Introduction

The Biodiversity Conservation Act 2016 introduces a more streamlined and strategic approach to supporting conservation on private land. It will deliver a range of initiatives and incentives to support and encourage landholders who want to establish protected areas on their land to manage and improve biodiversity on their properties.

The tradition of private land conservation in NSW has a long and proud history with the voluntary and dedicated efforts of landholders, farmers, local community groups and other organisations resulting in approximately three million hectares being under some form of conservation.

The NSW Biodiversity Conservation Trust (BCT) has been established by the Biodiversity Conservation Act 2016. The BCT will invest $240 million over the next five years to support working with landholders, farmers and other organisations that wish to participate in private land conservation. The new BCT will administer the new private land conservation program. The Trust will initially continue the private land conservation functions of the Office of Environment and Heritage and the Nature Conservation Trust. Over the next six months the Trust will become established and its Board will set out its approach and strategy for the Trust. The Trust will be guided by a Biodiversity Conservation Investment Strategy (BCIS), which will identify priority investment areas and principles for investment.

NSW Biodiversity Conservation Trust

The Biodiversity Conservation Act 2016 establishes a new NSW Biodiversity Conservation Trust (BCT), which will oversee the new Private Land Conservation program across NSW and also has a key role in the new Biodiversity Offsets Scheme. The NSW Biodiversity Conservation Trust manages and delivers private land conservation across NSW with the aim of maintaining a healthy, productive and resilient environment for the community, now and into the future.

The NSW Biodiversity Conservation Trust is a new organisation currently in its establishment phase over the next six months. The Trust will initially continue the private land conservation functions of the Office of Environment and Heritage and the Nature Conservation Trust. Over the next six months the Trust will become established and its Board will set out its approach and strategy for the Trust. The Trust will be responsible for delivering the government’s $240 million investment in Private Land Conservation. This $240 million investment will provide opportunities for landholders to diversify their income sources through protecting and managing areas of high environmental value on their properties alongside other uses such as farming.

As the BCT is still becoming established, more information about the support we can provide will become available later in 2017. The support that we will be able to provide to landholders to encourage the management and protection of high environmental value land will be guided by the Biodiversity Conservation Investment Strategy to be made by the Minister for the Environment on the advice of the Office of Environment and Heritage and our Business Plan which will be developed by our Board and released in early 2018. These documents will guide us to seek agreements with landholders and farmers in priority investment areas in NSW.

The NSW Biodiversity Conservation Trust (BCT) has specific functions as set out in the Biodiversity Conservation Act 2016. Section 10.4 of the Act sets out the objects of the Trust which is also its principal purpose.

In summary, the object of the BCT is to protect and enhance biodiversity by:

  • encouraging landholders to enter into co-operative arrangements for the management and protection of the natural environment that is significant for the conservation of biodiversity, and
  • seeking strategic biodiversity offset outcomes to compensate for the loss of biodiversity due to development and other activities, and
  • providing mechanisms for achieving the conservation of biodiversity, and
  • promoting public knowledge, appreciation and understanding of biodiversity, and the importance of conserving biodiversity.

The Trust will work in partnership with farmers, land managers, landholders, developers, industries, local councils and the state government to provide advice and support in protecting land with high biodiversity values in ways which brings benefits to landholders for doing so. We are delivering a streamlined private land conservation program across NSW, directing $240 million of investment into supporting landholders to protect private land. This investment will provide opportunities for landholders to diversify their income sources through protecting and managing areas of high environmental value on their properties and will support sustainable farming enterprises.

More information about the BCT visit www.bct.nsw.gov.au

Biodiversity Conservation Investment Strategy

A Biodiversity Conservation Investment Strategy (BCIS) will guide the BCT in delivering the Government’s investment in private land conservation. It will set out proposed objectives, priority investment areas and investment principles.

The BCIS will work with the national parks system to build a protected area network across public and private land. The BCIS will also complement other major NSW Government priorities and investment, such as the Saving our Species program and the NSW Koala Strategy.

More information about the Biodiversity Conservation Investment Strategy www.environment.nsw.gov.au/biodiversity/offsetsscheme.htm

Conservation Agreements

The Biodiversity Conservation Act 2016 (BC Act) establishes three main types of voluntary private land conservation agreements, which are explained below. Having different types of agreements for landholders is important as each landholder has different circumstances and goals for their land or farm. The agreements have been designed to deliver better support to landholders, in financial and non-financial ways, and in doing so create land use options and additional income streams for rural landholders. The types of agreements are:

  • Biodiversity stewardship agreements (BSAs) that provide permanent protection and management of biodiversity and allow for the creation of biodiversity credits,
  • Conservation agreements (CAs) which are permanent or time-bound agreements and may be eligible for stewardship payments,
  • Wildlife refuge agreements (WRAs) which are an entry level option for landholders who want to protect the biodiversity on their property but do not wish to enter into a permanent agreement.

Landholders, land managers, farmers, councils and other organisations may be interested in entering into an agreement on your land or part of your land if you wish to explore how this may:

  • offer financial or other benefits to your farm or agricultural enterprise, and the produce you sell from your farm,
  • possibly provide payments to help protect your property’s natural values,
  • provide you with technical and other support to help protect your property’s natural values.

More information about the Agreements and how to apply can be found at www.bct.nsw.gov.au

Existing Agreements

Under the new private land conservation framework, existing agreements that are in place will continue, and be governed by the Act they were made under. Existing private land conservation agreements, including conservation agreements under the National Parks and Wildlife Act 1974, trust agreements under the Nature Conservation Trust Act 2001 and BioBanking agreements under the Threatened Species Conservation Act 1995, will be carried over and remain in place. This means that properties protected under a permanent conservation agreement will continue to be protected in perpetuity.

Landholders who also have an existing agreement may be able to ‘change’ to an agreement under the new Biodiversity Conservation Act 2016, although they are under no obligation to do so. The BCT will determine how to respond in a range of possible scenarios. This flexibility is important as each landholder’s circumstances will differ.

More information about the Existing Agreements www.bct.nsw.gov.au

Benefits of Biodiversity Conservation

The NSW government recognises that engaging private landowners in conservation is an important opportunity. Many ecological communities and threatened species are found only on privately owned and managed land. More than 70 percent of the state is under private ownership or Crown leasehold. Landholders who protect the plants and animals on their land play a key role in keeping biodiversity across NSW healthy.

Private land conservation is growing in global standing as a corner stone of agricultural and land sustainability. Increasingly, producers are becoming aware of the opportunities that land conservation can bring to their enterprises including the integral role that a healthy landscape and its biodiversity has on land and farm productivity.

Farmers, land managers and landholders that have Conservation Agreements talk about how having an Agreement has helped them with a range of benefits:

More stories about landholders that participate in conservation and more information about the benefits of biodiversity conservation can be found at www.bct.nsw.gov.au

Development Offset Obligation, the Biodiversity Conservation Fund and the BCT

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.

For more information about the role of the BCT in the Offsets Scheme or to make a payment to meet your biodiversity offset obligation visit www.bct.nsw.org.au