Assessor questions and answers

Read the answers to some common questions about the Biodiversity Offsets Scheme and the Biodiversity Assessment Method.

BAM 2020

Note: The Biodiversity Assessment Method (BAM) 2020 came into force on 22 October 2020. This webpage is under review to incorporate questions and answers that align with BAM 2020. See Biodiversity Assessment Method for more information about key changes and transitional arrangements.

Contact BAM Support for more information or clarification.

Do underground impacts trigger the Biodiversity Offsets Scheme (BOS) where there are no above ground impacts? For example, underboring land that is mapped on the Biodiversity Values Map

For the example outlined above, proposed development will trigger the BOS if it involves clearing of native vegetation or causes additional biodiversity impacts prescribed by clause 6.1 of the Regulation (prescribed impacts), on land included on the Biodiversity Values Map (BV Map). Additional biodiversity impacts include consideration of impacts on geological features and hydrogeological processes that provide or sustain habitat of threatened species or ecological communities. Such impacts include subsidence or upsidence resulting from underground activities relating to development.

Refer to When does the Biodiversity Offsets Scheme apply?, Section 7.4 of the Biodiversity Conservation Act 2016 and Part 7 of the Biodiversity Conservation Regulation 2017 (the Regulation) when considering whether certain impacts will trigger the BOS.

How is the area of clearing calculated when deciding if the biodiversity offsets scheme threshold is triggered?

The Biodiversity Values Map and Threshold Tool and Biodiversity Values Map Threshold Tool User Guide explain how to measure the clearing footprint to determine whether the biodiversity offsets scheme threshold will be triggered. 

For subdivision development applications, how is the area of clearing calculated?

When applying the area clearing threshold, subdivision development applications need to consider the total area of native vegetation that is likely to be cleared after the land has been subdivided.

The Biodiversity Values Map and Threshold Tool and Biodiversity Values Map Threshold Tool User Guide explain how to measure the clearing footprint to determine whether the biodiversity offsets scheme threshold will be triggered. 

When the actual lot size is smaller than the minimum lot size, is the actual or minimum lot size used to calculate whether the area clearing threshold has been triggered?

The minimum lot size is used for the calculation. Note that the threshold determines the pathway for approval and is not an approval to clear. 

When a lot covers more than one zone and has different minimum lot sizes, which lot size is used to calculate whether the area clearing threshold has been triggered?

The smallest minimum lot size is used to calculate whether the area clearing threshold has been triggered.

When there is no minimum lot size, what is the clearing threshold based on?

If there is no minimum lot size the clearing threshold will be based on the smallest actual lot size associated with the development.

How is clause 7.3(4) of the Biodiversity Conservation Regulation 2017 applied in deciding whether the biodiversity offsets scheme threshold is triggered?

Under clause 7.3(4) of the Biodiversity Conservation Regulation 2017, the BV Map doesn't trigger entry into the BOS if the proposed development (other than a subdivision) will occur on a lot that was the result of a subdivision carried out before the commencement of the Biodiversity Conservation Act 2016 within land zoned R1 to R4, RU5, B1 to B8 or IN1 to IN3. However, the other elements of the biodiversity offsets scheme threshold must still be considered when deciding if the proposed development will trigger the BOS.

Clause 7.3(4) applies in circumstances where subdivision approval has been granted on land within the nominated zones and the purpose of the approved subdivision has not yet been realised. Councils will confirm if a subdivision approval has been granted in an appropriate zone and if the purpose of the subdivision has not yet been realised. Council will also confirm that a proposed development is consistent with the purpose of the approved and unrealised subdivision.

Clause 7.3(4) is not to be applied when deciding if the BV Map applies under the Vegetation SEPP (clause 4(1)).

Is the asset protection zone included in the area to be cleared when deciding if the biodiversity offsets scheme threshold is triggered?

The area of impact needs to be calculated for the whole development including any asset protection zones required by the Rural Fire Service. The Rural Fire Service has guidelines for deciding if an asset protection zone is needed and the minimum size, and which approvals are required. For more information read the Standards for Asset Protection Zones .

How are biodiversity impacts assessed if the biodiversity offsets scheme is not triggered?

The development application will be assessed in accordance with standard procedures under section 4.15 (previously section 79C) of the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act 1979 (EP&A Act). The EP&A Act requires consideration of the likely impacts of a development, including the environmental impacts on the natural environment when evaluating a development application.

If the BOS is not triggered by the area threshold or the BV Map, a test of significance should be prepared in accordance with section 7.3 of the Biodiversity Conservation Act 2016 and the Threatened Species Test of Significance Guidelines. This test will form part of the documentation that accompanies a development application.

The development application should also include evidence that the BOS entry thresholds have not been triggered.

Is a Biodiversity Development Assessment Report (BDAR) required if a property is on the BV Map, but the development does not impact the mapped area?

A BDAR is required for any development proposal that will clear native vegetation within an area on the BV Map or if the development will have a prescribed impact on biodiversity values under clause 6.1 of the Biodiversity Conservation Regulation 2017.

