Offsets scheme glossary of terms

Definitions and explanations of terms used in the Biodiversity Offsets Scheme

The Biodiversity Conservation Act 2016, Biodiversity Conservation Regulation 2017 and the Biodiversity Assessment Method also contain additional definitions of terms relating to the Biodiversity Offset Scheme.

Accredited person: a person accredited in accordance with the Accreditation Scheme for the Application of the Biodiversity Assessment Method Order 2017 and 2020 established under section 6.10 of the Biodiversity Conservation Act 2016 (BC Act) to apply the Biodiversity Assessment Method (BAM). Also referred to as ‘assessor’, ‘accredited assessor’ or ‘BAM assessor’

Accredited assessor register: provides contact details for individuals accredited to apply the BAM/accredited persons. 

Additional biodiversity impacts: has the same meaning as in clause 6.1 of the Biodiversity Conservation Regulation (BC Regulation);

  •  described as prescribed impacts in the BAM;
  • are impacts (including direct and indirect impacts) on the habitat of threatened entities including, areas connecting threatened species habitat, that affect water quality, water bodies and hydrological processes that sustain threatened entities, on threatened and protected animals from turbine strikes from a wind farm, on threatened species or fauna that are part of a threatened ecological community from vehicle strikes. 

Activity: activity means an activity within the meaning of Part 5 of the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act 1979.

Ancillary rules: rules published by the Secretary of the Department or anyone authorised by the Secretary, under clause 6.5 of the BC Regulation for the purpose of the interpretation and application of the offset rules and variation rules. 

Area of Outstanding Biodiversity Value (AOBV): special areas with irreplaceable biodiversity values that are important to the whole of NSW, Australia or globally. The BC Act gives the Minister for the Environment the power to declare AOBV.

Area clearing threshold: an area-based threshold that applies to the clearing of native vegetation. It is established under the BC Regulation as one of the elements of the Biodiversity Offsets Scheme (BOS) threshold. 

Assessment area: includes the subject land and the area of land within the 1500 m buffer zone surrounding the subject land (or 500 m buffer zone for linear proposals) that is determined as per Subsection 3.1.2. of the BAM 2020

Assessor: has the same meaning as accredited person. 

Avoid: measures taken by a proponent such as careful site selection, or actions taken through the design, planning, construction and operational phases of the development to completely prevent impacts on biodiversity values, or certain areas of biodiversity. Refer to the BAM for operational guidance. 

Biodiversity Assessors Accreditation System (BAAS): an online portal to support the accreditation application process, including fee payments. It's also the gateway to the version of BOAMS and the BAM-C that is only accessible by accredited persons.

Biodiversity Assessment Report: a biodiversity stewardship site assessment report (BSSAR), a biodiversity development assessment report (BDAR) or a biodiversity certification assessment report (BCAR) prepared by an accredited person. 

Biodiversity Assessment Method (BAM): a consistent method to assess impacts on biodiversity values from a proposed development (including major projects), activity, clearing or biodiversity certification as well as improvements in biodiversity values from management actions undertaken at a stewardship site. The BAM outlines how to assess changes in native vegetation, threatened species and their habitats, and provides the number and class of biodiversity credits that need to be offset to achieve ‘no net loss’ of biodiversity, but only after attempts to avoid, minimise and mitigate impacts have been considered and addressed. 

Biodiversity Assessment Method Calculator (BAM-C): the online program that provides decision support to assessors and proponents by applying the BAM. It is referred to as the BAM-C. The BAM-C applies the equations used in the BAM, including those to determine the number and class of biodiversity credits required to offset the impacts of a development, or created at a biodiversity stewardship site. It is published by the Department. 

BioBanking (BioBanking Scheme): the previous and voluntary biodiversity offset scheme established under Part 7A of the repealed Threatened Species Conservation Act (TSC Act). The BioBanking Scheme has been replaced by the Biodiversity Offsets Scheme (BOS) established under the Biodiversity Conservation Act 2016 (BC Act). Transitional arrangements provide for the continuation of both credits and credit obligations created under the TSC Act

BioBanking public registers: public registers that provide information about BioBanking credit transactions, agreements and statements created under the TSC Act. 

