Biodiversity Offsets Policy for Major Projects

Consultation has concluded

The NSW Biodiversity Offsets Policy for Major Projects is being introduced to clarify, standardise and improve biodiversity offsetting for major project approvals under the NSW planning system.

The NSW Government is now inviting submissions on:

to ensure they meet their aims and are relevant and easy to apply.

Individuals and organisations are urged to respond before 5 p.m. on Friday 9 May by:

The NSW Biodiversity Offsets Policy for Major Projects is being introduced to clarify, standardise and improve biodiversity offsetting for major project approvals under the NSW planning system.

The NSW Government is now inviting submissions on:

to ensure they meet their aims and are relevant and easy to apply.

Individuals and organisations are urged to respond before 5 p.m. on Friday 9 May by:

CLOSED: This discussion has concluded.
  • What are offsets and why are they used?

    NSW Public asked over 5 years ago

    Biodiversity offsets are areas of land that are protected and managed to improve biodiversity values. They help to ensure that negative impacts on the environment arising from a development are balanced through environmental gains achieved in another location. For example, a development may require an area of native woodland to be cleared. To offset the biodiversity loss associated with the clearing, another area of similar woodland can be protected and managed to improve habitat quality. Over time, the gain in biodiversity achieved by improving the similar area of woodland will balance the biodiversity lost due to the development.

  • How will this deliver better environmental outcomes than the current system?

    NSW Public asked over 5 years ago

    The draft NSW Biodiversity Offsets Policy for Major Projects (the policy) will achieve benefits to biodiversity by encouraging the use of biobanking agreements to secure offset sites in perpetuity. These sites will have proper governance arrangements, sound management plans and secure funding to ensure they are viable in the long term and provide ongoing benefits to biodiversity.

    Landowners will be encouraged to create offsets on strategically important land, including:

    • land close to waterways to help prevent erosion
    • important mapped biodiversity corridors
    • sites recognised as critical for securing threatened species.

    The proposed introduction of a NSW Biodiversity Offsets Fund will also enable offsets to be selected strategically across the state to enhance biodiversity gains.

  • How long will offset sites be protected for?

    NSW Public asked over 5 years ago

    The aim of an offset site is to achieve an improvement in biodiversity to compensate for its loss on a development site. The impact on biodiversity at the development site is usually permanent. Therefore the gain to biodiversity, which is achieved through protection and management of an offset site, needs to be permanent. Using biobanking agreements to secure offset sites enables funding to be provided for the site and provides certainty that management actions and governance responsibilities will be undertaken in perpetuity.

  • Can offset sites be added to the national parks estate?

    NSW Public asked over 5 years ago

    Yes. This can only take place after a biobanking agreement has been established on a site. A biobanking agreement will ensure that adequate funding is secured for the site’s future management by the National Parks and Wildlife Service.

  • Why are biobanking agreements the preferred mechanism for securing offsets?

    NSW Public asked over 5 years ago

    Of the various mechanisms that have been used in the past to secure offsets, only biobanking agreements fully adhere to the criteria outlined in Principle 5 of the Biodiversity Offsets Policy for Major Projects - 'Offsets must be enduring, enforceable and auditable'. Principle 5 provides the following criteria:

    1. the principal objective of ongoing site management is biodiversity conservation
    2. management actions are undertaken in accordance with a plan of management
    3. there is reasonable likelihood that sufficient resources will be available to implement the plan of management over time
    4. there are appropriate accountability mechanisms in place to secure the outcomes, and these mechanisms cannot be altered without alternative and comparable offsetting arrangements being put in place
    5. the arrangements are in-perpetuity and conservation obligations are transparently transferred and disclosed to any new owners of the land through appropriate administrative procedures.

    Biobanking agreements are the only mechanism tested in NSW that meets these criteria. Biobanking agreements provide the security and certainty that is necessary to ensure offsets achieve intended biodiversity gains. They ensure there is continuous funding available for management of the offset site and have clear monitoring and reporting requirements. This provides confidence for both proponents and the community that the agreed management actions will be undertaken and conservation outcomes achieved.

    As biobanking agreements are a key component of the policy, OEH intends to work with stakeholders to determine if there are ways in which their usability can be further improved while still adhering to the criteria listed above.

  • Why does the policy not require offsets for non-threatened species?