The BAM must be used to assess the entire development, even if only part of the development site is on the BV map.

If the BOS isn't triggered by the area threshold or the BV Map, a test of significance should be prepared in accordance with section 7.3 of the Biodiversity Conservation Act 2016 and the Threatened Species Test of Significance Guidelines. The outcome of this test will determine whether a BDAR is required.

Is a BDAR required in grasslands with a mix of native and exotic species?

If a BDAR is required for the development, the BAM must be applied to all vegetation that is native to New South Wales. This includes circumstances where the only native vegetation on all or part of the development site is grasslands containing a mix of native and exotic species. If the native vegetation being assessed does not exactly conform to a Plant Community Type (PCT), you should choose the best-fit PCT based on the native species mix and surrounding vegetation. For more information, refer to section 5.2 BAM and page 13 and 31 of the BAM Operation Manual – Stage 1.

The BAM does not need to be applied to areas that have 100% exotic cover, unless the vegetation is providing habitat or resources for threatened species. In this case, the impact on threatened species habitat that is non-native vegetation must be assessed as a prescribed impact under clause 6.1 of the Biodiversity Conservation Regulation 2017. 

What is an important area?

For a small number of species, the habitat constraint information in the threatened biodiversity data collection (TBDC) refers to a mapped location (paragraph 6.3.1.4 Biodiversity Assessment Method (BAM). Mapped locations identify areas that are considered important for the species, e.g. breeding areas or important foraging/over-wintering areas. These species are dual credit species assessed for both species and ecosystem credits.

No further survey is required if the subject land is in a mapped location for a species unless the species profile in the TBDC states otherwise. The species is considered present and the part of the subject land that is within the mapped location forms the species polygon used to generate species credits (section 6.4 BAM). Any remaining habitat on the subject land, e.g. foraging, unmapped locations used by these species is assessed for ecosystem credits.

Which species are assessed using important areas?

Important areas have been identified for:

  • regent honeyeater (breeding habitat)
  • swift parrot (important migratory foraging habitat)
  • breeding and foraging habitat for the plains wanderer and threatened shorebirds (sanderling, curlew sandpiper, great knot, greater sand-plover, lesser sand-plover, broad-billed sandpiper, black-tailed godwit, terek sandpiper, eastern curlew, red knot, bar-tailed godwit, beach stone-curlew, little tern, hooded plover).

Maps showing important habitat areas for the regent honeyeater, swift parrot, plains wanderer and shorebirds are being developed. Visit Biodiversity Offsets Scheme support with your shapefile or lot/DP number if you are interested in a specific area.

How does the important area relate to a potential serious and irreversible impact?

If the species is at risk of a serious and irreversible impact (SAII), the area mapped as important habitat is the area identified as a potential SAII and you will need to address section 10.2 BAM.

How does the important area relate to a biodiversity stewardship agreement?

Species credits for species that are assessed using the important area can only be created for a biodiversity stewardship agreement on land that is mapped as an important habitat area.

Can I use local benchmarks when assessing vegetation?

You can use more appropriate local benchmarks if you can justify this decision and receive written permission from the decision maker (read Appendix 5 Biodiversity Assessment Method (BAM) for more information). It is recommended that you discuss the intention to use local data with the decision maker early in the process.

BioNet Vegetation Classification includes confidence ratings for the average benchmark values of the different attributes used to assess vegetation integrity. These confidence ratings should be reviewed by assessors when carrying out an assessment using the BAM and before collecting local benchmark data.

The confidence rating for each attribute can be used as a general guide for when a local benchmark may be most appropriate. Generally, the use of local benchmark data in a proposal either:

  • is appropriate where the confidence rating is very low or low
  • may be appropriate where the confidence rating is moderate
  • may not be appropriate where the confidence rating is high or very high unless local data better reflects the local environmental conditions (e.g. drought) or the class by Interim Biogeographic Regionalisation for Australia (IBRA) benchmark values are demonstrably unsuitable for the PCT.

For further information on benchmarks and the use of local benchmarks, please refer to Vegetation Condition Benchmarks and Appendix A of the draft revised Biodiversity Assessment Method.

How do I assess vegetation condition in extreme weather events like a drought?

The use of local benchmarks can be proposed if default benchmarks do not accurately reflect the local environmental conditions, seasonal variations and/or climatic variations in benchmark values.

The process for assessing vegetation condition in poor seasonal conditions is set out in section 2.2.2 and Appendix 5 of the BAM and the BAM Operational Manual – Stage 1 (pages 31-32).

You must seek approval from the decision maker to use benchmark data from local reference sites and you will need to provide evidence that using this data is more appropriate. 

How do I determine if a plant community type is a threatened ecological community?

The BioNet Vegetation Classification provides information about whether a plant community type (PTC) may also be a threatened ecological community (TEC).  However, this list is not exhaustive. As part of the on-ground survey and assessment, you must determine whether any of the vegetation meets the definition of a TEC listed under the Biodiversity Conservation Act 2016 by comparing the PCT description with the relevant Final Determination published by the NSW Threatened Species Scientific Committee. Additional identification guidance is available for some TECs. For example, Swamp Oak Floodplain Forest of the New South Wales North Coast, Sydney Basin and South East Corner Bioregions.

