Legislation review panel

The independent Biodiversity Legislation Review Panel was appointed in 2014 to conduct a comprehensive review of biodiversity conservation legislation and report and make reform recommendations to the NSW government.

The independent panel was appointed by the Minister for the Environment and the legislation reviewed included the Native Vegetation Act 2003, the Threatened Species Conservation Act 1995, the Nature Conservation Trust Act 2001 and those parts of the of the National parks and Wildlife Act 1974 that related to native plants and animals and private land conservation.

Final report

The panel presented its final report to the Minister for the Environment on 18 December 2014. The panel made 43 recommendations, proposing an integrated package of reforms to deliver on the NSW Government's commitments to cut red tape, facilitate sustainable development and conserve biodiversity.

Dr Neil Byron

Neil ByronDr Neil Byron has a national and international reputation as an environmental economist and policy analyst. He specialises in environmental management, natural resources and development planning, including social and environmental impact assessment. Dr Byron is currently an Adjunct Professor at University of Canberra’s Institute of Applied Ecology and a Research Associate with the Centre for Water Economics, Environment and Policy, Crawford School of Public Policy at the Australian National University. He has spent 35 years advising governments in Australia and overseas on contentious policy issues, including 12 years to 2010 as Productivity Commissioner specialising in the environment and natural resources management issues. He holds a BSc (Hons) from Australian National University, and an MA (Economics) and a PhD (Resource Economics) from the University of British Columbia.

Dr Wendy Craik AM

Wendy CraikDr Wendy Craik was appointed a Commissioner with the Productivity Commission in June 2009 and is currently the presiding Commissioner on the inquiry into Childcare and Early Childhood Learning. She has considerable expertise in natural resource management, and environmental issues and public policy more generally. Dr Craik has held many senior positions, including Chief Executive for the Murray-Darling Basin Commission, President of the National Competition Council, Chair of the Australian Fisheries Management Authority, Executive Director of the National Farmers Federation, and Executive Officer of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority. She has been a director of a number of boards, and is currently a Board member of Dairy Australia, Chair of the Australian Rural Leadership Foundation, Deputy Chancellor at the University of South Australia, and Chair of the NSW Marine Estate Management Authority. Wendy was awarded the Member of the Order of Australia in 2007 for service to the natural resource sector of the economy, particularly in the areas of fisheries, marine ecology and management of water reform, and for contributions to policies affecting rural and regional Australia.

Dr John Keniry AM

John KeniryDr John Keniry took up the position as Commissioner of the NSW Resources Commission in December 2012. Prior to that, he had served as Chairman or Director of numerous agribusiness companies in Australia and New Zealand and on the Boards of Government organisations at State and Federal level. His interest in natural resource management derives from 20 years as a board member of the NSW Environment Protection Authority and a 6-year term as a member of the Prime Minister's Science, Engineering and Innovation Council, as well as his direct involvement as owner of a fine wool and lamb producing enterprise in Central West NSW. A chemical engineer by profession, John has always maintained a keen interest in innovation, and, in addition to his role with the Resources Commission, he is presently Chairman of the Sheep Cooperative Research Centre, The Australian Wool Exchange and The Sydney Institute of Marine Science. He is a Fellow of The Australian Institute of Company Directors, The Royal Australian Chemical Institute, and The Academy of Technological Sciences and Engineering.

Professor Hugh Possingham

Hugh PossinghamHugh Possingham is Professor of Mathematics and Professor of Ecology at Queensland University, and Professor of Conservation Decisions at Imperial College London. He is an Australian Research Council Laureate Fellow and Director of the Centre of Excellence for Environmental Decisions. Professor Possingham has advised policy makers on conservation planning, with many governments using his work for the allocation of funding to threatened species recovery. He co-developed the Marxan software for systematic conservation planning, which is considered the most significant contribution to conservation biology to emerge from Australia's research community. It has been used to plan terrestrial and marine protected area networks for 5 per cent of the Earth's surface, including Australia's Great Barrier Reef. He has published over 400 peer-reviewed papers, and supervised 35 doctoral students.

