Biodiversity certification under the Threatened Species Conservation Act 1995

The Biodiversity Conservation Act 2016 and the Biodiversity Offsets Scheme replaces the Threatened Species Conservation Act 1995, but savings and transitional arrangements are in place for biodiversity certification applicants under the former legislation and policy.

The information on this page is only relevant for savings and transitional arrangements under former legislation and policy. Visit biodiversity certification under the Biodiversity Conservation Act 2016,  Biodiversity Offsets Scheme and Biodiversity Offset Scheme transitional arrangements for more information.

Biodiversity certification of land

Biodiversity certification offers planning authorities a streamlined biodiversity assessment process for areas marked for development at the strategic planning stage. The process identifies areas of high conservation value at a landscape scale. These areas can be avoided and protected while identifying areas suitable for development. Biodiversity certification offers a range of secure options for offsetting impacts on biodiversity. 

After biodiversity certification is conferred on an area of land, development may proceed without the usual requirement under the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act 1979 for site-by-site threatened species assessment.

Legislation for biodiversity certification can be found in Part 7AA of the Threatened Species Conservation Act 1995 (TSC Act)

How biodiversity certification works

Our Guide for applicants (PDF 334KB) provides a quick overview of the biodiversity certification scheme for prospective applicants.

Only planning authorities can apply to the Minister to have biodiversity certification conferred over an area of land.  Biodiversity certification of land can only be conferred by the Minister where the biodiversity certification ‘improves or maintains’ biodiversity outcomes. The Minister will determine whether or not the overall effect of the proposed biodiversity certification is to improve or maintain biodiversity values on the basis of a biodiversity certification assessment prepared in accordance with the Biodiversity Certification Assessment Methodology (PDF 237KB).

Planning authorities must complete the biodiversity certification application (PDF 437KB) as well as a Biodiversity Certification Strategy, which details the conservation measures that will improve or maintain biodiversity values in accordance with the methodology. The Biodiversity Certification Strategy will be supported by a Biodiversity Assessment Report, which will document the biodiversity values of land proposed for biodiversity certification and offsets.

The biodiversity certification application, the Biodiversity Certification Strategy and the supporting Biodiversity Assessment Report will be publicly exhibited.

The Biodiversity Certification Operational Manual (PDF 1.8MB) provides guidance on the process of biodiversity certification. The biodiversity certification credit calculator applies the Biodiversity Certification Assessment Methodology to calculate the number and type of biodiversity credits required to offset the impacts of development or generated at a conservation site. The calculator is available from the Department of Planning, Industry and Environment. Assessments using the methodology are based on survey data and information collected at the site as well as information contained in the Vegetation Information System (VIS) Classification database and the Threatened Species Profile Database. The biodiversity certification paddock tree calculator (XLS 29KB) is another tool that the accredited assessor may use (refer to the Biodiversity Certification Operational Manual for more detail).

Biodiversity values are measured as biodiversity credits. When there is a shortfall of credits for conservation measures in a biodiversity certification proposal, the biodiversity certification credit converter may be used to convert the quantity of ecosystem or species credits into hectares of land and then into an amount for a financial contribution.

The Department maintains a register of orders conferring biodiversity certification as required by section 126ZU of the TSC Act. The register includes orders conferring biodiversity certification on environmental planning instruments (EPIs) made under the former scheme (see below). Hard copies of the register are available without charge from the Information Centre, Level 14, 59 Goulburn Street, Sydney between 8.30 am and 5.00 pm Monday – Friday (phone 131 555 or (02) 9995 5000). 

Other types of biodiversity certification

Before amendments to the TSC Act in June 2010, biodiversity certification was able to be conferred on environmental planning instruments (EPIs) under Schedule 7 of the TSC Act. This scheme is no longer available.

Biodiversity certification of the native vegetation reform package means that the clearing of native vegetation authorised by an approved property vegetation plan does not require a species impact statement or statements under the TSC Act.