The BAM Operational Manual – Stage 1 provides more information.

Can past surveys replace field work?

Field surveys, including targeted surveys for threatened species, can be used in place of onsite survey if the date when the survey was carried out is less than 5 years old and meets the requirements set out in the BAM and the Operational Manual – Stage 1.

Time limitations are imposed to ensure data used in assessments reflects the current biodiversity values of the subject land.

How do I assess very small, linear or fragmented areas of vegetation?

If a standard plot does not fit into a vegetation zone, a longer and narrower (e.g. 10 m x 100 m = 0.1 ha) or wider and shorter (e.g. 25 m x 40 m = 0.1 ha) plot can be used. Plots should be a minimum of 10 m wide.

If multiple discontinuous areas of vegetation are used to form one vegetation zone, plots must be evenly distributed across the areas. If size is restrictive, at least one plot should be placed in each separate area.

How do I treat native vegetation that is outside its natural occurrence, including planted vegetation?

The definition of native vegetation means that all plants that are native to NSW must be assessed in accordance with the BAM, even if they are not indigenous to the local area. This includes planted native vegetation, such as windbreaks, street trees and planted native gardens.

If a threatened species is located outside of its recorded natural range and is likely to have been planted, contact your local Department office for advice.

Who approves the use of local benchmarks?

The consent authority can approve the use of more appropriate local benchmarks. It is recommended that assessors discuss the use of local benchmarks with the decision maker early on and seek approval prior to editing the benchmark data in the Biodiversity Assessment Method Calculator (BAM-C). Refer to Section 2.2.2 and Appendix 5 of the Biodiversity Assessment Method (BAM) for more information.

When the use of a more appropriate local benchmark is proposed, is permission required before the assessor is given access to the tab where they can edit the benchmarks or can the assessor do this on any case?

No. The assessor is able to edit the default benchmark values in the BAM-C for all or any of the condition attributes for an individual proposal. It is recommended that the assessor first creates a second version of the proposal that contains all of the vegetation integrity plot data before they edit the default benchmark values. The Biodiversity Credit Report that must be submitted as part of the BAR (Biodiversity Assessment Report) will record that local benchmark values have been used and indicate which PCT they have been used for.

What is a derived Plant Community Type?

The Biodiversity Assessment Method (BAM) defines a derived Plant Community Type (PCT) as a plant community that has changed to an alternative stable state as a consequence of land management practices since European settlement. Derived communities can have one or more structural components of the previous plant community entirely removed or severely reduced (e.g. over-storey of grassy woodland) or have developed new structural components where they were previously absent (e.g. shrubby mid-storey in an open woodland system).

Assessors must not identify native vegetation as a derived PCT in the BioNet Vegetation Classification. Instead, assessors must determine the most likely original PCT from which the derived PCT has been developed (refer to Stage 1 of the BAM and Part 2 of the BAM Operational Manual – Stage 1 for guidance on assessing derived PCTs).

Where do I find the links between archived Broad Vegetation Type and Plant Community Type?

The associations between the archived Biometric Vegetation Type (BVT) and Plant Community Type (PCT) are available on the Archived Biometric and Threatened Species Profiles datasets webpage. You can download the list of BVT and associated data (XLSX 1.9MB) as well as the vegetation condition benchmark data.

I have observed a species in the field that does not match the growth form group it has been assigned to within the Native Species by Growth Form List. How are these growth form groups assigned?

For the composition and structure components of the vegetation integrity assessment in the Biodiversity Assessment Method (BAM), an assessor must assign all observed native plant species to a growth form group, in line with the definitions set out in Appendix 4 of the BAM and Native Species by Growth Form List.

Species are assigned to only one growth form group. The growth form group that a species is assigned to is the primary adult/mature growth form for that species across the species range. This allocation has been used to develop the composition and structure benchmark data for that growth form group. It is acknowledged that field specimens will not always occur in the growth form group allocated within the Native Species by Growth Form List.

It is crucial that the growth form group allocation within the Native Species by Growth Form List is adhered to in the application of the BAM, despite the growth form of a field specimen. This is necessary for accurate application of benchmarks to vegetation integrity assessment. Expert allocation of primary growth form to the NSW flora underpins the Biodiversity Assessment Method describes the detailed process by which species are assigned to growth form groups.

The Department will continue to review the allocation of species to growth form groups. Contact us at BAM.Support@environment.nsw.gov.au for questions about growth form group allocation.

The Biodiversity Assessment Method (BAM) establishes a method for assessing threatened species at a site. Threatened species are either assessed as ecosystem credit species that can be reliably predicted to occur at a site based on several habitat surrogates, or species credit species that cannot be reliably predicted to occur and therefore require a survey to determine presence.