The Minister for the Environment has appointed an independent panel to undertake a comprehensive review of the Native Vegetation Act  2003, Threatened Species Conservation Act 1995 and related biodiversity legislation.

The current legislative framework has become fragmented, overly complex and process driven. It creates inconsistent regulatory standards across different sectors and fails to deliver the right incentives for industry and landholders.

The current laws do not deliver balanced outcomes across the NSW Government’s environmental, social and economic objectives. The laws also no longer link coherently with emerging laws and policies.

While each piece of legislation has been subject to many separate amendments, a major holistic review of the native vegetation and biodiversity legislation in NSW has never been undertaken and the Government considers that such a review is necessary to achieve the Government’s goals and policy objectives.

This review aims to establish simpler, streamlined and more effective legislation that will:

  • facilitate the conservation of biological diversity
  • support sustainable development
  • reduce red-tape.


The Independent Review Panel will consider the policy settings, programs and funding arrangements that support the management of biodiversity, threatened species and native vegetation in NSW.

The scope of the review will include the Native Vegetation Act 2003, Threatened Species Conservation Act 1995, Nature Conservation Trust Act 2001 and Part 4 Divisions 11 through 13, Part 6A (insofar as it relates to native plants and animals), and Parts 7 through 9 of the National Parks and Wildlife Act 1974. It will include all associated regulations and policies. 

Guiding principles

The panel will be guided by the broad goals and reform directions set out in NSW 2021 and by the principles set out in the 2012 Commission of Audit, which are:

  • a focus on devolution to regional and local levels
  • an increased focus on partnership and outsourcing
  • greater focus on transparency and evidence based decisions
  • fostering greater collaboration and coordination between government and the private and community sectors
  • budget restraint.

The panel will also be guided by the strategic goals and approach set out in the Office of Environment and Heritage Corporate Plan 2014–2017. In particular, the panel will find ways to:

  • increase regulatory efficiency, remove duplication and promote consistency in approval requirements
  • increase upfront clarity and transparency in environmental standards
  • minimise the private costs and maximise the public benefits of regulation
  • encourage economic development, including by supporting regional and rural communities without devaluing the environment and biodiversity
  • build resilience to environmental hazards and risks.


1. The panel will evaluate the current legislative framework. In doing so it will consider:

  • the objectives of the current legislation and whether they remain valid
  • whether the current policy framework reflects best practice in biodiversity conservation
  • approaches and experiences of other states and territories, and relevant jurisdictions overseas
  • the social and economic impacts of the legislation including whether the current regulatory provisions balance environmental, social and economic factors in decision making (i.e. consideration of the triple bottom line)
  • any perverse environmental and regulatory outcomes
  • whether the current provisions facilitate effective and proportionate compliance
  • to what extent the current policy frameworks sufficiently encourage the abatement of environmental risks, protect and restore key ecosystem processes and prevent species extinctions
  • whether current arrangements appropriately deal with new and emerging policy frameworks in NSW and nationally, including the planning reforms, the proposed NSW Biodiversity Offsets Policy, a NSW Biosecurity Act, local government reforms, regional service delivery models and associated strategic plans, and State–Commonwealth bilateral and strategic agreements.

2. The panel will consider the evidence base for government intervention, including:

  • the status, trends and pressures on native vegetation, biodiversity and ecological processes
  • the relationship between healthy ecosystems (including water, land and biodiversity) and sustainable development
  • likely future environmental conditions given existing and emerging threats including climate change.