Biodiversity Conservation Act 2016 (BC Act): the legislation which establishes the BOS and provides for the establishment of a biodiversity assessment method. 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 and consistent with the principles of ecologically sustainable development

Biodiversity Conservation Regulation 2017 (BC Regulation): the guidelines that dictate how the provisions of the BC Act are applied

Biodiversity Conservation Trust (BCT): a statutory not-for-profit body established under Part 10 of the BC Act. The BCT delivers private land conservation programs and fulfils certain roles under the BOS.

Biodiversity certification: a streamlined biodiversity assessment process for areas of land that are proposed for development. 

Biodiversity certification assessment area: the area of land subject to assessment under the BAM for the design of future land uses. It usually correlates to a strategic planning area in a published plan or the subject lands of a planning proposal. The biodiversity certification assessment area is to be identified in the Biodiversity Certification Assessment Report (BCAR). It will include land where certification is proposed to be conferred, any surrounding or adjacent land proposed for land-based conservation measures and retained lands. Land-based conservation measures are not necessarily limited to the confines of the biodiversity certification assessment area. 

Biodiversity Certification Assessment Report (BCAR): the required report for a biodiversity certification assessment. BCAR must be prepared by an accredited assessor and use the BAM to assess the biodiversity values within the biodiversity certification assessment area. A BCAR assesses the biodiversity values of land proposed for biodiversity certification in accordance with the BAM and the impacts on biodiversity values of actions to which the BOS applies. A BCAR also specifies the number and class of biodiversity credits to be retired to offset those impacts and any other proposed conservation measures to offset those impacts.

Biodiversity credits: the common unit of measure for offsets in the BOS. The amount of biodiversity losses at a development site and the predicted gains (improvement in biodiversity condition) at an offset biodiversity stewardship agreement site are measured in and expressed as 'biodiversity credits'.

Biodiversity Conservation Fund (BCF): the fund established under the BC Act and managed by the BCT. Payment of an amount to the BCF determined by the BOPC is an alternative to the retirement of biodiversity credits.

Biodiversity offsets: the gain in biodiversity values achieved from the implementation of management actions on areas of land to compensate for losses to biodiversity values from the impacts of development.

Biodiversity credit report: the report produced by the BAM-C that sets out the number and class of biodiversity credits required to offset the remaining adverse impacts on biodiversity values at a development site or on land to be biodiversity certified. For biodiversity stewardship sites, the biodiversity credit report sets out the number and class of biodiversity credits that are created at that site. 

Biodiversity Development Assessment Report (BDAR): a report prepared by an accredited assessor for a proposed development or activity that would be authorised by a planning approval, or proposed clearing that would be authorised by a vegetation clearing approval.

A BDAR assesses the biodiversity values of land subject to the proposed development, activity or clearing in accordance with the BAM and the impact of the proposed development, activity or clearing on those values. A BDAR also sets out the measures proposed to avoid or minimise the impact of the proposed development, activity or clearing  and specifies the number and class of biodiversity credits that are required to be retired to offset the residual impacts on biodiversity values of the actions to which the biodiversity offsets scheme applies.   

Biodiversity Offsets Scheme (BOS):  a transparent, consistent and scientifically based framework for biodiversity assessment and offsetting for development that is likely to have a significant impact on biodiversity.

Biodiversity Offsets Scheme (BOS) Threshold: a test used to determine when it is necessary to engage an accredited assessor to apply the BAM to assess the impacts of a proposal. The threshold has two elements:

  • whether the amount of native vegetation being cleared exceeds an area threshold
  • whether the impacts occur on an area mapped on the Biodiversity Values Map published by the Environment Agency Head.

Biodiversity Offsets Scheme Public Registers: registers published on the Department and BCT websites that provide information about biodiversity credits, obligations and transactions created under the provisions of the BC Act and the BC Regulation.

Biodiversity stewardship agreement (BSA): an agreement between the Minister for Energy and Environment and all land owners for the purpose of establishing a biodiversity stewardship site.

Biodiversity stewardship site: land that is designated by a biodiversity stewardship agreement to be a biodiversity stewardship site for the purposes of the BC Act.

