exceeds the Biodiversity Offsets Scheme thresholds will require approval from the Native Vegetation Panel or delegate.

For clearing that does not exceed the biodiversity offset scheme threshold, if Council has a DCP that requires development consent for clearing of native vegetation, these activities may be regulated by the issue of a permit instead. Any relevant reference in the DCP to a development consent should be read as a reference to a permit. No immediate update to the DCP is required to enable Council to regulate these activities; however, an update in the near future is recommended to reflect the new regulatory regime.

If Council is making a new DCP, they can no longer require development consent for clearing of native vegetation that is not associated with another activity requiring development consent.

Council has no DCP regulating clearing of threatened species, threatened ecological communities and protected plants.

Clearing of native vegetation that exceeds the Biodiversity Offsets Scheme thresholds will require approval from the Native Vegetation Panel or delegate.

Clearing of threatened species, threatened ecological communities and protected plants that does not exceed the Biodiversity Offsets Scheme threshold cannot be regulated by Council.

For clearing of threatened species, threatened ecological communities or protected plants there will be no defence to the relevant offence of picking plants in the BC Act. Persons desiring to gather, take, cut, remove from the ground, destroy, poison, crush or injure the plant or any part of a threatened species, ecological community or protected plant that does not require authorisation from Council will need to seek a biodiversity conservation licence or another defence to lawfully undertake these actions. Biodiversity conservation licences are issued by OEH and further information is available on our Licence to harm a threatened species or ecological community webpage.

Council may amend their DCP to regulate the clearing of all threatened species, threatened ecological communities or protected plants that do not require approval of the Native Vegetation Panel if they choose to.

Council has a DCP that requires a permit or development consent for clearing of some but not all threatened species, threatened ecological communities or protected species.

Clearing of native vegetation that exceeds the Biodiversity Offsets Scheme thresholds will require approval from the Native Vegetation Panel or delegate.

For clearing that does not exceed the Biodiversity Offsets Scheme threshold, Council can continue to regulate the clearing of native vegetation (that is not associated with a development consent) as prescribed by the DCP using their existing DCP and permits issued under the Vegetation SEPP.

For clearing of threatened species, threatened ecological communities or protected plants that are not regulated by the DCP, there will be no defence to the offence of picking plants in the BC Act. Persons desiring to gather, take, cut, remove from the ground, destroy, poison, crush or injure the plant or any part of a threatened species, ecological community or protected plant that does not require authorisation from Council will need to seek a biodiversity conservation licence or another defence to lawfully undertake these actions. Biodiversity conservation licences are issued by OEH and further information is available on our Licence to harm a threatened species or ecological community webpage.

Council may amend their DCP to regulate the clearing of all threatened species, threatened ecological communities or protected plants that do not require approval of the Native Vegetation Panel if they choose to

Council has a DCP that requires a permit or development consent for vegetation clearing, but does not regulate native vegetation clearing in E zones and R5 zones due to reliance on the now repealed Native Vegetation Act 2003.

Clearing of native vegetation in E zones or R5 zones that exceeds the Biodiversity Offsets Scheme thresholds will require approval from the Native Vegetation Panel or delegate.

Clearing of native vegetation that does not exceed the Biodiversity Offsets Scheme threshold cannot be regulated by Council.

For clearing of threatened species, threatened ecological communities or protected plants that are not regulated by the DCP, there will be no defence to the offence of picking plants in the BC Act. Persons desiring to gather, take, cut, remove from the ground, destroy, poison, crush or injure the plant or any part of a threatened species, ecological community or protected plant that does not require authorisation from Council will need to seek a biodiversity conservation licence or another defence to lawfully undertake these actions. Biodiversity conservation licences are issued by OEH and further information is available on our Licence to harm a threatened species or ecological community webpage.

Note this also applies to transitional allowable activities which do not require a permit under the Vegetation SEPP for the first 12 months. In E zones and R5 zones, persons desiring to gather, take, cut, remove from the ground, destroy, poison, crush or injure the plant or any part of a threatened species, ecological community or protected plant that does not require authorisation from Council will need to seek a biodiversity conservation licence or another defence to lawfully undertake these actions.

Council may amend their DCP to regulate the clearing of all threatened species, threatened ecological communities or protected plants that do not require approval of the Native Vegetation Panel if they choose to.

