The Biodiversity Conservation Bill 2016 (NSW) (‘the Bill’) has been presented to the public for comment and will replace the Threatened Species Act 1995(NSW) and Native Vegetation Act 2003 (NSW). The Bill will introduce a new biodiversity offset scheme that will be mandatory where a development is “likely to have an impact on biodiversity.” This includes changing the vegetation to a degree where it is not at a “near natural state.”
The offset scheme will introduce credits. Credits will be created when developers take out specified steps in relation to sustainable management of land. Subsequent to the creation of these credits they can be sold to other developers and used in relation to developments that may have a negative impact on the land.
A consent authority will be inaugurated to oversee the offset scheme and will have additional discretion to enforce the scheme on developments that do not meet the threshold of “likely having an impact on biodiversity.” The Minister will also have the discretion to allow certain developments to make payment to the Biodiversity Conservation Fund instead of using credits.
The legislation will also introduce mandatory biodiversity assessments reports from an accredited assessor. As most developments are “likely to have an impact on biodiversity” it is probable that such reports will be required for all developments.