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.
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.
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.