Key features of the new legislation
The NSW Government has committed an unprecedented $240 million over five years to support conservation on private land and $70 million in each following year, subject to performance reviews.
A new Biodiversity Conservation Trust (the Trust) will be established to administer the new private land conservation program.
The Trust will be guided by a Biodiversity Conservation Investment Strategy (BCIS), which will identify priority investment areas and principles for investment.
A more streamlined and strategic approach to private land conservation establishes three types of voluntary private land conservation agreements:
- 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
The Biodiversity Conservation Trust
The draft Biodiversity Conservation (BC) Regulation provides information on what the Trust must include in its business plan and annual reporting, including relevant goals, investment plans, and data management. These provisions will help ensure the Trust is accountable to the government and the community for the performance of its functions.
The Biodiversity Conservation Investment Strategy
The Biodiversity Conservation Investment Strategy (BCIS) will guide the new Trust in prioritising investment in biodiversity across NSW. The BCIS will set out proposed objective, targets and priority investment areas and investment principles.
Government is currently developing the BCIS and it will be exhibited later this year before being finalised.
A new framework for conservation agreements
Existing private land conservation agreements
It is intended that the new framework will provide for existing Biobanking agreements to continue and they will be managed in the same way as BSAs.
Other arrangements, such as conservation agreements and wildlife refuges under the National Parks and Wildlife Act 1974, will remain in place and continue to be governed by the Act they were made under.
These savings and transitional arrangements will be implemented through legislative changes.
Land that can become a BSA site
The draft BC Regulation continues to exclude certain land from being designated as a BSA site, for example if the land use is inconsistent with conservation.
A new provision under the draft BC Regulation will allow offset obligations created outside of the new Biodiversity Offsets Scheme to be met by voluntarily entering into a BSA and immediately retiring biodiversity credits that are generated.
Variations to BSAs
The BC Regulation streamlines the process for making minor variations to a BSA that support more efficient land management.
The BC Regulation also establishes a new process to manage an established BSA when its ownership becomes split between multiple people.
Financial concessions and incentives (e.g. exemptions from land tax, and local council rate relief) will support landholders to participate in private land conservation activities.
Current arrangements will be carried over, with some minor adjustments. This will be progressed through legislative changes.