There are a number of cryptogams listed as threatened species under the Biodiversity Conservation Act 2016 (BC Act). These include some Hygrocybe spp., Nitella partita and N. parooensis, and Calomnion complanatum. Threatened cryptogams are assessed as species credit species, and where they are likely to occur on the subject land (as predicted by the BAM-C), a targeted survey is required.

Vegetation integrity is assessed for each vegetation zone against the benchmark for the plant community type (PCT). Cryptogams do not form part of the vegetation integrity assessment (i.e. assessment of the condition of native vegetation on the subject land).

Currently, there is no benchmark information available for cryptogams. When calculating the vegetation integrity score for vegetation zones, the cryptogam cover, as with rocks and bare ground, is not assessed or included in calculations.

It is assumed that sites with escalating vegetation integrity scores would also have increased cover or abundance of other species not included in the calculation, such as cryptogams and non-threatened animals and plants.

It is still useful to capture cryptogam percentage cover within the plot survey data, along with bare ground and rock cover. Surface rock with a cryptogam crust should be recorded as a percentage of rock cover, rather than percentage of cryptogam cover.

For the BAM, ferns are vascular plants and are not considered cryptogams. The assessment of fern cover is captured within the growth-form groups 'Fern' or 'Other', depending on type. Refer to Table 15 of the BAM.

What is a serious and irreversible impact?

A serious and irreversible impact (SAII) is an impact that a decision maker considers likely to significantly increase the extinction risk of a threatened species or ecological community. The Biodiversity Conservation Act 2016 and the Biodiversity Conservation Regulation 2017 provides a framework for consent authorities to make this determination.

Who decides whether an impact is serious and irreversible?

The consent authority is responsible for deciding whether an impact is likely to be serious and irreversible.

Your responsibilities are outlined in section 10.2 of the Biodiversity Assessment Method (BAM). These include:

  • identifying every potential serious and irreversible impact (SAII) entity
  • evaluating the nature of the impact on each entity
  • documenting efforts to avoid and minimise impacts on biodiversity in accordance with the assessment criteria.

This information is to be presented to the consent authority in the biodiversity assessment report to enable the consent authority to make a decision. The consent authority should also consider the principles set out in clause 6.7 of the Biodiversity Conservation Regulation 2017 and the Guidance to help a decision-maker to determine a serious and irreversible impact.

What are impact thresholds for SAII?

The Department has set impact thresholds for all fauna species at a risk of a SAII. These thresholds are available in the threatened biodiversity data collection (TBDC) in BioNet.

A threshold of zero means that any impact may be considered potentially serious and irreversible by a consent authority. Where the threshold is zero this is represented by a number (0) in the relevant field in the TBDC.

Thresholds for threatened flora and ecological communities are incomplete. This is indicated in the TBDC by ‘under development’ or by a blank field.

What do I report in my biodiversity assessment report if no thresholds are available?

Impact thresholds are only one of the factors that a consent authority considers when deciding if an impact is likely to be serious and irreversible. The lack of a threshold does not prevent a decision maker making a determination.

The decision maker makes a decision based on the information provided to address the assessment criteria in section 10.2 of the BAM. You must address these criteria as this information is essential for the decision maker when making a determination.

Information used to address assessment criteria must be referenced. Suitable references include:

  • peer reviewed scientific literature
  • unpublished documents
  • databases and technical reports.

What do I do if I assume presence of a species that is at risk of a SAII?

The biodiversity development assessment report (BDAR) must include an assessment of the impact against the criteria set out in section 10.2 of the BAM. In these circumstances an expert report may be needed to provide the required information. The BDAR will form part of the development application considered by the decision maker.

Can I recommend a species be listed or de-listed as a potential SAII?

If you consider that a threatened species, ecological community or population should be listed or de-listed as an entity at risk of a SAII you can request a review by providing the relevant information and supporting data to us with the Biodiversity Offsets Scheme Support Form.

When proposing a threatened entity be listed or de-listed, the review submission must include information relating to which principle/s the entity meets (or no longer meets) in accordance with clause 6.7 of the Biodiversity Conservation Regulation 2017 and the Guidance to assist a decision-maker to determine a serious and irreversible impact. Justification of the recommendation is also required, including quantitative data. Submissions will be reviewed by the Department's Science Division. If approved, the Threatened Biodiversity Data Collection (TBDC) and Biodiversity Assessment Method Calculator (BAM-C) will be updated during a regular data import.

Alternatively, a decision maker may determine that a development is likely to result in a SAII for an entity that is not listed. This decision must be justified and include an assessment of the entity against the principles.

Note that assessments against the principles are conducted at the state scale, not the local scale.

How often will the list of entities at risk of a SAII be updated?

The list of entities at risk of SAII will be updated periodically, most likely annually. Emergency updates may be necessary if there is new information or new listings by the NSW Threatened Species Scientific Committee. You will be notified of any changes to the list of entities at risk of SAII.

Do all proposals have to consider potential serious and irreversible impacts?

No. Assessment of a SAII is only required where a biodiversity development assessment report (BDAR) is used to assess the impacts of the development under the biodiversity offsets scheme.