Biodiversity Stewardship Site Assessment Report (BSSAR): A report prepared by an accredited person for a proposed biodiversity stewardship agreement. A BSSAR assesses the biodiversity values of the proposed biodiversity stewardship site in accordance with the BAM, sets out the management actions proposed to be carried out on the proposed site and specifies the number and class of biodiversity credits that may be created by those management actions in accordance with the BAM.

Biodiversity values: has the same meaning as in the BC Act, that is:

(a)  vegetation integrity—being the degree to which the composition, structure and function of vegetation at a particular site and the surrounding landscape has been altered from a near natural state,

(b)  habitat suitability—being the degree to which the habitat needs of threatened species are present at a particular site,

(c)  biodiversity values, or biodiversity-related values, prescribed by the regulations.

Biodiversity Values Map: the Biodiversity Values Map (BV Map) identifies land with high biodiversity value that is particularly sensitive to impacts from development and clearing. The map forms part of the Biodiversity Offsets Scheme Threshold and is one of the triggers for determining whether the BOS applies to a clearing or development proposal. The map is prepared by the Department of Planning, Industry and Environment (the Department) under Part 7 of the BC Act. 

BioNet: the repository for biodiversity data products managed by the Department.

BioNet Atlas: the Department’s database of flora and fauna records (formerly known as the NSW Wildlife Atlas). The BioNet Atlas contains records of plants, mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians, some fungi, some invertebrates (such as insects and snails listed under the BC Act) and some fish. 

BioNet Vegetation Classification: the vegetation community-level classification for use in vegetation mapping programs and regulatory biodiversity impact assessment frameworks in NSW. The BioNet Vegetation Classification is published by the Department.  

Biodiversity Offsets and Agreement Management System (BOAMS): used by accredited persons, the Department and decision-makers to administer and manage the steps in the BOS.

Biodiversity Values Map and Threshold Tool (BMAT Tool): a web-based mapping tool that can be used as a guide to help determine if the Biodiversity Offsets Scheme Threshold is exceeded.

Biodiversity Offsets Payment Calculator (BOPC): a tool designed to determine how much a developer must pay into the BCF to satisfy an offset obligation, if they opt to do so instead of obtaining and retiring credits.

Class of biodiversity credit: biodiversity credits that share the same attributes 

Clearing native vegetation: clearing native vegetation has the same meaning as in Part 5A of the Local Land Services Act, such as cutting down, felling, uprooting, thinning or otherwise removing native vegetation, or killing, destroying, poisoning, ringbarking or burning native vegetation.

Credit demand register: details of the number, type and location of credits required. This register includes credits wanted (potential credit demand) and pending credits (those which need assessment/approval)

Credit supply register: details of the number, type and location of credits available for purchase. This register includes Expressions of Interest (potential credit supply), pending credits (those which need assessment/approval) and issued credits. 

Credits transactions register: information about biodiversity offsets scheme (BOS) credit transfers and retirements; including credit type, number, price and date as well as suspensions and cancellations.

Credits wanted list: owned by the Biodiversity Conservation Trust (BCT) and lists biodiversity credits that the BCT is interested in buying.

Critically endangered ecological community (CEEC): an ecological community specified as critically endangered in Schedule 2 of the Biodiversity Conservation Act 2016 and/or listed under Part 13, Division 1, Subdivision A of the Commonwealth EPBC Act. 

Credit holder: a person recorded as the current owner of that credit in the biodiversity credit supply register.

Decision-maker: includes;

  • consent authorities for development applications under Part 4 of the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act 1979 (EP&A Act)
  • the Minister for Planning and Public Spaces for activities under Part 5.1 of the EP&A Act
  • determining authorities for activities under Part 5 of the EP&A Act
  • the Native Vegetation Panel for approvals for clearing native vegetation under s.60ZF of the Local Land Services Act and permits under clause 14 of the Vegetation SEPP
  • the Minister for Environment and Energy for biodiversity certification under Part 8 of the Biodiversity Conservation Act 2016 (BC Act) and biodiversity stewardship agreements under Part 5.5 of the BC Act. 

Development: development has the same meaning as in the EP&A Act, ie the use of land, the subdivision of land, the erection of a building, the carrying out of a work, or demolition of a building or work.

Development footprint: the area of land that is directly impacted by a proposed development, including access roads and areas used to store construction materials. The term development footprint is also taken to include the clearing footprint, except when the reference is to a small area development or a major project development.

