Biodiversity Conservation Bill 2016 passed without amendment
The draft Biodiversity Conservation Bill 2016 (The Bill) recently underwent a period of public exhibition with over 7,000 submissions received. A large proportion of these submissions raised concerns over land-clearing increases, carbon pollution and protections for native vegetation and threatened wildlife.
The Bill was presented in NSW Parliament on Thursday 17 November and was passed without amendment. The Bill will repeal the Threatened Species Conservation Act 1995 and the Nature Conservation Trust Act 2001 and will also include amendments to the National Parks and Wildlife Act 1974 (animal and plant provisions).
Key changes include:
- The introduction of a new biodiversity assessment methodology (BAM) – this will establish a single, uniform assessment pathway for NSW and replace other approaches. This will streamline the assessment process for development likely to significantly affect threatened ecological communities and the clearing of native vegetation. This is still under development and is likely to be finalised mid-late 2017.
- New biodiversity offsets scheme – The BAM will assist proponents to avoid and then minimise development impacts. If offsets are required, the new BAM will provide a simplified method for calculating offsets and introduce the option to pay into a Biodiversity Conservation Fund to meet offset obligations. This provides the opportunity to offset by paying a monetary figure into the fund rather than sourcing offsets which are difficult to find for these communities.
- Revised biodiversity certification – this will assist with early identification of areas of high conservation value to be retained and identify appropriate areas for clearing.
These changes are good news for developers as the BAM now provides the option to pay into a fund in lieu of raising credits off site, rather than credits being like for like.
However, critical elements to the Act will be contained in the Regulations, such as the definition of ‘Serious and irreversible impacts’ and the threshold for requiring offsets. The new Act won’t take effect until these Regulations have been adopted.
APP understands that the NSW government has a time frame of July 2017 for the Act to be operational.