If only one or two serious and irreversible impact (SAII) principles are relevant to a threatened entity, do I still need to address the other SAII principles within the Biodiversity Assessment Report?

An assessor must address all serious and irreversible impact (SAII) assessment criteria listed in Subsections 10.2.2 (for threatened ecological communities) and 10.2.3 (for threatened species) of the Biodiversity Assessment Method for each entity. An assessor must identify all entities at risk of an SAII that would be impacted by the proposal, including those identified on the list of threatened entities (or BioNet Threatened Biodiversity Data Collection) and any other entities that are likely to meet the principles set out in clause 6.7 of the Biodiversity Conservation Regulation 2017.

When an assessor considers a principle not to be relevant to a threatened entity at risk of a SAII, justification must be provided within the Biodiversity Assessment Report (BAR). The assessor may also provide new information that can be used to demonstrate that the principle identifying the entity at risk of a SAII is inaccurate. The assessor may also provide new information that can be used to demonstrate that the principle identifying the entity at risk of a SAII is inaccurate.

Will the Department list a vegetation communities Plant Community Type Identification for Serious and Irreversible Impacts?

No, communities at risk of a serious and irreversible impact entities are only assessed against threatened ecological communities listed on schedule 2 of the Biodiversity Conservation Act 2016.

I am completing a modification of a Biodiversity Assessment Report in accordance with Section 6.14 of the Biodiversity Conservation Act 2016. Can I re-open the submitted version within the Biodiversity Offsets and Agreement Management System or do I need to create a new version under the parent case?

Before submitting a Biodiversity Assessment Report (BAR) to the decision maker as part of a development application, an accredited assessor must change the status of a case in the BAM-C to finalised, and the parent case to submitted in the Biodiversity Offsets and Agreement Management System (BOAMS). BOAMS will not allow an assessor to directly re-open an assessment after the parent case has been submitted.

If the consent authority requests a modification to the BAR and consequential changes are required in the BAM-C, the assessor must submit a request to re-open the case via the Biodiversity Offsets Scheme Support Form.

Do I need to complete a species polygon for a dual credit species if breeding habitat is not present on the site?

A species polygon is only required for the species credit component of a dual credit species. When the species credit component is related to breeding, potential breeding habitat must be present and evidence of breeding must be recorded as per relevant published Survey Guides or the 'General Notes' section of the Threatened Biodiversity Data Collection (TBDC), to generate species credits. Potential breeding habitat is usually described as a habitat constraint. The foraging habitat for a dual credit species is captured through the ecosystem credit component.

How do I access BioNet data using Excel with Power Query?

The Department has developed a BioNet Quick Guide for how to extract data from the BioNet Web Service using Windows Excel with Power Query plugin version 2.24.

The data made available through the web service is the same data that is currently available through the threatened biodiversity data collection.

Can I still access biodiversity data used in the BioBanking program and the Framework for Biodiversity Assessment?

Yes, visit Archived BioMetric and Threatened Species Profiles datasets to access this data.

However, we are no longer updating this data and supporting information. It is likely that the archived data will differ from current information provided in the BioNet threatened biodiversity data collection which is subject to an ongoing review and update program.

How has the threatened species data been generated?

Most of the data used in the Biodiversity Assessment Method calculator (BAM-C) has been derived using a consensus-based process involving the Department and external species experts. We are currently reviewing a subset of entities, mostly threatened plants.

For questions about threatened species data visit Biodiversity Offsets Scheme support.

What are the transitional arrangements when new data is uploaded from BioNet into the BAM Calculator?

When reviewing a species in BioNet, you may notice that the data differs slightly from the BAM Calculator (BAM-C). This occurs when data is updated in BioNet (based on new information) but is not automatically updated in the BAM-C. The BAM-C data is updated periodically throughout the year and you will be notified about any updates.

At all times, the data in the BAM-C is to be used in an assessment and is considered correct. However, you still need to refer to BioNet because BioNet contains information that is not included in the BAM-C and could provide more up to date data/information.

Can I remove species from the list of candidate species credit species generated by the BAM Calculator?

The BAM Calculator (BAM-C) automatically generates a list of the candidate threatened species that meet the habitat suitability criteria and are therefore required to be assessed for the proposal.

You must then determine whether the geographic limitations of a species are met (read  the Biodiversity Assessment Method Calculator: User guide). Geographic limitations usually relate to altitude (e.g. a frog species that only occurs above an altitudinal limit) or topographic features (e.g. named permanent waterbodies). Different geographic limitations can be described for different IBRA subregions across a species distribution.

If the subject land is not within the geographic limitation described, the assessor can select ‘no’ in the BAM-C and the species will be removed from the candidate list of threatened species.

Can I add species to the list of candidate species credit species generated by the BAM Calculator?

Yes, you can add a species to the list. The BAM Operations Manual – Stage 1 provides more information, particularly if the assessor records that the species occurs on the development or stewardship site.

Reasons for adding a species must be outlined in the biodiversity assessment report.