Development site: an area of land that is subject to a proposed development under the EP&A Act. The term development site is also taken to include the clearing site, except where the reference is to a small area development or a major project development. 

Direct impacts: impacts on biodiversity values and threatened species habitat that relate to clearing native vegetation and impacts on biodiversity values prescribed by the Biodiversity Conservation Regulation. This includes impacts from activities related to the construction or operational phase of the proposal.

Ecosystem credits: a measurement of the value of threatened ecological communities, threatened species habitat for species that can be reliably predicted to occur within an plant community type (PCT) and PCT generally.

Ecosystem credits measure the loss in biodiversity values at a development, activity, clearing or biodiversity certification site and the gain in biodiversity values at a biodiversity stewardship site. 

Endangered ecological community (EEC): an ecological community specified as endangered in Schedule 2 of the Biodiversity Conservation Act 2016, or listed under Part 13, Division 1, Subdivision A of the EPBC Act. 

Expert: a person who has the relevant experience and/or qualifications to provide an expert opinion about the biodiversity values relating to the expert report. 

Habitat: an area or areas occupied, or periodically or occasionally occupied, by a species or ecological community, including any biotic or abiotic component. 

IBRA region: a bioregion identified under the Interim Biogeographic Regionalisation for Australia (IBRA) system (Thackway & Cresswell 1995), which divides Australia into bioregions on the basis of their dominant landscape-scale attributes. 

IBRA sub-region: a sub-region of a bioregion identified under the IBRA system. 

Indirect impacts: impacts that occur when a proposal affects native vegetation and threatened species habitat beyond the development footprint or within retained areas (e.g. transporting weeds or pathogens, rubbish dumping). They include impacts from activities related to the construction or operational phase of the proposal and prescribed impacts. 

Loss of biodiversity: the loss of biodiversity values from a development site, native vegetation clearing site or land on which biodiversity certification is conferred. 

Major project: State Significant Development under Part 4, Division 4.7 of the Environmental Protection & Assessment Act (EP&A Act) and State Significant Infrastructure under Part 5, Division 5.2 of the EP&A Act. 

Minimise: a process applied throughout the development planning and design life cycle that seeks to reduce the residual impacts of development on biodiversity values. 

Native vegetation: has the same meaning as in section 1.6 of the Biodiversity Conservation Act (BC Act) and section 60B of the Local Land Services Act.

1. For the purposes of this Part, native vegetation means any of the following types of plants native to New South Wales: 

(a) trees (including any sapling or shrub or any scrub) 

(b) understorey plants 

(c) groundcover (being any type of herbaceous vegetation) 

(d) plants occurring in a wetland. 

2.  A plant is native to New South Wales if it was established in New South Wales before European settlement. The regulations may authorise conclusive presumptions to be made of the species of plants native to New South Wales by adopting any relevant classification in an official database of plants that is publicly accessible. 

3. For the purposes of this Part, native vegetation extends to a plant that is dead or that is not native to New South Wales if: 

(a) the plant is situated on land that is shown on the native vegetation regulatory map as category 2-vulnerable regulated land and 

(b) it would be native vegetation for the purposes of this Part if it were native to New South Wales. 

4. For the purposes of this Part, native vegetation does not extend to marine vegetation (being mangroves, seagrasses or any other species of plant that at any time in its life cycle must inhabit water other than fresh water). A declaration under Section 14.7 of the BC Act that specified vegetation is or is not marine vegetation also has effect for the purposes of this Part. 

No net loss: refers to the standard set out in the Biodiversity Assessment Method that in the opinion of the Minister will result in no net loss of biodiversity in NSW. 

Offset obligation: an obligation expressed in terms of biodiversity credits that measures the residual direct impacts of a development, activity or vegetation clearing proposal on biodiversity values

Offset rules: offset rules govern the types of offsets that can be used to meet an offset obligation under the Biodiversity Offsets Scheme (BOS). The offset rules are established by the Biodiversity Conservation Regulation (BC Regulation). 

Operational Manual: is a guide to assist assessors using the Biodiversity Assessment method (BAM) and is published from time to time by the Department. 

