A NSW Government website

Revised vegetation integrity benchmarks and plant community types

 

The Department of Planning and Environment updated the BAM-Calculator to include revised Plant Community Types in eastern NSW and the Version 1.2 vegetation integrity benchmarks. Transitional arrangements are in place.

Transitional arrangements for revised Plant Community Types in eastern NSW coastal and tableland bioregions

The BAM-Calculator (BAM-C) was updated on 14 April 2023 to include the revised Plant Community Type (PCT) classification for the NSW coastal and tablelands bioregions.

For eligible assessments, transitional arrangements apply for up to 12 months for local Part 4 proposals and for up to 24 months for all other proposals, including major projects, biodiversity certification assessments and the assessment of biodiversity stewardship sites.

To meet requirements of the transitional arrangements, BAM-Calculator assessments must be finalised prior to 14 April 2024 for local Part 4 development and 14 April 2025 for all other proposals. The associated BAR must be lodged to the decision maker within 14 days of the date the BAM-C assessment is finalised. The BAR must include a finalised credit report and document the use of transitional arrangements and how the assessment is compliant.

BAM-C cases that were in progress prior to 14 April 2023 are eligible to apply transitional arrangements.

Proposals that start a BAM-Calculator assessment after 14 April 2023 must apply the revised PCTs and associated data to their assessments.

The transitional arrangements are established in the BAM-C and allow assessors with in-progress BAM-C assessments in the coastal and tablelands IBRA bioregions to maintain access to the previous version of the BAM-Calculator data and avoid changes to assessments. The transitional arrangements also allow assessors to opt in and apply the revised PCTs and new data to their assessment if preferred.

Webinars on the proposed transition were delivered in September 2021 and February 2023.

More detail is available in the:

The revised PCTs in eastern NSW were publicly released in BioNet on 24 June 2022, giving all stakeholders access to the new scientific information in BioNet applications.

The revised PCTs are expected to be easier to use in land use decisions and biodiversity assessments and provide greater confidence, certainty and transparency for the wide range of applications that use them in day-to-day business functions.

The revised PCT classification for eastern NSW is supported by analytical tools and maps, including the:

The revised PCTs were published as part of a broader program of work – the Integrated BioNet Vegetation Data for NSW (IBVD) – that will see all PCTs across New South Wales reviewed and mapped. For more information about the new data and Integrated BioNet Vegetation Data, visit the Integrated BioNet Vegetation Data for NSW webpage.

Integrated BioNet Vegetation data for NSW

Resources and tools to support transition for users

Support tools have been provided to smooth the transition to the Scheme, including a PCT to Offset Trading Group (OTG) tool that shows the legacy PCTs and revised eastern NSW PCTs that are credit retirement options under the like-for-like offset rules. The tool will support landholders and developers to understand the application of the like-for-like offset rules in the context of both legacy and revised PCT biodiversity credits.

To discover which OTGs the revised PCTs belong to, you can visit the Plant Community Type to Offset Trading Group lookup tool.

Ecosystem Credits Trading Groups Tool

The BioNet team have developed a quick guide on how to extract lineage transformation data from BioNet for users seeking to understand the changes to PCTs for assessments: Accessing plant community type lineage transformation data from BioNet – Quick guide

For further details on accessing PCT lineage transformation data, please see the BioNet resources page.

Frequently asked questions are available in the 'Find out more' section on this page to support participants navigating the transition.

Benchmarks update from Version 1.1 to Version 1.2 and transitional arrangements

Please note that the transitional arrangements for the Version 1.2 benchmarks update are separate from the transitional arrangements for changes to PCTs in eastern NSW (see below).

On 1 February 2023, the BAM-Calculator was updated to include Version 1.2 benchmarks.

The update to Version 1.2 benchmarks will be subject to transitional arrangements for 6 months. Transitional arrangements end on 2 August 2023. BAM-Calculator (BAM-C) assessments must be finalised prior to or on this date. The associated BAR must be submitted to the decision maker within 14 days with a finalised BAM credit report.

During the designated transitional period, assessors with assessments that were in progress prior to 1 February 2023 may opt to manually modify benchmarks and continue to apply (the previous) Version 1.1 benchmarks. Transitional arrangements do not apply to assessments commenced after 1 February 2023. New BAM assessments commenced in the BAM-C after 1 February 2023 must apply the new Version 1.2 benchmarks and cannot modify benchmarks unless in accordance with BAM Appendix A – use of more appropriate local data.