Is it possible to change Plant Community Types or vegetation zones in the Biodiversity Assessment Method Calculator without losing all plot data and needing to re-enter all that data?

Yes, you can delete a Plant Community Type (PCT) and replace it with a new PCT/vegetation zone without losing all the plot data. When you delete a PCT associated with a vegetation zone, the 'PCT Code' field for the vegetation zone becomes blank but all other data is retained. Once you add a new PCT to your case, click on the drop-down arrow in the 'PCT Code' field and select the new PCT Code.

Note that if you are deleting the PCT due to an 'Invalid PCT' alert in the Biodiversity Assessment Method Calculator (BAM-C), please check the Vegetation Classification (Veg-C) database before deleting. Search for and open the PCT in Veg-C. If the PCT is invalid, the 'PCT Definition Status' field will display 'Decommissioned' and the 'Tool Ready' field will display 'No'. If the 'PCT Definition Status' field displays 'Approved' and the 'Tool Ready' field displays 'Yes', please contact the BAM Support mailbox for advice before deleting the PCT.

What is the difference between accredited assessor and non-accredited access in the Biodiversity Offsets and Agreement Management System?

The difference between accredited assessor and access to the Biodiversity Offsets and Agreement Management System (BOAMS) for other types of roles in the BOS is that only an assessor can create and edit cases in the Biodiversity Assessment Method Calculator (BAM-C).

Assessors and some other types of roles (such as a decision maker reviewer role) can view and print the biodiversity credit reports generated through the BAM-C in BOAMS. As an accredited assessor, you can add decision maker reviewers as case parties.

If the case party is not already registered in BOAMS, they will need to be added to BOAMS by a BAM support administrator. Once added to BOAMS, they will receive a link via email to register and access a read-only version of BOAMS and the BAM-C.

Please note that the public version of the BAM-C can be accessed and edited by anyone. However, users can't save their assessment or generate biodiversity credit reports.

What happens to an existing version of a Biodiversity Assessment Method Calculator assessment when you save as a new version? How do you navigate to the original or previous assessment?

When you save an existing Biodiversity Assessment Method Calculator (BAM-C) assessment as a new version, the previous version can still be edited by selecting 'open' and clicking on the previous assessment. Each new version of a proposal you create is numbered from '0' upwards (i.e. 0, 1, 2, 3 etc.) so you can easily see different versions of the same BAM-C assessment. It is also useful to change the 'Proposal name' on Tab 1 'Assessment details' each time you create/save a new version to help navigate between different versions. Please note that only one version of a BAM-C assessment can be finalised and submitted to the decision maker for approval.

I am completing a modification of a Biodiversity Assessment Report in accordance with Section 6.14 of the Biodiversity Conservation Act 2016. Can I re-open the submitted version within the Biodiversity Offsets and Agreement Management System or do I need to create a new version under the parent case?

Before submitting a Biodiversity Assessment Report (BAR) to the decision maker as part of a development application, an accredited assessor must change the status of a case in the BAM-C to finalised and the parent case to submitted in the Biodiversity Offsets and Agreement Management System (BOAMS). BOAMS will not allow an assessor to directly re-open an assessment after the parent case has been submitted.

If the decision maker requests a modification to the BAR and consequential changes are required in the BAM-C, the assessor must submit a request to re-open the case using the Biodiversity Offsets Scheme Enquiry Form.

Do I need to complete a species polygon for a dual credit species if breeding habitat is not present on the site?

A species polygon is only required for the species credit component of a dual credit species. Where the species credit component is related to breeding, potential breeding habitat must be present and evidence of breeding must be recorded as per relevant published Survey Guides or the 'General Notes' section of the Threatened Biodiversity Data Collection (TBDC), to generate species credits. Potential breeding habitat is usually described as a habitat constraint. The foraging habitat for a dual credit species is captured through the ecosystem credit component.

Can I apply the streamlined assessment module for clearing scattered trees (or paddock trees) if the tree is a threatened species or I find a threatened species in the scattered tree?

If a scattered tree is identified as a threatened species, or a threatened species is incidentally sighted using the scattered tree (e.g. during site visit), the assessor cannot apply the scattered tree module to assess those trees. The standard Biodiversity Assessment Method must instead be applied and species credits determined for any impacts on the threatened species. The standard BAM also requires assessment of the species for any potential SAII.

The scattered tree module can be used to assess the remaining scattered trees that are not threatened species or threatened species habitat.

Who should I contact if I have further questions about optimal survey times or conditions for threatened species?

If your query can't be resolved using information provided within the Threatened Biodiversity Data Collection (TBDC) in BioNet, the Biodiversity Assessment Method Calculator (BAM-C) and the Flora Species with Specific Survey Requirements (XLSX 2.5MB), please submit an enquiry using the Biodiversity Offsets Scheme Enquiry Form.

Where do I find survey requirements for threatened species?

