The Biodiversity Conservation Act 2016 provides robust tools to avoid, minimise and offset biodiversity impacts through land use planning and during the development assessment process. The new Biodiversity Offsets Scheme includes rules that govern how biodiversity offsets will be used to ensure they deliver clear conservation outcomes.
The Biodiversity Assessment Method (BAM) is a scientific method that assesses biodiversity values – it calculates likely biodiversity losses from impacts at development sites and gains from conserving land at stewardship sites. Accredited assessors will carry out all BAM assessments.
Landholders can establish stewardship sites to create biodiversity credits, and these credits are available to the market to offset the impacts of development or clearing. Proponents can also make payments into the Biodiversity Conservation Fund to discharge an offset obligation, calculated using the Biodiversity Offsets Payment Calculator. The NSW Biodiversity Conservation Trust will then secure the biodiversity offsets.
Transitioning to the new Biodiversity Offsets Scheme
There are arrangements in place to support a smooth transition from the former legislation to the new framework established under the Biodiversity Conservation Act 2016.
For more information about transitional arrangements, visit: www.environment.nsw.gov.au/biodiversity/transitional.htm
Entry Requirements into the Biodiversity Offsets Scheme
The Biodiversity Offsets Scheme Threshold establishes a risk-based approach to identifying developments that are likely to have a significant impact on biodiversity. The Biodiversity Conservation Regulation 2017 sets out threshold levels for when the Biodiversity Offsets Scheme will be triggered.
For more information about the Entry Requirements into the Biodiversity Offsets Scheme, visit www.environment.nsw.gov.au/biodiversity/offsetsscheme.htm
The Biodiversity Assessment Method (BAM) assesses the biodiversity value of land and calculates likely losses in biodiversity values resulting from clearing of native vegetation and habitat destruction. It also calculates likely gains in biodiversity values from conserving native vegetation and actively managing land for conservation as a stewardship site. A tool to apply the BAM is also now available to be used by accredited assessors.
The Biodiversity Conservation Regulation 2017 includes principles for determining which impacts are ‘serious and irreversible impacts on biodiversity values’. Guidance designed to assist in the application of these principles is available.
For more information about the Biodiversity Assessment Method and Serious and Irreversible Impacts www.environment.nsw.gov.au/biodiversity/assessmentmethod.htm
The Biodiversity Offsets Scheme
The Biodiversity Offsets Scheme simplifies assessment and improves biodiversity outcomes. It creates consistent biodiversity assessment requirements for development and offset (stewardship) sites. The Scheme helps to compensate for potential impact on biodiversity from development.
Under the Biodiversity Offsets Scheme, applications for development or clearing approvals must set out how impacts on biodiversity will be avoided and minimised. For example, to avoid biodiversity impacts a proponent may change the layout of their proposed development so that less native vegetation needs to be cleared. To minimise biodiversity impacts a proponent may propose limiting certain operations during the breeding season of local threatened species, or reducing use of lighting at night to minimise impacts on nocturnal threatened species. The Biodiversity Assessment Method will be used to calculate an offset obligation (in biodiversity credits) for the remaining residual impacts, which the approval authority will consider if they approve the development or clearing proposal.
Under the Biodiversity Offsets Scheme offset sites must be secured using Biodiversity Stewardship Agreements. These are voluntary in-perpetuity agreements between a willing landholder and the Minister for the Environment. The Biodiversity Conservation Trust takes on this role on the Minister’s behalf.
Stewardship agreements generate biodiversity credits, representing the gain in biodiversity achieved by protecting and managing the land. The landholder will need to engage an accredited assessor to assess the site using the Biodiversity Assessment Method and calculate the number of credits it will generate.
The Biodiversity Conservation Regulation 2017 sets out offset rules that govern the type of biodiversity credits that can be used for offsetting. The offset rules also govern how a biodiversity certification applicant or the Biodiversity Conservation Trust can meet an offset requirement.
Under the Biodiversity Offsets Scheme, developers have the option to buy credits directly from landholders or pay into the Biodiversity Conservation Fund to meet an offset obligation. The Biodiversity Conservation Trust is then responsible for securing the offset. The Offsets Payment Calculator determines how much a proponent must pay into the Biodiversity Conservation Fund to meet an offset obligation.
More information about the Biodiversity Offsets Scheme and the Offsets Payment Calculator www.environment.nsw.gov.au/biodiversity/offsetsscheme.htm
Role of the BCT in the Offsets Scheme
The NSW Biodiversity Conservation Trust (BCT) plays a key role in the Biodiversity Offsets Scheme. Proponents can choose to satisfy offset obligations in their development consent conditions by paying money into the Biodiversity Conservation Fund managed by the BCT. This may be a faster and more certain way for many proponents to meet their obligations.
Proponents still have the option to source biodiversity offsets themselves or to use the services of a third party broker.
Once a payment is made into the fund, the BCT becomes responsible for finding the offsets needed. The BCT must satisfy these offset obligations consistent with the rules of the Biodiversity Offsets Scheme.
The BCT is able to pool offset obligations and funds and could establish larger and more viable offset sites.
The BCT works with landholders to establish biodiversity stewardship agreements on their land. By working with landholders to establish stewardship sites to create biodiversity credits, the BCT will be able to stimulate supply in the market.
More information about the Role of the BCT in the Offsets Scheme www.bct.nsw.gov.au
Accredited assessors will carry out all BAM assessments. The report prepared by the assessor must be considered by the decision making authority in granting approval to impact biodiversity.
The Minister for the Environment will be responsible for establishing the accreditation scheme.
More information about the Accredited Assessor Scheme and to find an Accredited Assessor www.environment.nsw.gov.au/biodiversity/assessors.htm
The Biodiversity Conservation Act 2016 establishes a scheme for the biodiversity certification of land which strengthens and improves the former biodiversity certification framework. Biodiversity impacts of biodiversity certification proposals are assessed using the BAM, providing consistency of outcomes within the planning system. The Minister for the Environment has responsibility for approving biodiversity certification applications. The Minister will consider the BAM assessment and the adequacy of proposed conservation measures when deciding whether to certify land. After land has been certified, development may proceed without the usual requirement for site by site assessment.
The Biodiversity Conservation Act 2016 allows the Minister for the Environment to declare some biodiversity applications by planning authorities as ‘strategic,’ in accordance with criteria set out in the Biodiversity Conservation Regulation 2017.
More information about Biodiversity Certification www.environment.nsw.gov.au/biodiversity/biodivcertification.htm