Biodiversity certification process

There are 6 main steps in the biodiversity certification process.

If you are a landholder or planning authority considering biodiversity certification, contact your regional office early in the planning process.

To apply for certification you must complete the biodiversity certification application form (DOC 199KB). The application must be accompanied by the relevant Biodiversity Certification Assessment Report (BCAR). 

For more detailed certification application guidance and support visit Biodiversity certification support.

Biodiversity certification steps

Before making a formal application, the landholder/s or planning authority (the applicant) will need to plan and design the scope of the project.

Planning and design involves identifying the biodiversity certification assessment area, including all land being considered for future land use change. This should be done in consultation with the Department of Planning and Environment (the Department) and the relevant local council. The applicant may also need the help of an accredited assessor to provide early advice about the site.

For proposals that may be considered ‘strategic ’, the applicant or Minister for Planning may apply for a declaration to this effect from the Minister for the Environment. The Minister can also decide to declare a proposal strategic.

Read more about Strategic biodiversity certification.

Read more about accredited assessors.

The applicant will need to employ an accredited assessor to apply the Biodiversity Assessment Method (BAM) to assess the biodiversity values within the biodiversity certification assessment area. Knowledge of biodiversity values is essential to inform decisions about the location of land proposed for certification and future development. Land proposed for certification will be located to avoid or minimise impacts on native vegetation and threatened species habitat.

The accredited assessor will then assess the impacts of proposed development within the area proposed for certification and identify the biodiversity credits needed to offset the impacts. 

The BAM requires the assessor to produce a Biodiversity Certification Assessment Report (BCAR).

For standard biodiversity certification applications, the BCAR will reflect the credit requirement generated by the BAM. The BCAR must identify the credits proposed to be retired to offset the impact. In the case of a payment to the Biodiversity Conservation Fund, the proportion of the credit obligation to be satisfied by the payment is to be reflected in the BCAR.

For strategic biodiversity certification, the BCAR can propose a mix of conservation measures that includes credits to be retired, or payments into the Fund, as well as other measures. 

When the BCAR is completed, applicants are encouraged to have it reviewed by the Department before formally consulting with council.

Read more about accredited assessors.

Read more about strategic biodiversity certification.

An applicant for biodiversity certification who is not a planning authority must consult with the relevant local council before placing the application on public exhibition. (Section 8.6(1) of the Biodiversity Conservation Act 2016.)

Requirements to consult with council and place the application on public exhibition also apply when Local Land Services is the applicant.

Council has a minimum of 42 days to make a submission. The applicant must provide their response to any council submission to the Department.

After consultation with council, the applicant must invite the public to make submissions on the application. We recommend that the applicant submits the application to the Department for review before public exhibition. This is because additional public exhibition may be necessary if changes are made to the application after it has gone on public exhibition.

The applicant must provide a report to the Department that includes the applicant’s response to any submissions from the public. 

When the application has been received and the council consultation and public notification processes have been completed, the Department reviews the application materials against the legislative requirements of the Biodiversity Conservation Act 2016 and Biodiversity Conservation Regulation 2017, and the technical requirements of the Biodiversity Assessment Method (BAM). This includes a detailed review of the Biodiversity Certification Assessment Report (BCAR).

The Department then makes a recommendation to the Minister for the Environment on whether to confer biodiversity certification. The Minister must consult the Minister for Planning before determining the application.

The Minister for the Environment has the final responsibility for the decision to confer biodiversity certification. Matters the Minister will consider when deciding whether to certify include:

  • the BCAR
  • whether the proposed certification may have serious and irreversible impacts
  • the adequacy of the proposed conservation measures.

The Minister may require the applicant to enter into a biodiversity certification agreement(s); for example to provide security about the future implementation of approved conservation measures. The Minister may specify measures to avoid or minimise impacts in the order.

Once biodiversity certification has been conferred via an order made in the NSW Government Gazette, individual site assessments are no longer required and will not be subject to the Biodiversity Offsets Scheme.

The applicant must ensure they meet any conditions of the biodiversity certification order and implement the terms of any biodiversity certification agreements.

The Department, on behalf of the Minister, will undertake periodic reviews of conferred biodiversity certifications.

It will also undertake compliance activities to ensure that parties to biodiversity certifications comply with the conservation measures required by the certification.