New land clearing and biodiversity conservation framework for NSW

What has happened?

On Friday, 25 August 2015:

  • The following legislation was repealed (along with related subordinate legislation):
  1. the Native Vegetation Act 2003 ; and
  2. the Threatened Species Conservation Act 1995; and
  • The following legislation commenced:
  1. amendments to the Local Land Services Act 2013 (LLS Act); 
  2. the Biodiversity Conservation Act 2016 (BC Act); and
  3. the State Environmental Planning Policy (Vegetation in Non-Rural Areas) 2017 (Vegetation SEPP).

What is the effect of the new legislation?

The new regulatory framework established under the LLS Act will be supported by:

  1. a Native Vegetation Regulatory Map (Map); and
  2. a Land Management Code (Code).

The Map will identify rural land (Regulated Land) subject to the new LLS Act provisions. Clearing on other land (Unregulated Land) will be subject to the Vegetation SEPP.  

The Code contains 5 parts covering:

  1. Invasive native species: species that have reached unnatural densities and which dominate an area can be removed
  2. Pasture expansion: enables remove of woody vegetation by uniform or mosaic thinning to promote native pastures
  3. Continuing use: lawful land management activities in place since 1990 can continue
  4. Equity: enables removal of paddock trees, compromised native groundcover, and native vegetation from small areas in exchange for offset areas containing remnant vegetation
  5. Farm Plan: enables removal of paddock trees and clearing of Regulated Land in exchange for offset areas containing remnant vegetation.

Clearing consistent with the Code does not require approval.

The amendments to the LLS Act also provide for "Allowable Activities". These cover a range of routine land management activities which can be carried out without further approval.

Clearing that is neither an Allowable Activity or consistent with the Code requires approval from a new Native Vegetation Panel (Panel).

The Panel will apply an approval process which enables landholders to offset biodiversity impacts of clearing using biodiversity credits.

The Vegetation SEPP will apply to the clearing of:

  • native vegetation above "Biodiversity Offset Scheme" (BOS) threshold where the proponent will require approval from the Panel; and
  • vegetation below the BOS threshold where the proponent will require a Council permit in accordance with a DCP.

The BOS threshold is set by Part 7 of the Biodiversity Conservation Regulation 2017.

Once implemented (expected in 2018), the new BC Act will establish a "risk-based" approach to managing activities which may impact biodiversity:

  • low risk activities are exempt from regulation;
  • moderate risk activities require compliance with codes of practice; and
  • high risk activities require a licence.


These amendments represent a very significant change to the way in which native vegetation clearing and biodiversity impacts are regulated.

Some elements, including the Map, the Panel procedures, and the licensing regime under the BC Act have not yet been finalised.

Until this occurs, it remains uncertain whether this complex new framework strikes an appropriate balance between the commercial objectives of persons proposing to clear native vegetation or to activities that will effect biodiversity and the need to protect the environment.

Further information

For further information on these amendments and their potential implications for your development please contact Marcus Steele, Director, on (02) 8005-1411 or