IMPORTANT UPDATE: Please note that as of 27 July 2022, management of the BSA application processes will be handed over to Credit Supply Taskforce (CST) at DPE. This means expression of interest, application, and variation processes for BSAs will no longer be managed by the BCT. Landholders at these stages of the BSA process should visit the BSA taskforce webpage for more information.
The BCT is still supporting landholders following the establishment of a BSA. This includes conducting annual site visits and supporting the annual reporting process. In light of this change, the BCT will be updating some of the information on this page in the coming weeks.
This page contains a complete digital version of the Biodiversity Stewardship Agreement (BSA) Landholder Guide. You can also download the printable version below.
This guide provides information for anyone interested in establishing a biodiversity stewardship agreement (BSA). It includes an overview of the process and the key matters you should consider before, during and after establishing a BSA on your land.
Abbreviations, definitions and acronyms
This guide provides information for anyone interested in establishing a biodiversity stewardship agreement (BSA). It includes an overview of the process and the key matters you should consider before, during and after establishing a BSA on your land.
This guide provides information on:
- the role of the Biodiversity Offsets Scheme in NSW and opportunities for landholders to be involved,
- the suitability and eligibility of your land for a BSA,
- how to establish a BSA on your land,
- what happens after you’ve signed your BSA,
- the benefits and obligations of a BSA, and
- selling your biodiversity credits.
We recommend you read the whole guide so you are familiar with the complete BSA process, from expressing your interest, to what to expect after you’ve signed your agreement.
This guide can also be used by landholders with Biobanking Agreements under the previous Biobanking Scheme, who would like to review the annual reporting and payment process, who are looking to vary their agreement to add biodiversity credits, or who may be looking to sell their land.
Please use this document as a guide only. We encourage all landholders interested in a BSA to seek independent legal, financial and taxation advice.
The Biodiversity Offsets Scheme (BOS) is a NSW Government framework for assessing and offsetting the impact of development on biodiversity in NSW. The BOS replaced the BioBanking Scheme in NSW in 2016 and provides a transparent, consistent and scientifically based approach to avoiding, minimising and offsetting impacts on native biodiversity. Biobanking Agreements established under the Biobanking scheme are now managed under the Biodiversity Conservation Act 2016 (BC Act) as biodiversity stewardship agreements.
As shown in Figure 1 below, there are two key elements to the BOS:
- Those who plan to clear native vegetation for development have an obligation to offset that biodiversity loss. This is called a biodiversity credit obligation. The appropriate number and type of biodiversity credits must be retired (or the obligation transferred) before development can commence.
- Landholders who establish a BSA on their land to protect and enhance biodiversity in perpetuity, and generate biodiversity credits. These credits can be bought by those seeking to offset the biodiversity loss associated with their development.
A biodiversity offset is the protection of native biodiversity values within a landscape, whether it be habitat for a particular species, a vegetation type, or similar. When a development impacts those biodiversity values, that impact needs to be offset (negated) by protecting and improving similar biodiversity values on another site which is not subject to development. The flora and fauna of that site need to be protected, managed and enhanced for it to be considered a ‘biodiversity offset’, and the site must achieve an improvement or ‘gain’ in biodiversity values.
In the BOS, a biodiversity offset is created by a landholder establishing a BSA with the BCT to manage their land for conservation. Biodiversity credits are generated from the management actions that improve biodiversity values.
Under the BOS, the requirement to secure a biodiversity offset is determined only after reasonable steps have been taken to avoid and minimise biodiversity impacts arising from a development. When development or clearing generates a biodiversity credit obligation, the developer or landholder must source and retire specific biodiversity credits to offset their activity (see section 1.6 for more information on biodiversity credits).
A BSA is a legal agreement between you (the legal owner of the land - see section 4.1 for more information) and the Minister administering the BC Act, to establish a biodiversity stewardship site for the purpose of generating biodiversity credits under the BOS (i.e. to establish an offset site). A BSA identifies the land to which the agreement applies and the BSA is registered on the title of the land in- perpetuity.
The terms of the BSA are agreed between the landholder and the BCT before it is signed. Your BSA clearly states your obligations and entitlements in relation to your biodiversity stewardship site, including:
- the management actions you are required to undertake at the site to improve its biodiversity values,
- the number and class of biodiversity credits created by the BSA,
- annual reporting requirements to demonstrate compliance with the BSA, and
- the amount required to be deposited in the Biodiversity Stewardship Payment Fund (the total fund deposit), along with the payment schedule and conditions for you to receive annual payments from this fund.
A biodiversity stewardship site is the agreed area of your land that you would like to manage for conservation, from which you will generate biodiversity credits. This land will be bound by the terms of the BSA, which clearly defines the area, boundaries and management obligations of the biodiversity stewardship site.
Biodiversity credits are generated when you establish a BSA. There are two types of biodiversity credits: species credits and ecosystem credits, with hundreds of different types within each category. Biodiversity credits represent the expected improvement (gain) in biodiversity values that will result from the protection and management of your biodiversity stewardship site. The number and type of biodiversity credits generated by a BSA varies depending on the type and condition of the vegetation, threatened species present, and how your land will be managed to improve the biodiversity. The relationship between the condition of your land and land management is demonstrated in Figure 2 below.