Vegetation clearing, damage to habitat and harm to animals

Vegetation clearing that receives a permit or approval under the Vegetation SEPP will have a defence to the ‘picking plants’ offence in the Biodiversity Conservation Act 2016. As outlined above, there are some circumstances where a DCP cannot or does not give authority to vegetation clearing actions.

It is also an offence to damage the habitat of a threatened species or ecological community or cause harm to an animal that is a threatened species, part of a threatened ecological community or a protected animal without an authority. If damage to habitat and harm to animals is the direct result of vegetation clearing authorised under the Vegetation SEPP, there will be a defence to these offences. 

If you cause harm to habitat or an animal beyond what is authorised under the Vegetation SEPP, there will be no defence to these offences.  A biodiversity conservation licence or another defence will need to be obtained to lawfully undertake these actions. This includes scenarios where the DCP cannot or does not give authority to vegetation clearing actions.

Biodiversity conservation licences are issued by OEH and further information is available on our Licence to harm a threatened species or ecological community webpage.

Assessment and Approval Pathway Navigator

Office of Environment and Heritage and Office of Local Government have developed a navigator to support both proponents and consent authorities to work through which assessment and approval pathway applies to an activity.

The navigator can be accessed on the NSW Office of Local Government Biodiversity assessment and approvals decision support tool webpage.

Implementation support

Regional support network

Office of Environment and Heritage has entered into partnerships with 8 local government organisations to employ 8 regionally based officers to provide help desk support to groups of Councils.

Several of these positions are currently being recruited. Further announcements and introductions will be made as positions are filled. The local government partners and the areas they service are:

Region Host organisation Contact
Metropolitan Sydney North The Hills Shire Council Shaun Hunt
shunt@thehills.nsw.gov.au
(02) 9843 0583
0403 997 326
Metropolitan Sydney South City of Canterbury Bankstown Council Kirsten McWhirter
Kirsten.McWhirter@cbcity.nsw.gov.au
0417 553 179
Hunter and Central Coast Hunter Councils Carlie McClung
carliem@huntercouncils.com.au
(02) 4978 4045
0436 676 201
North Coast Bellingen Shire Council

Jane Eales
jane.eales@bellingen.nsw.gov.au
(02) 6655 7382
0438 790 973

New England North West and northern Far West Gwydir Shire Council

Anne Coote
acoote@gwydir.nsw.gov.au
0408 007 163

Central West and Orana and central Far West Cowra Shire Council Eugene Mason EMason@cowra.nsw.gov.au
(02) 6340 2049
0417 781 456
South East and Tablelands and Illawarra Shoalhaven Queanbeyan-Palerang Regional Council Angela Jenkins
angela.jenkins@crjo.nsw.gov.au
0439 598 247
Riverina and Murray and southern Far West Riverina East Regional Organisation of Councils Marcus Wright
mwright@reroc.com.au
(02) 6930 1808
0498 547 757

Training

Approvers training

In conjunction with training provider Muddy Boots, OEH has developed a training package tailored to the needs of those with an approval role under the Biodiversity Conservation Act 2016

Training for local government staff will be available in two formats.

Standard Approvers course is available over one day. This course focuses on introducing approvers to new concepts, tools and roles introduced by the land management and biodiversity conservation reforms. This course contains content to provide participants with a general understanding of their role within the offsets scheme.

An Extended Approvers course will include the Standard Approvers course (Day 1) and a more in-depth training on biodiversity assessment processes and the operation of the Biodiversity Offset Scheme (Day 2). Participants in the Extended Approvers course will need to have completed the Standard Approvers course as a pre-requisite. The two days do not necessarily need to be completed at the same time, but Day 1 must be completed first. Completion of the Extended Approvers course is recommended for local government staff with decision making roles in biodiversity impact assessment.

Register for training at Greencap.

Sponsored training places

OEH is sponsoring training for a number of local government staff prior to and following commencement of the Biodiversity Conservation Act 2016. Funded places are managed to ensure equitable access across the State. OEH will initially sponsor three training places for each Council. Sponsorship is available for both Standard and Extended courses.

As sponsored places are limited, please ensure that your participation is supported by your employer. Please note that once attendance has been confirmed, failure to attend a training course may result in the forfeit of a sponsored place.

There is no limit to the number of staff that a Council may seek to have trained at their own cost. 

OEH will continually review the allocation of sponsored training places as the training rolls out. New opportunities for sponsored training will be advertised on this website.

Register for training at Greencap.

 

Page last updated: 29 August 2018