    NSW Public asked over 5 years ago

    The first key principle of the policy requires that 'before offsets are considered, impacts must first be avoided and unavoidable impacts minimised through mitigation measures'. This avoid-and-minimise principle applies to all biodiversity on a development site.

    Where offsets are required to compensate for any remaining impacts on biodiversity, the policy focuses on threatened species, populations and ecological communities. This mirrors the focus of the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act 1979 under which major project applications are assessed.


  • Why does the policy only apply to major projects? Does the Government plan to extend the policy to other development?

    NSW Public asked over 5 years ago

    The policy is being introduced specifically for major projects, including State significant development and State significant infrastructure under the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act 1979. The Policy is specifically designed for these project types and the legislative framework under which they are determined.

    In the future, a whole-of-government offsets policy for other types of development may be considered. Other types of development would include, for example, approval of housing development under Part 4 of the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act 1979. The development of such a policy would need to be tailored to those other types of development and the legislative frameworks under which they are determined. A policy for other types of development may therefore look quite different to this policy.

  • Will my biodiversity offset obligations increase under the policy?

    NSW Public asked over 5 years ago

    The policy may result in increases or decreases in offset obligations in comparison to past calculations. However, as all proponents will now use the same assessment tools and method, the offset system will for the first time be consistent, reliable and transparent for all stakeholders.


  • What if my offset requirements are so high the project cannot proceed?

    NSW Public asked over 5 years ago

    The policy aims for offset requirements that will result in an overall ‘no net loss’ to biodiversity. It acknowledges, however, that in certain circumstances an offset requirement may be such that it makes a project unviable. The policy allows for a reduction of a proponent’s offset requirements where the social or economic benefits of the project would justify the additional environmental impact caused by discounting its offset requirement.

    A decision by a consent authority to discount an offset will be made only in very specific circumstances in accordance with clear criteria. These criteria will be developed during transitional implementation of the policy to provide further certainty to proponents.


  • What if I disagree with my offset assessment?

    NSW Public asked over 5 years ago

    The Department of Planning and Infrastructure has clear guidelines on how to appeal a determination (PDF) of development application under the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act 1979.

  • Can I defer my offset obligations until the fund is established?

    NSW Public asked over 5 years ago

    Proponents cannot opt to use the fund before it is established. Until this time, proponents must secure their own offset sites. The Government is working to ensure the offsets fund is established as quickly as possible while making sure it is governed by clear business rules.


  • What are supplementary measures?

    NSW Public asked over 5 years ago

    Supplementary measures provide proponents with an alternative option for fulfilling an offset requirement when appropriate offset sites cannot be found. Supplementary measures are actions that can be taken to improve biodiversity, other than protecting and managing offset sites. Supplementary measures do not necessarily need to meet all the principles that apply to offset sites.

    The amount of money to be contributed to supplementary measures will be calculated so it is approximately equivalent to the cost of an offset site. Ensuring the amount a proponent is required to contribute to supplementary measures is commensurate with the cost of establishing an offset site will prevent an artificial bias towards supplementary measures over offsets

    More information on supplementary measures is available in Appendix 1 of the NSW Biodiversity Offsets Policy for Major Projects.

  • Can 100% of a developer’s offset requirement be met by funding supplementary measures?

    NSW Public asked over 5 years ago

    Not generally. Supplementary measures are only available when an offset site is not feasible, and would typically be used in conjunction with offset sites (see previous question). It would be very rare for a proponent to need to meet their entire offset requirement through supplementary measures.


  • Can proponents establish offsets on their own land?

    NSW Public asked over 5 years ago

    Proponents can still own and manage their own offset sites if they choose. They can establish a biobanking agreement on their own land and undertake the agreed management actions themselves using their own funds.

    Where a proponent wishes to sell the land and pass the management responsibilities to a new owner, they can do this by depositing sufficient funds to cover the remaining cost of ongoing management into the BioBanking Trust Fund. If they are covering management costs with their own funds, they will not need to deposit any money into the BioBanking Trust Fund until they sell the land.


  • Why is the option of rehabilitation as an offset limited to mine sites?

    NSW Public asked over 5 years ago

    Mine sites have clear governance arrangements around rehabilitation which are provided through mining leases. Mining leases set out rehabilitation requirements, including security, reporting and compliance. No such mechanisms currently exist to guarantee rehabilitation of other development sites.


  • Do I still have to get Commonwealth approval for my development?