In summary, to be eligible to apply transitional arrangements to a BAM-C case, the case must:

  • be commenced prior to 1 February 2023
  • modify all benchmarks in the entire proposal to Version 1.1 benchmarks
  • finalise the BAM-C assessment prior to 2 August 2023
  • submit the certified Biodiversity Assessment Report (BAR) prior to 16 August 2023
  • document the application of Version 1.1 benchmarks in the Biodiversity Assessment Report.

If assessors choose to apply Version 1.1 benchmarks under the transitional arrangements, the Biodiversity Assessment Report must clearly document how Version 1.1 benchmarks have been applied to the assessment and include evidence that the application is consistent with the transitional arrangements. The Biodiversity Assessment Report must include the following evidence:

  1. screenshots from a BAM-C case that that display the modified benchmark values to demonstrate that Version 1.1 benchmarks are applied to every benchmark value in the BAM-C case
  2. a URL link to the Version 1.1 benchmarks data
  3. an extract from the Version 1.1 benchmarks data of the relevant benchmark values for the case (for ease of review)
  4. evidence that the proposal was in-progress on the date the BAM-C update to Version 1.1 benchmarks.

For applications that have been assessed with Version 1.1 benchmarks under the transitional arrangements, decision-makers must ensure that the Biodiversity Assessment Report includes documentation and evidence required to be eligible.

To support transitional arrangements, Version 1.1 benchmarks will be published on the BAM-C public webpage.

BAM-Calculator

The Biodiversity Credit Reports (Like-for Like and Variations) generated by the BAM-C will display where modified benchmarks have been used.

Screenshot of the BAM calculator

Find out more

For more information about the transitional arrangements for using the revised PCT data and Version 1.2 vegetation integrity benchmarks, see the:

BOS Support Webinar 32

Webinars question and answers document
BAM-Calculator release notes: Deployment of Version 1.2 Benchmarks in the BAM-C.

Frequently asked questions

How will this affect existing biodiversity credits?

Existing Scheme approvals and associated biodiversity credits remain valid and continue to operate under the Scheme’s offset rules. 

Biodiversity credits based on pre-eastern NSW PCT data can trade with biodiversity credits from either pre-eastern NSW PCTs data or revised PCT data in accordance with the Scheme’s offset rules. 

Note that biodiversity credits relating to threatened ecological communities will be unaffected by revised PCTs, given they are identified by the name of the TEC and assessed according to the listing information prepared by the Scientific Committee.

Will there be a transitional period for in-progress assessments?

In-progress assessments (those that have commenced a BAM-C case before the launch of revised PCTs into the Scheme) will not be affected. Transitional arrangements will allow in-progress assessments a choice – either to opt in to use revised PCTs or continue to apply pre-eastern NSW PCTs data.

New assessments in eastern NSW that commence in the BAM-C after the launch of the revised PCTs into the Scheme will need to apply the revised PCTs.

The new classification will result in some additional data changes that are linked to PCTs. For example, associations for threatened species to the revised PCTs have been created, which will influence the species that require assessment on a site. These changes are the result of a systematic and centrally coordinated review of primary data.   

Similarly, the Biodiversity Risk Weightings – a component of the BAM metrics used to determine the credit obligation of an impact assessment – may also adjust for non-threatened vegetation because of the revised PCTs.

How long will the transitional arrangements remain for Biodiversity Assessment Method assessments?

For eligible assessments, access to legacy Plant Community Type data in the BAM-Calculator (BAM-C) is proposed for up to 12 months for local Part 4 proposals and for up to 24 months for major project proposals, biodiversity certification assessments and the assessment of biodiversity stewardship sites.

For enquiries, please contact [email protected]

Will the revised Plant Community Types in eastern NSW change threatened species assessment requirements?

Threatened species assessment requirements may change for some proposals based on the Plant Community Types present on the subject land.

To prepare for the introduction of the revised Plant Community Types in eastern NSW, the department conducted a systematic and holistic update of threatened species associations to Plant Community Types in the Threatened Biodiversity Data Collection (TBDC). The update incorporated recent records and knowledge about threatened species. Associations for threatened species to the revised Plant Community Types will influence the candidate species credit species considered likely to occur on the subject land. This may result in a change to the candidate threatened species that require further assessment for a certain number of assessments.

To review the threatened species associations for the revised PCTs in eastern NSW, download the BioNet power query, Threatened Species to Plant Community Types (PCT) Association data, or for other BioNet resources visit NSW BioNet resources.

Threatened Ecological Communities (TECs) associations have been assigned to the revised Plant Community Types in eastern NSW, which will better indicate which TECs may be present on the subject land.

How are the 'legacy' NSW Plant Community Types and the revised Plant Community Types in eastern NSW related?

