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Strategic biodiversity certification


Strategic biodiversity certification is available to planning authorities, which includes, but is not limited to, local government and the Minister for Planning. You can find a complete list of planning authorities under section 8.1 of the Biodiversity Conservation Act 2016 (NSW).

Strategic biodiversity certification:

  • supports land use planning on a landscape scale, taking into account various conservation objectives and land uses  
  • typically entails a strategic land use planning process.  

Loans and other financial help may be available from the Biodiversity Conservation Trust for planning authorities undertaking biodiversity certification. 

In addition to retiring credits, other conservation measures are available under strategic biodiversity certification. The offset rules do not apply. See Offset rules.

State significant developments or state significant infrastructure projects that require development assessment and approval are generally unsuitable for strategic biodiversity certification.

How strategic certification is determined

The Minister for the Environment may declare a proposal ‘strategic’.

When deciding whether to declare a biodiversity certification application strategic, the Minister will consider criteria set out in the Biodiversity Conservation Regulation 2017.  

The Minister for the Environment takes the following criteria into account.

The size of the area of the land 

The biodiversity certification assessment area usually includes multiple land tenures, land uses and biodiversity values. While the size of the area is not prescribed, strategic biodiversity certification proposals are expected to achieve biodiversity outcomes at a landscape scale to maximise social, economic and environmental benefits. The ability of a proposal to demonstrate landscape-scale benefits to biodiversity through conservation measures is likely contingent on the size of the biodiversity certification assessment area.

Any regional or district strategic plan under the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act that applies to the area in which the land is situated

Regional plans and district plans are prepared under the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act 1979 (NSW). Regional plans set the framework, vision and direction for strategic planning and land use in a region. District plans are a bridge between regional and local planning. Both plans inform local environmental plans, community strategic plans and the assessment of planning proposals.  

A proposal for strategic biodiversity certification should align with and support the goals, priorities, directions and actions, particularly those related to biodiversity, identified in any regional or district plan that applies to the biodiversity certification assessment area. For example, an application for strategic biodiversity certification would be expected to maximise the avoidance of impacts on verified areas of high environmental value and biodiversity corridors identified in a regional plan.

Advice provided by the Minister of Planning regarding the proposed biodiversity certification  

While it is not mandatory to seek advice from the Minister for Planning prior to declaring an application strategic, the Minister for the Environment is required to consider any advice that is provided. The advice that may be provided by the Minister for Planning is not limited but may relate to the economic or social outcomes that the proposed biodiversity certification could facilitate.

The economic, social or environmental outcomes that the proposed biodiversity certification could facilitate  

The Biodiversity Conservation Act adopts the principles of ecologically sustainable development as described in section 6(2) of the Protection of the Environment Administration Act 1991. Ecologically sustainable development requires effective integration of social, economic and environmental considerations in decision-making processes.

Consistent with the principles of ecologically sustainable development, the economic, social and environmental outcomes that certification could facilitate are not considered in isolation of one another. For example, an application for strategic biodiversity certification cannot be justified on economic outcomes alone. Strategic biodiversity certification is expected to facilitate positive economic, social and environmental outcomes.

Strategic biodiversity certification supports the principles of ecologically sustainable development by facilitating environmental outcomes that would not be achievable at a site scale – for example, maintaining and improving wildlife connectivity. Avoiding impacts is integral to delivering such biodiversity outcomes in the landscape.  

Strategic biodiversity certification will involve locating and designing future land use to avoid impacts on biodiversity values and deliver strategic biodiversity protection through the additional conservation measures available.  

The conservation measures that can be delivered because of access to strategic biodiversity certification may be used to support the application; however, all projects will be considered against each of the criteria in determining the overall suitability of strategic biodiversity certification.

Requesting a strategic declaration

Make a request to the Minister for the Environment

Consult with the department before submitting your request

It is recommended that you discuss your proposal with the department before submitting a request to obtain early guidance and support with a strategic biodiversity certification proposal. Find a list of regional contacts on our Scheme contacts page.

The department maintains a list of biodiversity certification proposals declared strategic.

View these proposals to gain a better understanding of the types of biodiversity certification declared strategic across New South Wales.

Additional conservation measures available

In addition to the retirement of biodiversity credits, an applicant for strategic biodiversity certification can access additional conservation measures not available for standard biodiversity certification, including:

  • reservation of land under the National Parks and Wildlife Act 1974
  • adoption of development controls or state infrastructure contributions under the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act 1979 that conserve or enhance the natural environment
  • any other measure determined to be an approved conservation measure by the Minister for the Environment.

Guidance on designing conservation measures for strategic biodiversity certification is available in Conservation measures in strategic applications for biodiversity certification: Guidance for planning authorities [PDF 1.4MB].