The Program is achieving this by buying land for new reserves and securing funding agreements with landowners to permanently conserve their land. This land is being protected by the NSW Government to offset the impacts on biodiversity that will be caused by the development of the North West and South West Growth Centres.
The NSW Government has established a $530 million Growth Centres conservation fund to protect areas of biodiversity value. Over the next 50 years, this funding will come from a special infrastructure contribution that applies within the Growth Centres, as well as from general government revenue. Three quarters of the conservation fund ($397.5 million with indexing) is used to implement the Growth Centres Biodiversity Offset program.
What's been achieved
Since it's introduction in 2008, the Growth Centres Biodiversity Offset program has permanently protected 749 hectares of land at 21 locations in Western Sydney.
These sites protect threatened plant communities, including critically endangered Cumberland Plain Woodland and provide valuable habitat for threatened animal species.
How the program works
The program delivers offsets for the NSW Government under three agreements:
- Biodiversity Certification of State Environmental Planning Policy (Sydney Region Growth Centres) (2006)
- Strategic assessment approval of the Western Sydney Growth Centres (2012)
- Mulgoa biobank site funding agreement with the Australian Government (2013).
In accordance with the biodiversity certification, the program receives funding annually at the same rate at which development is expected to occur in the growth centres. As at June 2019, the program has received $80,476,706 over 12 years, amounting to 20.25% of total funding. The program has also been supported by grants of additional funding from the NSW Government and the Australian Government.
The program spends the funds, as a first preference, within priority areas that contain the largest remaining areas of high conservation value bushland on the Cumberland Plain. If it’s not possible to create a reserve, the program will protect the land by entering into biodiversity stewardship agreements (previously known as biobanking agreements) with existing landowners.
Biodiversity stewardship agreements are a type of permanent conservation agreement in which funding for site management is invested in an endowment fund (the Biodiversity Stewardship Payments Fund). The Fund provides ongoing annual payments to the land owner, allowing the ongoing management of the bushland.