The Department has published a series of survey guides:

Survey guides for other taxa will be available in the coming months. In the meantime, you must use a scientifically robust, fit for purpose and repeatable method to survey for the target species. Surveys must be conducted in accordance with available taxa-specific guides, including published peer reviewed guidelines and survey guidelines published by the Commonwealth Department of Environment and Energy.

More information about survey requirements is available in the threatened biodiversity data collection (in BioNet) including the optimal month of survey, the unit of measure and other information in the ‘General Notes’ field.

What do I do if no survey month is specified in the Biodiversity Assessment Method Calculator (BAM-C) for a flora species?

Some flora species profiles do not specify survey months. This can happen if:

  • the species is ephemeral and needs rain or a disturbance event before it will emerge
  • the best time for survey differs across the species range
  • the plant is above ground for less than a month.

For these species, refer to the ‘General Notes’ field under ‘Ecological data’ in the threatened biodiversity data collection in BioNet. The notes will specify any environmental conditions required for survey, or the best time to survey for that species within a particular population or a region, or other tips to help locate and identify the plant (e.g. seeds are fluffy). You will need to obtain an expert report if the necessary environmental conditions for survey can't be met.

Can I vary the survey month for species credit species?

Surveys must be conducted at the optimum time for detecting the species.

Optimum survey months for a species are shown in the threatened biodiversity data collection (TBDC) in BioNet and automatically populated in the BAM-C.

It is important that you check the ‘General Notes’ field in the TBDC for additional information about appropriate survey months. For example, if survey months differ across the species distribution (e.g. earlier in northern than southern areas) or if a survey should be timed to meet specific environmental conditions (e.g. within a set number of days post rainfall). 

You may adjust survey timing if, for example:

  • the species is flowering/fruiting out of season and these features are required for visibility or identification
  • natural disturbances or climatic events have occurred (e.g. recent fire, flood or rainfall)
  • ground disturbances have occurred (e.g. for species frequently found in disturbed road verges, fire obligates).

You must justify your reason for varying survey times in the biodiversity assessment report using appropriate published or peer-reviewed references and/or field data.

What happens if I can’t meet the specific survey requirements for a species?

The BAM provides a series of options to determine presence/absence of a species credit species on the subject land. If the specific survey requirements can't be met, an expert report can be used (read section 6.5.2 BAM or the proponent can choose to assume the presence of a species on the subject land (see section 6.4, Step 4 BAM in place of survey.

Assuming the presence of a species on the subject land is an option only for development, clearing or biodiversity certification proposals and cannot be used to justify the presence or generate credits for a species at a biodiversity stewardship site.

Using an expert report or assuming the presence of a species may be appropriate if:

  • the target species is cryptic and therefore difficult to survey
  • the optimal survey time for the species has been missed or the proponent is unwilling to wait for the optimal survey season before submitting the development approval

If one of these options is selected, a targeted survey cannot subsequently be used to determined presence/absence of a species after an application for development has been lodged or approved. A targeted survey may be carried out on land under a biodiversity stewardship agreement (BSA) to add species credits at a later time. Additionality may apply to the creation of the credits as set out in section 13.11 of the BAM.

Who can prepare an expert report?

For the purposes of the BAM, an expert is a person who, in the opinion of the Environment Agency Head, possesses specialised knowledge based on training, study or experience to provide an expert opinion about the relevant biodiversity values.

Experts and the use of expert reports is described in section 6.5.2 of the BAM. Our website publishes the list of experts. 

You should discuss the intention to use an expert report with us early in the assessment process, particularly if the expert is not included on the published list of experts.

Can I use results from past surveys for threatened species?

You can use the results of previous surveys if a targeted species survey was undertaken on the subject land within five years of the current proposal lodgement date, and the survey meets the requirements for the BAM as outlined in the BAM Operational Manual – Stage 1 (PDF 1.3MB).

The use of a past survey must be documented in the biodiversity assessment report. Surveys undertaken more than five years before the proposal lodgement date may be used to inform the assessment process but can't be used in place of a targeted species survey. Time limitations are imposed to ensure the data used in assessments reflect the current biodiversity values on the subject land.

Can I apply the streamlined assessment module for clearing scattered trees (or paddock trees) if the tree is a threatened species or I find a threatened species in the scattered tree?

If a scattered tree is identified as a threatened species, or a threatened species is incidentally sighted using the scattered tree (e.g. during site visit), the assessor can't apply the scattered tree module to assess those trees. The standard Biodiversity Assessment Method must instead be applied and species credits determined for any impacts on the threatened species. The standard BAM also requires assessment of the species for any potential SAII.

The scattered tree module can be used to assess the remaining scattered trees that are not threatened species or threatened species habitat.

Who should I contact if I have questions about optimal survey times or conditions for threatened species?

If your question can't be resolved using information provided within the Threatened Biodiversity Data Collection (TBDC) in BioNet, the Biodiversity Assessment Method Calculator (BAM-C) and the Flora Species with Specific Survey Requirements (XLSX 2.5MB), submit an enquiry using the Biodiversity Offsets Scheme Enquiry Form.

How does the Biodiversity Conservation Act 2016 interact with SEPP 44 - Koala Habitat Protection?

