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Biodiversity assessments and calculation of the scheme entry requirements


When and how the area clearing threshold applies

The area clearing threshold applies to local development and clearing proposals. It does not apply to major projects or biodiversity certification, because the scheme automatically applies to these projects and proposals.

The Biodiversity Offsets Scheme is activated by local development and clearing proposals that involve clearing native vegetation that exceeds the area clearing threshold. 

The area clearing threshold varies according to the relevant minimum lot size at the proposal site (shown in the lot size maps made under local environment plans) or the actual lot size (where no minimum lot size is provided for in the relevant local environmental plan). 

If there are multiple relevant minimum lot sizes, the smallest one applies.

Minimum lot size associated with the propertyThreshold for clearing, above which the Biodiversity Assessment Method and Biodiversity Offsets Scheme apply
Less than 1 ha0.25 ha or more
1 ha to less than 40 ha0.5 ha or more
40 ha to less than 1000 ha1 ha or more
1,000 ha or more2 ha or more

Use the Biodiversity Values Map and Threshold Tool to estimate if the area clearing threshold may have been exceeded.

Biodiversity Values Map and Threshold Tool 

For more information on how to identify the development footprint and calculate the area clearing threshold, download the guide:
Reviewing area clearing threshold results from the BMAT tool

Include all native vegetation 

All native vegetation proposed to be impacted by a proposal must be considered when applying the scheme entry requirements.

Native vegetation is defined in section 60B of Local Land Services Act 2013 (NSW) as any of the following types of plants that are native to New South Wales:

  • trees (including any sapling or shrub or any scrub)
  • understorey plants
  • ground cover (being any type of herbaceous vegetation)
  • plants occurring in a freshwater wetland.

Native vegetation may exist as grassland, herb land and low shrublands that do not have trees or large shrubs. 

Native vegetation is trees, shrubs, herbs and grasses that are indigenous to New South Wales. 

A plant may be considered native to New South Wales if it is listed as native on the New South Wales Flora Online database, which is maintained by the Botanic Gardens of Sydney. 

Native vegetation extends to any planted vegetation that meets the definition of native vegetation. 

Marine vegetation such as mangroves, seagrasses or any other plant species that at any time in its life cycle must inhabit water other than fresh water is not included in the area clearing threshold calculation. Clearing of marine vegetation is regulated under the Fisheries Management Act 1994 (NSW).

Exotic vegetation 

In certain circumstances you can adjust your calculations to account for exotic vegetation when considering the area clearing threshold.

Changes to the calculation cannot be made when:

  • the primary community type is naturally a grassland plant community type
  • the vegetation meets the definition of a threatened ecological community according to the scientific description in the final determination published by the Threatened Species Scientific Committee 
  • the vegetation meets the definition of a threatened ecological community or habitat for a species listed under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (Cth) 
  • the vegetation is assessed to determine land categorisation under the Local Land Services Act 2013 (NSW).

Learn more about threatened ecological communities.

Calculations for partially exotic ground cover vegetation may be adjusted where the mid-shrub layer or tree layer is primarily absent. To make an adjustment:

  • calculate areas that are greater than 75% native vegetation as 100% native 
  • calculate areas that are 15-75% native by multiplying the proportion (%) of native cover by the total area to be cleared
  • calculate areas that are less than 15% native vegetation as 100% exotic and exclude from the native vegetation extent.

To determine the proportion of exotic species ground cover, use a robust and repeatable scientific method such as the quadrat field assessment method. The method and results should be documented to provide an evidence-based justification to the consent authority that demonstrates that the approach and calculations have been made appropriately.

For more information on applying the quadrat field assessment method, go to the guidance document 

Non-native vegetation or vegetation that is dead or dying 

Non-native vegetation or vegetation that is dead or dying that occurs on category 2 ­- vulnerable regulated land must be considered in the same way as native vegetation for the Biodiversity Offsets Scheme entry requirements and assessments. 

To learn more about the categories of regulated land, see map categories.

The total development footprint  

The total footprint of the development must be considered when applying the Biodiversity Offsets Scheme entry requirements.

The development footprint can be referred to as the: 

  • total footprint of the development
  • footprint of the development proposal
  • clearing footprint
  • proposed clearing footprint
  • clearing activity
  • proposed development
  • total footprint
  • total development.

The development footprint is the area directly impacted by the development and includes the entire area, subject to the proposal's construction and operational phases. It may also include non-vegetated areas such as existing buildings. 

Include both permanent and temporary direct impacts in the development footprint. Examples of direct impacts include:

  • access roads
  • areas used to store construction materials
  • ancillary infrastructure
  • temporary structures (for example, access tracks or haul roads only used during construction)
  • modifications to existing infrastructure (for example, road widening), driveways 
  • sheds or carports
  • building envelopes
  • landscaping
  • access and easements 
  • the entire asset protection zone
  • utilities
  • fence lines
  • effluent management areas.