On 24 June 2022, the revised Plant Community Types in eastern NSW were released in BioNet applications, including information on the relationships between the previous 'legacy' Plant Community Types (decommissioned Plant Community Types) and the revised Plant Community Types in eastern NSW (approved Plant Community Types). These relationships are known as 'lineage transformations' and are held in the BioNet Vegetation Classification application. The lineage data are useful for field assessors and other users who are familiar with legacy Plant Community Types. The lineage transformations vary from simple one-to-one matches to more complex relationships depending on the scale and robustness of the decommissioned Plant Community Types.

For more information about lineage transformations, refer to the section 'Tracking changes to the Plant Community Types master list' on the Plant Community Types: change control webpage.

Over 100 new Plant Community Types in the revised classification were not previously described and do not have lineage information. After field survey, Biodiversity Assessment Method accredited assessors, and other users should first consult the Plot to Plant Community Types Assignment Tool to identify, based on floristic information, the Plant Community Types on the subject land.

The lineage data in BioNet does not include information about biodiversity credits. To understand how ecosystem credits from the legacy Plant Community Types classification can trade with those from the revised Plant Community Types classification, you can use the Plant Community Type to Offset Trading Group lookup tool. This tool allows users to search for a Plant Community Type and identify the like-for-like credit retirement options for ecosystem credits.

Once the revised Plant Community Types for eastern NSW have been imported into the BAM-C, credit reports will include lists of legacy and revised Plant Community Types that are like-for-like credit retirement options.

I have a biodiversity credit obligation for ecosystem credits based on legacy Plant Community Types. Do I need to seek an equivalency statement?

I have a biodiversity credit obligation for ecosystem credits based on legacy Plant Community Types. Do I need to seek an equivalency statement?

No, there is no requirement for credit equivalency statements or changes to existing consent conditions. The legislative framework for the Scheme ensures that ecosystem credits based on either legacy or revised Plant Community Types in eastern NSW may continue to trade in accordance with the offset rules. Ecosystem credit obligations based on a legacy Plant Community Types, or for a revised Plant Community Types credit, can be satisfied by:

  • using credits from legacy Plant Community Types
  • using credits from the revised Plant Community Types
  • using a mix of credits from both the legacy and revised Plant Community Types.

To see which legacy and revised Plant Community Types for eastern NSW are like-for-like credit retirement options, refer to the Plant Community Type to Offset Trading Group lookup tool. The tool allows Scheme participants to search for a Plant Community Type and to display a list of both legacy and revised Plant Community Types that are like-for-like credit retirement options.

For more information about offset trading groups, visit the Offset trading groups webpage.

I am a credit holder of ecosystem credits for legacy Plant Community Types. Will the credits remain valid after the introduction of the revised Plant Community Types for eastern NSW into the Scheme?

Yes, biodiversity credits for legacy Plant Community Types will remain valid and continue to trade under the Scheme's offset rules. Credit holdings based on either the legacy or revised Plant Community Types in eastern NSW can be used to satisfy offset obligations for credits from the legacy or revised Plant Community Types. There is no requirement for credit equivalency statements or changes to existing credit holdings.

The Plant Community Type to Offset Trading Group lookup tool displays how the like-for-like offset rules apply to both legacy and revised Plant Community Types. The tool allows credit holders to search for a Plant Community Type and to display a list of Plant Community Types from both classifications that are like-for-like trading options.

The Scheme public registers can help to connect credit buyers and sellers and increase market transparency. To view the credits wanted register, please visit the Biodiversity Offsets Scheme public registers webpage.

Credits can be sold to the Biodiversity Conservation Trust (BCT). For more information about credits wanted by the Biodiversity Conservation Trust, please visit the Credit Offer Portal webpage.

I have an 'in-progress' BAM-Calculator (BAM-C) assessment. How can I access the transitional arrangements?

To access transitional arrangements, you must commence a BAM-C case before the date BAM-C is updated with the revised Plant Community Types for eastern NSW (and associated scientific data).

After the revised Plant Community Types for eastern NSW are imported into the BAM-C, your case will include an alert advising you of the update and the need to select a reference database for your assessment. If you have commenced a BAM-C case before the import date, you can choose from the legacy Plant Community Types database or the revised Plant Community Types for the eastern NSW database.

If you commence a new case after the data import into BAM-C and your assessment is located in the coastal and tableland bioregions of eastern NSW, you will be required to apply the revised Plant Community Types.

Do transitional arrangements apply to a major project or biodiversity certification if BAM-C case not commenced but field work is complete using legacy PCT data?