Proponents and consent authorities need to comply with both the requirements under the Biodiversity Conservation Act 2016 (BC Act) and the requirements under State Environmental Planning Policy (SEPP) 44 – Koala Habitat Protection.

Compliance may require preparing a biodiversity development assessment report (BDAR) and offsetting impacts on koalas, as well as a koala plan of management (KPoM) under SEPP 44 which may also propose offsets. Whether offset requirements specified in a BDAR will satisfy the requirements under a KPoM will be a matter for the KPoM itself and will depend on the facts and circumstances of the specific development.

For example, a KPoM could be amended to say that meeting the offset obligations under the BC Act will satisfy the offset requirements under the KPoM. However, a consent authority could also decide to impose additional offset requirements after considering the BDAR and KPoM.

Similarly, if a Development Control Policy (DCP) is in place that has relevant provisions for core koala habitat, a consent authority could impose further controls through conditions which may also include offsets. The decision maker would need to be satisfied that any condition imposed is lawful and reasonable.

There may be overlap between the avoid, minimise or offset measures proposed in the BDAR and actions under a KPoM or controls in a DCP. This overlap does not necessarily create an inconsistency. However, in the instance that the decision maker would be unable to comply with the requirements of both the BC Act and SEPP 44, the BC Act would prevail.

What happens to existing BioBanking credits?

You can still transfer and retire BioBanking credits that match BioBanking credit obligations. The biodiversity credits webpage provides information about this.

We have also published information about how to apply for an assessment of reasonable equivalence for biodiversity credits to use biodiversity credits created under the biodiversity offsets scheme to retire credit obligations under the Threatened Species Conservation Act 1995 (repealed).

How is expert advice used in the biodiversity assessment method?

Expert advice can only replace a targeted survey or assumed presence if that advice is provided in accordance with section 6.5.2 of the BAM.

The species expert must determine the likely presence/absence of the species and if present by mapping the species polygon. The expert must write an expert report justifying this decision and documenting the information used. The expert report must be included in the biodiversity assessment report.

Assessing development impacts on Category 1 - exempt land and the Biodiversity Offset Scheme

The Biodiversity Assessment Method (BAM) applies to clearing and development proposals on Category 1 - exempt land (as per Part 5A Local Land Services Act 2013) in some circumstances.

Clearing of native vegetation on Category 1 - exempt land does not require assessment or offsetting under the BAM (in accordance with section 6.8 of the Biodiversity Conservation Act 2016). In practice, this means that native vegetation on Category 1 - exempt land is not included in any area clearing calculations when determining whether the Biodiversity Offset Scheme (BOS) applies to a proposal.

Assessment of prescribed biodiversity impacts on Category 1 - exempt land is required for a clearing proposal or development where the BOS applies. This includes:

  • Biodiversity Certification proposals
  • State Significant Development and State Significant Infrastructure
  • local development assessed under Part 4 of the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act 1979
  • activities assessed and determined under Part 5 of the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act 1979
  • clearing of native vegetation that requires approval by the Native Vegetation Panel under the Local Land Services Act 2013.

Urban land and land zoned for environmental conservation to which the State Environmental Planning Policy (Vegetation in Non-Rural Areas) 2017 (Vegetation SEPP) applies are excluded from the operation of Part 5A of the LLS Act, and therefore cannot be considered Category 1 - exempt land.

Prescribed impacts are listed in Clause 6.1 of the Biodiversity Conservation Regulation 2017 and requirements for the assessment of these impacts are set out in the BAM.

I'm currently working on a project where a corporation is leasing the land from a landholder for a development. What record type should I select for the case party in the Biodiversity Offsets and Agreement Management System? Should I be including the landholder's details as a case party when they won't be responsible for the biodiversity credits?

Add the corporation leasing the land as a 'corporation landholder' case party to the parent case in the Biodiversity Offsets and Agreement Management System (BOAMS), with the 'current owner' checkbox selected. This will ensure that the corporation responsible for the development offset obligation will appear on the biodiversity credit reports. You can also add the individual landholder as an 'individual landholder' case party to the assessment. Without the 'current owner' checkbox selected, only the corporation landholder will appear on the biodiversity credit reports generated via the Biodiversity Assessment Method Calculator (BAM-C).

Where do I find information about offset trading groups?

The determination of offset trading groups for ecosystem credits is defined by Table 5 of the Biodiversity Assessment Method (BAM).

The offset trading group for a Plant Community Type (PCT) is automatically populated within the BAM Calculator for development and stewardship proposals, and listed on the biodiversity credit report. Offset trading groups are also used in the latest version of the Biodiversity Offsets Payment Calculator.

At this stage, there is no publicly available list that shows which offset trading groups a PCT can potentially belong to. Many PCT's can potentially belong to two or more offset trading groups depending on whether or not they are associated with a threatened ecological community. This means the actual offset trading group must be verified by a field assessment.

The Department is looking to publish a look-up table that would show the potential offset trading groups to which a PCT could potentially belong.