Development and clearing can have a significantly negative impact on the natural environment. What might seem like small changes to a localised environment can have a large flow-on effect to plants, animals and ecosystems over a larger scale.
In an effort to help address and minimise the effects of clearing and development on the state's native flora and fauna, the NSW government created the Biodiversity Offsets Scheme (BOS) in August 2017.
The BOS is a transparent, consistent and scientifically based approach to biodiversity assessment and offsetting for developments that are likely to have a significant impact on biodiversity. There are two main parts to the scheme:
Part A: Developers and landholders who undertake development or clearing may generate a credit obligation which must be retired to offset their activity. To find out whether your development is likely to trigger the BOS, check the three triggers below or see the Biodiversity Offsets Scheme Fact Sheet produced by Sutherland Shire Council.
Part B: Establishing a biodiversity stewardship site on private land and selling credits to securely offset activities at other sites. For more information and eligibility guidelines for Part B, please visit the NSW Government's Biodiversity Offsets Scheme website.
Does the BOS apply to my project?
To check whether your development is assessable under the BOS, refer to the three triggers below. If the answer is YES to any of these triggers, the BOS will apply. You will need to engage an accredited assessor to assess the environmental impacts and prepare a Biodiversity Development Assessment Report (BDAR) to accompany your development application. The NSW state government maintains a public register of accredited assessors who are capable of undertaking this type of work.
Trigger 1: Does the amount of native vegetation to be cleared exceed the thresholds set out in the table below?
Minimum lot size
Threshold for clearing above which the BOS applies
| Less than 1 ha (10,000m2 )
|| 0.25 ha or more (2,500 m2 ) or more
| 1 ha to less than 40 ha
|| 0.5 ha or more
| 40 ha to less than 1,000 ha
|| 1 ha or more
| 1,000 ha or more
|| 2 ha or more
Clearing includes removal of any native vegetation (grass, shrubs, trees) associated with the development, including driveways, fences, asset protection zones, infrastructure, building footprints etc. You can check the minimum lot size requirement by visiting Sutherland Shire Council's LEP map and clicking on the property.
Trigger 2: Does the area where the development is proposed to occur appear on the Biodiversity Values Map (BVM)?
To find out whether your site is within the Biodiversity Values Map (BVM), visit the Department of Planning, Industry & Environment's BVM map.
Trigger 3: Is a ‘Test of Significance’ required?
If the area of the proposed development does not exceed the native vegetation clearing threshold or appear on the Biodiversity Values Map but is likely to contain threatened species, threatened ecological communities or their habitats, an ecologist must undertake a ‘test of significance’. If this test indicates that a ‘significant impact’ is likely to occur, then the BOS will be triggered. Check the NSW Department of Planning, Industry & Environment's Threatened Species Test of Significance page to see if this applies to your development.
What if the BOS applies to my development?
If you answered 'Yes' to any of the three triggers above, the BOS will apply and you will need to engage an accredited assessor to assess the environmental impacts and prepare a Biodiversity Development Assessment Report (BDAR) to accompany the development application. You may be required to pay a monetary credit or purchase biodiversity credits to offset the loss of biodiversity resulting from the proposed development. The accredited assessor will calculate a credit value to offset ecosystem losses via a specialised Biodiversity Assessment Calculator. The results will be recorded in the BDAR.
What if the BOS does not apply to my development?
If you could answer 'No' to all three BOS trigger questions, then the BOS does not apply. However, a thorough Flora and Fauna Report must be prepared to accompany any development application where vegetation removal is required. The Flora and Fauna report must be prepared by a suitably qualified ecologist and provide clear evidence as to why the development does not trigger the Biodiversity Offset Scheme.