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Biodiversity certification process


Applying for biodiversity certification

If you are a landowner or planning authority looking to apply for biodiversity certification, contact your regional office early in the planning process. For a list of regional contacts, please go to Scheme contacts.

An application for standard biodiversity certification may be made by a planning authority or by all the owners of the land proposed for biodiversity certification. This includes by any other person, with the approval in writing from all landowners.

Biodiversity certification does not change land use zones or the types of development permissible within these zones.  

When existing zones or development controls do not support the type of development being assessed in an application for standard biodiversity certification, the department expects the application to be supported by a planning proposal and gateway determination.

Strategic biodiversity certification is only available to planning authorities as defined in the Biodiversity Conservation Act 2016 (NSW). Strategic certification facilitates strategic land use planning on a landscape scale, considers various conservation objectives and land uses, and should align with and support relevant strategic land use plans. For more information, see Strategic biodiversity certification.

To apply for biodiversity certification, complete the 

Please include a Biodiversity Certification Assessment Report prepared by an accredited assessor.  

The biodiversity certification process 

There are 6 main steps in the biodiversity certification process.  

Step 1: Plan and design the project 

  • Before you start the application, carefully plan and design your project.
  • Identify the biodiversity certification assessment area which includes land you want to be certified (for development) and surrounding or adjacent land where impacts will be avoided.
  • Get in touch with the department and your local council. Early discussions on avoiding important biodiversity values will optimise biodiversity outcomes and streamline the biodiversity certification application process.
  • It can be helpful to seek advice from an accredited assessor early in the planning phase.
  • Determine whether your project may be considered ‘strategic’. A planning authority or the Minister for Planning can apply for this declaration from the Minister for the Environment. To learn which projects have been considered strategic in the past, see Biodiversity certification proposals declared strategic.

Step 2: Conduct a biodiversity assessment

  • Hire an accredited assessor to assess the biodiversity in the biodiversity certification assessment area using The Biodiversity Assessment Method.
    See The role of an accredited assessor.
  • Locate land proposed for certification so that it avoids or minimises impacts on native vegetation and threatened species habitat.
  • The accredited assessor will identify impacts on biodiversity on the land proposed for certification and determine the biodiversity credits required to offset those impacts.
  • Once the assessment is complete, the assessor will produce a Biodiversity Certification Assessment Report. This report must state how you plan to offset impacts by retiring credits, making a payment to the Biodiversity Conservation Fund or taking other measures.
  • The department recommends having the Biodiversity Certification Assessment Report reviewed by the department before proceeding. 

Find an accredited assessor

Step 3: Consult with the local council 

  • If you are not a planning authority, consult with your local council before placing your application on public exhibition.
  • The local council has 42 days to provide feedback. After this, you can submit your response to their feedback to the department. 

Step 4: Submit your application and invite public consultation 

  • After consulting with your local council, invite the public to give feedback on your application.
  • We suggest sending your application to the department for review before the public exhibition to avoid the need for re-exhibition if changes are made.
  • Provide a report to the department summarising the public feedback and your responses.
  • For applications that also involve a planning proposal, public notification for a biodiversity certification application can occur at the same time as community consultation on the planning proposal.

Step 5: Minister for the Environment determines the application 

  • The department will review your application against the Biodiversity Conservation Act 2016 (NSW) and Biodiversity Conservation Regulation 2017 (NSW).
  • The department then recommends action to the Minister for the Environment, who must consult with the Minister for Planning.
  • The Minister for the Environment decides on the certification after considering the Biodiversity Certification Assessment Report, any serious and irreversible impacts, and the adequacy of the proposed conservation measures.
  • The Minister might ask you to commit to a biodiversity certification agreement to ensure the future implementation of conservation measures.
  • If the application is approved, the Minister for the Environment will confer certification through an order published in the NSW Government Gazette.
  • After certification is conferred, you will not need individual site assessments for biodiversity or be subject to the Biodiversity Offsets Scheme on the certified land.
  • You must ensure you comply with all conditions of the certification order and any associated agreement. View the Register of biodiversity certification orders.

Step 6: Ongoing compliance 

  • All parties to a biodiversity certification order or a biodiversity certification agreement must carry out the conservation measures and conditions set out in the biodiversity certification order or biodiversity certification agreement.
  • The department will conduct regular reviews of certifications and check that all parties uphold the conservation measures and conditions outlined in the certification and agreements (if applicable).