If the proposed development is for a subdivision, the development footprint must be based on the total area, that, in the opinion of the consent authority or other planning approval body, is required for the purposes for which the land is to be subdivided. 

This includes, where relevant:

  • clearing for new boundary fence lines in response to section 76 of the Rural Fires Act 1997 (NSW)
  • upgrading road or other infrastructure or ancillary services 
  • recreational and hobby farming activities
  • any other uses ancillary to that development.

Bushfire safety clearing entitlements 

Consider all biodiversity impacts resulting from proposed development, including any additional clearing entitlements (current or future) that apply because of the approval, such as clearing authorised by: 

  • the 10/50 Vegetation Clearing Code of Practice under section 100R of the Rural Fires Act 1997 (NSW)
  • the Rural Boundary Clearing Code under section 100RB of the Rural Fires Act
  • the Planning for Bush Fire Protection 2019 document, which contains specifications and requirements that developments must conform to under section 4.14 of the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act 1979 (NSW) before development consent can be granted.

If the approved development allows clearing of native vegetation, including for the creation and management of asset protection zones or other fire management clearing, the areas eligible for clearing are added to the total development footprint when assessing scheme entry requirements.

Where the specifications of asset protection zones are yet to be discovered and the 10/50 Vegetation Clearing Code of Practice applies, a 50-metre buffer around proposed buildings must be included in the total development footprint. 

Where the planned buffer is smaller than the 10/50 clearing entitlement, the consent conditions can require vegetation management beyond the asset protection zone up to 50 metres. Any clearing under the 10/50 Vegetation Clearing Code of Practice cannot be inconsistent with a condition of development consent that identifies and requires retaining and managing vegetation for conservation purposes. 

If there is a proposal for an asset protection zone in partially cleared vegetation or a subsequent 10/50 clearing entitlement area, the partially cleared vegetation area should still be included in the overall development footprint. This is done to check if the proposed development exceeds the scheme entry requirements.

Include Local Land Services Act clearing entitlements 

Where a proposal, such as a subdivision on rural land, results in additional clearing entitlements as allowable activities under the Local Land Services Act 2013 (NSW), the additional entitlements must be included in the total development footprint for that proposal. 

This applies to determining the entry requirements for the Biodiversity Offsets Scheme and the subsequent Biodiversity Development Assessment Report (where applicable).

For example, if a new subdivision on rural land creates new boundaries or requires internal fence lines, you must include any areas subject to new clearing entitlements as a direct result of the approved subdivision (or development) in the proposed development.

This ensures that the proposed development's total biodiversity impacts are fully considered. 

Category 1 land 

Under Part 5A of the Local Land Services Act 2013 (NSW)native vegetation on category 1 land is not included in any area clearing calculations when deciding whether a Biodiversity Development Assessment Report should be prepared, unless the native vegetation is assessed as a critically endangered ecological community. 

Clearing of native vegetation on land that meets the definition of category 1 – exempt land under the Local Land Services Act 2013 (NSW) does not require assessment or offsetting under the Biodiversity Assessment Method. 

A development on category 1 – exempt land may involve other biodiversity impacts for which a Biodiversity Development Assessment Report will be required, including:

  • a prescribed impact on land mapped on the Biodiversity Values Map – effects prescribed are listed in clause 6.1 of the Biodiversity Conservation Regulation 2017 (NSW) – not including native vegetation clearing associated with the prescribed impact
  • a likely significant effect on threatened species, ecological communities or their habitats according to the test under section 7.3 of the Biodiversity Conservation Act 2016 (NSW).

While the Native Vegetation Regulatory map is being finalised, landowners will be responsible for determining the categorisation of their land, in accordance with the Local Land Services Act 2013 (NSW). 

For more information please see the guidance in: 

If you would like more information about this process:

For developments occurring on rural land (not including RU5 land), the department recommends to accredited assessors that they first establish whether land is category 1 – exempt land. An application for planning approval submitted to a consent authority should clearly indicate the area of land determined to be category 1 – exempt land and be supported by evidence-based justification.

If the Biodiversity Offsets Scheme applies to the proposal, impacts on additional biodiversity values prescribed in the Biodiversity Conservation Regulation 2017 (NSW) need to be assessed in the category 1 area. Requirements for assessment of impacts on prescribed biodiversity values are set out in the Biodiversity Assessment Method. Prescribed impacts are listed in clause 6.1 of the Biodiversity Conservation Regulation.

Decision makers can expect that the Biodiversity Development Assessment Report will only contain information relevant to prescribed impacts for category 1 – exempt land. Impact assessment and offset calculations relating to vegetation integrity and habitat suitability are not required.