Nature conservation

Biodiversity Reform

Threatened species 'test of significance'

What is the test of significance?

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 (EP&A Act). 

The test of significance is set out in s. 7.3 of the Biodiversity Conservation Act 2016 (BC Act), and reproduced below.

Test of significance – excerpt from section 7.3 of the Biodiversity Conservation Act

1.  The following is to be taken into account for the purposes of determining whether a proposed development or activity is likely to significantly affect threatened species or ecological communities, or their habitats:

  1. in the case of a threatened species, whether the proposed development or activity is likely to have an adverse effect on the life cycle of the species such that a viable local population of the species is likely to be placed at risk of extinction,
  2. in the case of an endangered ecological community or critically endangered ecological community, whether the proposed development or activity:
    1. is likely to have an adverse effect on the extent of the ecological community such that its local occurrence is likely to be placed at risk of extinction, or
    2. is likely to substantially and adversely modify the composition of the ecological community such that its local occurrence is likely to be placed at risk of extinction,
  3. in relation to the habitat of a threatened species or ecological community:
    1. the extent to which habitat is likely to be removed or modified as a result of the proposed development or activity, and
    2. whether an area of habitat is likely to become fragmented or isolated from other areas of habitat as a result of the proposed development or activity, and
    3. the importance of the habitat to be removed, modified, fragmented or isolated to the long-term survival of the species or ecological community in the locality,
  4. whether the proposed development or activity is likely to have an adverse effect on any declared area of outstanding biodiversity value (either directly or indirectly),
  5. whether the proposed development or activity is or is part of a key threatening process or is likely to increase the impact of a key threatening process.

Applying the test of significance

The test of significance allows applicants and proponents to undertake a qualitative analysis of the likely impacts and determine whether further assessment is required. All factors must be considered, and an overall conclusion must be drawn from all factors in combination.

Listed threatened species

Parts (a), (b) and (c) of the test are applied to species and ecological communities listed in Schedules 1 and 2 to the BC Act.

The applicant or proponent should develop a list of threatened species and ecological communities which may be affected directly or indirectly by the proposed development or activity. The list of potential species should be provided to the consent authority or the determining authority along with the test of significance. Reasons should be provided to show how the list was derived.

Areas of outstanding biodiversity value

Part (d) of the test of significance concerns the effect on any areas declared to be of outstanding biodiversity value under Part 3 of the BC Act.

If a proposed development or activity is carried out on a declared area of outstanding biodiversity value (AOBV), it is automatically taken to be likely to significantly affect threatened species. The development or activity will be subject to the biodiversity offsets scheme regardless of the outcome of any test of significance.

Key threatening processes

Part (e) of the test of significance is to consider key threatening processes listed in Schedule 4 to the BC Act. The applicant or proponent should develop a list of key threatening processes that the proposed development or activity may contribute towards. Reasons should be provided to show how the list was derived.

For further guidance on how to interpret and apply the factors of the test of significance please refer to the Threatened Species Test of Significance Guidelines.

What happens if the test concludes that a significant impact is likely?

If a proposed development under Part 4 of the EP&A Act is likely to significantly affect threatened species, a biodiversity development assessment report must be prepared by an accredited assessor. The biodiversity offsets scheme will apply.

If a proposed activity under Part 5 of the EP&A Act is likely to significantly affect threatened species, and the proponent does not opt in to the Biodiversity Offsets Scheme, a Species Impact Statement (SIS) must be prepared.

Species impact statements

The requirements of a 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.

Following preparation and exhibition of the SIS, concurrence from the Chief Executive of Office of Environment and Heritage is required before the proposed activity can be determined.

Transitional arrangements

Transitional arrangements have been put in place for Part 5 activities to allow time for assessments that started under the former planning provisions to be completed.

Transitional arrangements also remain in place until 24 November 2019 for Part 4 developments in seven Western Sydney local government areas. In these local government areas, known as interim designated areas, former planning provisions continue to apply until that date.

Where former planning provisions apply to the assessment and approval of an activity or development, the test of significance outlined in the now repealed s. 5A of the EP&A Act is the relevant test. 

Guidelines prepared for the s. 5A EP&A Act test of significance can continue to be accessed online. If the development or activity is likely to significantly affect threatened species a SIS will continue to be required. The relevant requirements for a SIS prepared for a transitional proposal are those contained in the now repealed Threatened Species Conservation Act 1995.

Page last updated: 12 April 2019