PCT classification system: the system of classifying native vegetation approved by the NSW Plant Community Type Control Panel and described in the BioNet Vegetation Classification. 

Plant community type (PCT): the master community-level typology for NSW vegetation communities used in NSW’s planning and assessment tools and vegetation mapping. NSW plant community types are identified using the PCT classification system. 

Prescribed impact: means the prescribed impacts identified in clause 6.1 of the BC Regulation. Prescribed impacts can be direct or indirect impacts. 

Private land conservation agreements register: details of private land conservation agreements with the Biodiversity Conservation Trust.

Protected animal: an animal of a species listed or referred to in Schedule 5 of the Biodiversity Conservation Act 2016 (BC Act). Note: Some protected animals may also be threatened species of animals, but not all threatened species of animals are protected animals.

Proponent: a person who intends to apply for consent or approval to carry out development (including infrastructure), clearing or biodiversity certification.

Proposal: any of the following types of proposals. 

  • development that requires consent under Part 4 of the Environmental Protection & Assessment Act (EP&A Act) 
  • an activity that requires approval under Part 5, Division 5.1 (where the proponent has opted-in to the BOS) of the EP&A Act 
  • development that requires approval under Part 5, Division 5.2 of the EP&A Act 
  • clearing that requires approval under Part 5A of the Local Land Services Act (LLS Act); or a permit under the Vegetation SEPP 
  • biodiversity certification of land and related development in the case of an application for biodiversity certification under the BC Act 
  • a biodiversity stewardship site in the case of an application for a biodiversity stewardship agreement under the BC Act. 

Residual impact: an impact on biodiversity values that remains after all reasonable measures have been taken to avoid, minimise or mitigate the impacts of development. Under the Biodiversity Assessment Method (BAM), an offset requirement is determined for the remaining impacts on biodiversity values.

Retirement of credits: the action taken when biodiversity credits created for a biobanking agreement or a biodiversity stewardship agreement are used to offset the impacts of development, clearing or biodiversity certification. Retired credits are removed from the market and can no longer be traded.

Serious and irreversible impacts: impacts that are likely to contribute significantly to the risk of a threatened species or ecological community becoming extinct in accordance with the principles set out in clause 6.7(2) of the Biodiversity Conservation Regulation. 

Species credits: the class of biodiversity credits created or required for the impact on threatened species that cannot be reliably predicted to use an area of land based on habitat surrogates. Species that require species credits are listed in the Threatened Biodiversity Data Collection. 

State significant development: development declared to be state significant development under the Environmental Protection & Assessment Act (EP&A Act). 

State significant infrastructure: development declared to be state significant infrastructure under the EP&A Act. 

Subject land: land subject to a development, activity, clearing, biodiversity certification or a biodiversity stewardship proposal. In the case of a biodiversity certification proposal, subject land includes the biodiversity certification assessment area. 

Test of Significance: the test established by section 7.3 of the Biodiversity Conservation Act (BC Act) used to determine if a development or activity is likely to significantly affect threatened species, ecological communities or their habitats.

Threatened ecological community (TEC): a critically endangered ecological community, an endangered ecological community or a vulnerable ecological community listed in Schedule 2 of the BC Act, or listed under Part 13 of the EPBC Act as critically endangered, endangered or vulnerable. 

Threatened entities: threatened species, populations and/or ecological communities listed in Schedules 1 and 2 of the BC Act, or listed under Part 13 of the EPBC Act as critically endangered, endangered or vulnerable. 

Threatened species: critically endangered, endangered or vulnerable threatened species or populations as defined by Schedule 1 of the BC Act, or any additional threatened species or populations listed under Part 13 of the EPBC Act as critically endangered, endangered or vulnerable. 

Total Fund Deposit (TFD): a dollar amount determined by the Environment Agency Head as the present value of the total of all management payments for a biodiversity stewardship site for the life of that biodiversity stewardship agreement. 

Transfer of biodiversity credits: the legal transfer of a biodiversity credit from the credit holder to another person or entity. A transfer is typically associated with the sale of a biodiversity credit. 

Vulnerable ecological community: an ecological community specified as vulnerable in Schedule 2 of the BC Act and/or listed under Part 13, Division 1, Subdivision A of the EPBC Act.