3. The panel will propose new legislative arrangements for biodiversity conservation in NSW. It will consider:

  • an overall philosophy for biodiversity conservation in NSW and objectives to underpin a new legislative framework
  • ways to incorporate environmental, social and economic considerations (i.e. triple the bottom line) into decision-making frameworks
  • options to identify biodiversity priorities given proposed biodiversity conservation objectives
  • opportunities to improve regulatory efficiency, remove duplication and adopt proportionate, risk-based approaches to regulation and compliance
  • the concept and practice of ‘duty of care’ in relation to native vegetation management in the context of land, water and biodiversity conservation objectives along with measures to promote cost sharing for biodiversity conservation and native vegetation management
  • measures to promote upfront clarity and transparency in environmental standards including options for self-regulation
  • options for effectively integrating native vegetation management with the protection and maintenance of land and water resources and the conservation of biodiversity
  • removing barriers and providing incentives to voluntary private land conservation, and measures to reduce duplication, promote paid stewardship and foster greater collaboration and coordination between government and the community
  • appropriate frameworks to abate environmental risks, prevent species extinction and maintain ecological processes
  • governance arrangements, statutory concurrence and consultation requirements, and compliance and enforcement provisions.


The Independent Review Panel will recommend reforms to improve the legislative and policy framework for biodiversity conservation and native vegetation management in NSW.

The Minister will provide progress reports to Cabinet based on the panel’s work.

The panel will provide an interim report to the Minister for the Environment within four months of the announcement of the terms of reference, setting out an evaluation of the current framework which addresses items 1 and 2 in these terms of reference.

The panel will provide a final report to the Minister for the Environment within six months, which addresses item 3 in these terms of reference.

Stakeholder engagement

The Independent Review Panel is to ensure thorough engagement with all interested stakeholders, including landholders, industry, developers, councils, non-government organisations and members of Parliament.

The review may commission and fund some key stakeholder groups to undertake relevant research or policy option development.

Interagency Senior Officers Group

The review will be supported by an interagency Senior Officers Group (SOG). The SOG will provide whole-of-government input to the review and identify interactions with related policy and legislative frameworks.

Separately, the SOG will also prepare a draft government response to the review report.


The Office of Environment and Heritage will provide secretariat support to the operations of the panel and the SOG.


To help inform its review, the panel met with a number of stakeholders, called for public submissions, commissioned input from NSW Farmers and the Environment Liaison Office, received advice from the former OEH and other government agencies and visited landholders and industry in the Central West, Upper Hunter, Walgett and Cooma-Monaro regions.


During the review the panel met with the following key stakeholders: 

  • Department of Planning and Environment
  • Department of Premier and Cabinet
  • Department of Primary Industries
  • Dr Phil Gibbons, Australian National University
  • Ecological Consultants' Association
  • Environmental Defender's Office NSW
  • Environment Protection Authority
  • Humane Society International
  • Local Government NSW
  • Local Land Services
  • National Parks and Wildlife Advisory Council
  • Natural Resources Commission
  • Nature Conservation Council of NSW
  • Nature Conservation Trust of NSW
  • NSW Aboriginal Land Council
  • NSW Farmers
  • NSW Forest Products Association
  • NSW Minerals Council
  • NSW Scientific Committee
  • NSW Trade and Investment
  • NSW Treasury
  • NSW Wildlife Council
  • Property Council of Australia (NSW Division)
  • Property Institute of Australia (NSW)
  • The Wilderness Society
  • Total Environment Centre
  • Urban Development Institute of Australia NSW

The Independent Biodiversity Legislation Review Panel commissioned input from the Environment Liaison Office and NSW Farmers. The information provided by these key stakeholder groups is available below.

Environment Liaison Office

Note: The Environment Liaison Office includes the Nature Conservation Council of NSW, the National Parks Association of NSW, the Total Environment Centre, and the Wilderness Society, with legal advice provided by the EDO NSW.

NSW Farmers’ Association

Note: These reports were prepared by Evidentiary, on behalf of NSW Farmers.

The Independent Biodiversity Legislation Review Panel released an issues paper (PDF 211KB) for public consultation. The total number of submissions received was 1069, which included 395 submissions and 674 form letters. Submissions marked as confidential are not published on this website. In some instances, the panel decided not to publish parts of a submission if it contained inappropriate material.

OEH prepared a Submissions Report (PDF 501KB) that presents a summary and analysis of the submissions received in response to the issues paper.

View the public submissions to the review panel.