I am an accredited assessor conducting a scoping assessment for a major project or a biodiversity certification proposal in eastern NSW. I have not commenced a BAM-Calculator (BAM-C) case but have substantially commenced field assessment and survey work using legacy Plant Community Type data. Do the transitional arrangements apply?  

If you have undertaken substantial survey and reconnaissance work during the scoping phase of a major project or biodiversity certification proposal in eastern NSW, you will need to create a BAM-C case before the revised Plant Community Types for eastern NSW data import to access the transitional arrangements. If you miss this date, you may request access to legacy Plant Community Type data; however, this will be an administrative process and subject to time delay. To submit the request, evidence of survey and assessment work carried out prior to the date will need to be provided to the department.

How do I address projects that straddle areas covered by the revised Plant Community Type for eastern NSW and legacy Plant Community Type classifications?

For projects that extend across the boundary of the study area for the revised eastern (coast and tablelands IBRA bioregions), such as long linear developments, you may create separate Biodiversity Offsets and Agreements Management System (BOAMS) child cases (BAM-C assessments) for each Interim Biogeographic Regionalisation for Australia (IBRA) subregion that forms part of the assessment. The transitional arrangements will capture those in-progress BAM-C cases occurring in subregions within the eastern NSW coast and tablelands bioregions.

Any new project assessments commencing after the import of the revised Plant Community Types into the BAM-C that straddles this boundary will need to apply the revised Plant Community Types within the eastern NSW coast and tablelands bioregions (Australian Alps, New England Tablelands, NSW North Coast, South East Corner, South Eastern Highlands, South Eastern Queensland, Sydney Basin), and the current Plant Community Types in the western slopes bioregions (Brigalow Belt South, Nandewar, South West Slopes) and further west. The revised Plant Community Types study area aligns with the IBRA subregion boundaries.

Work is underway to revise Plant Community Types in the central and western IBRA regions of New South Wales. This will support consistent outcomes for assessments across New South Wales.

What changes to credits are expected under the revised classification?

Changes to credits calculated will only apply to in-progress assessments when proponents choose to apply the revised classification.

Any new assessments must apply the revised PCTs. In a small number of cases, there may be changes to credits calculated compared to calculations that would have been made under the legacy classification. For non-threatened vegetation, revised percentage cleared values (quantitative) may influence credit numbers and Offset Trading Groups (OTGs). Threatened Ecological Community (TEC) credit types will be largely unaffected because TEC entities and threat status will remain the same. However, other changes to credit calculations could occur due to new PCT associations affecting benchmarks. These are expected to be minor and based on better scientific data and rigour for assessments generally.

TEC associations to PCTs under the revised classification are currently available on the PCT to OTG tool for users to view and test.

For in-progress BAM-C assessments, can you use different case revisions to compare the revised and legacy classifications?

In-progress assessments (those that have commenced a BAM-C assessment before the BAM-C update to include revised Plant Community Types) can apply legacy or revised Plant Community Types in different case revisions. First, it is recommended to create a new assessment revision for each data version. After both revisions have been created, they will be displayed in the Open dialog box. Progress through the assessment, save data changes, and a comparison can be made between revised and legacy Plant Community Type outcomes.

Will the revised classification impact the legal obligations in existing management plans for Biodiversity Stewardship Agreement (BSA) sites?

Will the revised classification impact the legal obligations in existing management plans for Biodiversity Stewardship Agreement (BSA) sites? For example, will replanting schedules be affected by revised PCTs and, if so, will support be provided to nurseries?

Management plans that are now being established under a BSA can continue to use the legacy PCTs in the assessment, management plan and ecological monitoring requirements. Existing Scheme approvals will remain valid and continue to operate under the Scheme’s offset rules. This includes the legal obligations in a management plan under a BSA. The department is therefore expecting minimal changes to replanting schedules and nursery demand.

Can the revised PCT classification be used for non-BAM assessments – for example, Review of Environmental Factors and non-BAM biodiversity assessment reports?

Yes, the revised classification of PCTs in eastern NSW can be used for non-BAM assessments, including a Test of Significance, Review of Environmental Factors, and non-BAM biodiversity assessment reports.

Will TEC classifications be impacted by the revision of Plant Community Types in eastern NSW?

TEC listings have not changed as part of the release of the eastern NSW PCTs. 

There is a longer-term goal for the quantitative PCT classification to better align with and inform Commonwealth and NSW TEC listings, but this will take some time and relies on the independent threatened species scientific committees.

How are benchmarks developed for the revised PCTs?

Current benchmarks are modelled at the Vegetation Class/IBRA bioregional scale and will continue to apply to the revised PCTs based on their Vegetation Class and IBRA bioregion.