    NSW Public asked over 5 years ago

    Yes, if your development will significantly impact on matters of national environmental significance under the Commonwealth Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999. The NSW Government remains committed to removing unnecessary duplication in state/Commonwealth environmental assessment and approval processes and is discussing this issue with the Australian Government.


  • Are there enough offset sites available to support the policy?

    NSW Public asked over 5 years ago

    The policy is expected to encourage an increase in the number of offset sites available. This will arise initially through use of biodiversity credits to express offset requirements, which will encourage proponents to purchase these biodiversity credits to fulfil these requirements. This will promote the market for biodiversity credits and provide greater incentive for private landowners to establish offset sites (secured by biobanking agreements) to sell biodiversity credits. The fund, once it is established, is also likely to play a role in encouraging landowners to establish offset sites on their land.


  • How will the policy address the issue of farmland being bought for offsets?

    NSW Public asked over 5 years ago

    The policy is designed to reduce the need for proponents to buy land for offsets by encouraging existing landowners to provide offsets through retaining and managing areas of biodiversity on their land under a biobanking agreement. Biobanking agreements allow landowners to determine the best use of their land, as they can choose which part of their land will be protected and managed to improve biodiversity values. This may be land that is already retained and managed to improve agricultural productivity or land that is unsuitable for agricultural production.

    The use of biobanking agreements to secure offsets will allow farmers to diversify the income they receive from their land by putting a market value on the protection and management of bushland portions of farming properties.


  • Can biobanking agreements be established on public land with existing management requirements?

    NSW Public asked over 5 years ago

    Biobanking agreements can be established on almost all land tenures, including public land. Land excluded from biobanking includes national parks and certain reserves under the Forestry Act 2012.

    Some public lands have pre-existing management requirements. For example, the Crown Lands Act 1989 allows for public positive covenants for protecting the environment to be placed on Crown land, which can require some biodiversity management actions to be carried out on this land.

    Principle 4 of the Biodiversity Offsets Policy for Major Projects states that ‘offsets must be additional to other legal requirements’.This is to ensure that the offset provides an actual addition to biodiversity rather than enabling actions to be undertaken that were going to occur anyway.

    Given that offsets must be additional to existing legal requirements, only management activities in addition to those already legally required on the land are taken into account when calculating biodiversity credits that may be generated.


  • Can offset sites be established on a site generating carbon credits?

    NSW Public asked over 5 years ago

    Land management requirements for the purpose of creating carbon credits are not considered to be legal requirements for biodiversity management under the policy. This means the same site can potentially generate both biodiversity credits and carbon credits through the same management actions.


  • What is the Framework for Biodiversity Assessment (FBA)?

    NSW Public asked over 5 years ago

    The Framework for Biodiversity Assessment is a methodology that has been developed to assess biodiversity loss and gain. The FBA will be applied by accredited ecological consultants and will assess the amount and type of biodiversity being impacted on at a development site, and how much gain to biodiversity can be expected from an offset site.


  • Who is qualified to apply the Framework for Biodiversity Assessment?

    NSW Public asked over 5 years ago

    The Framework for Biodiversity Assessment can only be applied by an accredited ecological consultant. Initially, this will mean an ecological consultant must be accredited under the BioBanking Scheme as per section 142B(1)(c) of the Threatened Species Conservation Act 1995.


  • Will the assessment methodology in the Framework for Biodiversity Assessment replace the BioBanking Assessment Methodology?

    NSW Public asked over 5 years ago

    The Framework for Biodiversity Assessment methodology is only applicable to major projects, that is, State significant development and State significant infrastructure. Any other developments requiring biodiversity assessment may use the BioBanking Scheme as an optional alternative to considering biodiversity impacts under the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act 1979. More information on this matter can be found in 'Relationship to BioBanking' factsheet.

  • How will impacts on biodiversity values not included in the Framework for Biodiversity Assessment be assessed?

    NSW Public asked over 5 years ago

    Impacts on biodiversity not covered under the Framework for Biodiversity Assessment, for example, those on marine mammals and migratory shorebirds, will continue to be assessed according to current practice.


  • How does the policy relate to the NSW Planning Bill 2013?

    NSW Public asked over 5 years ago

    If the proposed reforms to the NSW planning system are realised, as envisaged by the Planning Bill 2013, the policy would be able to be applied to major projects with minimal change. This is because relevant aspects of approval processes for major projects that are currently in the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act 1979 will remain if Parliament passes the Bill.