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Avoid, minimise and meet your offset obligations


1. Avoid and minimise potential impacts

Avoiding or minimising impacts on biodiversity lowers the costs of potential offsets.

To apply the Biodiversity Assessment Method, engage an accredited assessor to undertake a field assessment to:

  • confirm the impact of your proposed project on biodiversity values  
  • refine the project’s design to avoid and minimise these impacts.  

Learn about the Biodiversity Assessment Method.

It is a legal requirement for proponents to show, before they can consider offsetting, that an impact cannot be avoided or minimised. The level of avoidance and minimisation is considered by the consent authority during the approval process.  

Impacts that can be avoided do not need offsets. Proponents can calculate the financial ‘costs and benefits’ associated with redesigning a project by considering the likely offset liabilities associated with:

  • an initial project footprint
  • a final design after avoiding and minimising impacts.

2. Be aware ‘assuming presence’ may unnecessarily increase costs

Some species have specific assessment requirements. You can either survey for these species to confirm their presence or absence, or assume they are present.  

Where species are assumed present, a higher offset obligation and cost will apply. This is because it is assumed that the species are present on site and will be impacted by your development, and so you must offset the impact. The impact is still calculated in species credits.

When engaging an accredited assessor or comparing quotes from accredited assessors you should carefully consider the implications of assuming species are present – what may appear to save you money now may turn out to be more expensive after your project is approved. Ensure that you clarify up-front whether species will be surveyed or assumed present and what that may mean for your project.  

Pricing for some species credits means that surveying for species may produce a better financial outcome than relying on assumed presence.

For more information:

3. Apply for a reduced credit obligation

Local development proponents can apply for a reduced credit obligation from the consent authority that is approving their development proposal — usually a local council. To seek a reduced credit obligation, you must:

  • apply at the time you lodge your development application  
  • clearly demonstrate how you believe that your proposal will provide a gain to the community under the principles of ecologically sustainable development.

If the consent authority supports your application, you must seek concurrence from the department before a reduced credit obligation is approved. In assessing your proposed reduction, the department will consider:

  • any Biodiversity Development Assessment Report prepared for the development and the impacts of the development on biodiversity values that will not be offset  
  • any further assessment report prepared by, or on behalf of, the proponent
  • whether it facilitates ecologically sustainable development.

For more information, see Concurrence requirements for a reduced credit obligation.

4. Consider staging development  

All proposed project impacts must be offset prior to any impacts occurring. Certain projects, including major projects and concept development applications for local developments, may have the option of staging development.  

If you can plan your project to stage any impacts on biodiversity, you may also be able to stage the delivery of offsets and the timing of associated costs. This can help with up-front costs and cash flow.  

5. Choose the most appropriate offset options 

If an offset is required, choose the best offsetting mix from the options available for your land and project circumstances. You could:  

  • seek credits on the open market
  • use existing landholdings or acquire new landholdings to generate credits to retire  
  • contact the Biodiversity Credits Supply Taskforce and submit an expression of interest to seek support in sourcing credits
  • pay into the NSW Biodiversity Conservation Fund and transfer the obligation to the Biodiversity Conservation Trust.  

If there are no registered sellers of the credits you need, you can also consider establishing competitive tender processes for larger projects or a reverse auction for credits.  

Credits that are generated by a proponent through their own Biodiversity Stewardship Agreement or purchased directly from a landholder are typically cheaper than paying into the Biodiversity Conservation Fund. This is because payments to the Biodiversity Conservation Fund include a risk premium and administrative costs associated with finding credits.  

See the Biodiversity Credits Supply Taskforce Credit Demand Expression of Interest.