Determining which type and how many biodiversity credits could be generated on your biodiversity stewardship site is achieved using the Biodiversity Assessment Method (BAM) (see section 4.5.3 for more information on how credits are calculated). Ecological consultants who successfully complete BAM accredited assessor training and meet the accreditation criteria are accredited to apply the BAM. These consultants are referred to as accredited assessors. Accredited assessors use the BAM to assess the biodiversity values on your land. The outcomes of the assessment are used to calculate the number and type of biodiversity credits that can be generated by establishing a BSA.
Biodiversity credits can be bought and sold like any other commodity. When sold to a buyer, this transaction is called a ‘transfer’. Biodiversity credits are used to offset the loss of biodiversity values on development sites. When used for this purpose they are ‘retired’, which means they cannot be sold again. Credits may also be bought and retired by third parties seeking to invest in conservation outcomes including individuals, philanthropic organisations or government.
For information on generating biodiversity credits on your land see section 4.5.
For information on transfer and retirement of biodiversity credits see section 5.3.
A BSA provides permanent protection of native biodiversity on your land. If you choose to sign a BSA, you will be part of a large and fast-growing community of landholders who are managing and improving biodiversity and receiving funding to do so.
By signing a BSA, you can:
- secure ongoing funding for management actions to improve the site’s biodiversity values into the future,
- permanently protect native biodiversity that is under threat,
- make a potential profit from the proceeds of selling biodiversity credits,
- be exempt from paying land tax on the proportion of land designated as a biodiversity stewardship site (see the BCT Landholder Taxation Guide for more information), and
- watch and enjoy the biodiversity on your land flourish through recreational activities such as bird-watching and bush walking.
The NSW Biodiversity Conservation Trust (BCT) is a NSW State Government private land conservation agency established under the BC Act. The BCT has two main duties under the BOS: the establishment and management of BSAs, and the delivery of offsets for development. The NSW Government Department of Planning, Industry, and Environment (DPIE) is responsible for developing and administering the BOS, primarily through the Environment, Energy and Science (EES) Group (formerly known as the Office of Environment and Heritage or OEH).
The BCT’s roles and responsibilities in the NSW Biodiversity Offsets Scheme include:
- working with landholders to establish and manage BSAs which generate biodiversity credits,
- reviewing and approving BSA applications and BSA variations,
- providing landholder support to BSA holders,
- reviewing and conducting annual site visits for BSA annual reporting,
- managing the Biodiversity Stewardships Payment Fund including receiving total fund deposit payments and paying annual management payments,
- managing the Biodiversity Conservation Fund,
- acting as a market intermediary and securing offsets on behalf of developers who pay into the Biodiversity Conservation Fund, and
- directing the allocation of NSW Government funding to secure offsets under various place- specific biodiversity offsets schemes.
The roles and responsibilities of DPIE (more specifically, EES) in the Biodiversity Offsets Scheme include:
- administering the Biodiversity Offsets Scheme,
- managing the Biodiversity Offset Scheme biodiversity credit public registers,
- transferring and retiring biodiversity credits,
- acting as lead agency on legislation and policy settings,
- developing and running the Biodiversity Assessment Method (BAM) accreditation scheme including training, auditing and receiving feedback on accredited assessors,
- developing and applying the Biodiversity Assessment Method (BAM),
- managing BOS Systems including:
- Biodiversity Assessment Methodology Calculator (BAM-C)
- Biodiversity Offset Assessment Management System (BOAMS)
- Biodiversity Accredited Assessor System (BAAS),
- implementing and administering the Native Vegetation Regulatory Map (NVR Map) and the Biodiversity Values Map (BV Map),
- maintaining and updating BioNet (repository for NSW biodiversity data) and
- implementing the determination of credit equivalence as a transitional arrangement with the replacement of the Threatened Species Conservation and Native Vegetation Acts by the BC Act.
For more information, you are encouraged to contact the BCT or EES. The details below can be used to contact the relevant department.
NSW Biodiversity Conservation Trust
[email protected] Phone: 1300 992 688
Environment, Energy and Science
[email protected] Phone: 1300 361 967
Biodiversity Assessment Method Enquiries
Biobanking credit transfers and retirements
BOS credit transactions BBAM/BAM credit equivalences
2. General considerations before applying for a BSA
Establishing a biodiversity stewardship agreement (BSA) on your land is a significant decision that has long-term implications. You should carefully evaluate the benefits, costs and obligations associated with a BSA, as you would for any new opportunity or business enterprise. You should be sure of the following before you proceed with a BSA:
3. Financial considerations before applying for a BSA
Establishment of a biodiversity stewardship site involves a range of costs and fees, which are outlined below. The BCT highly recommends seeking independent advice from an accountant or taxation specialist before applying for a BSA.
Establishing a biodiversity stewardship site on your property should be treated as a business decision. It is important that you weigh up all the costs and implications against the benefits of permanently securing and improving the site’s biodiversity values.
Before deciding to apply for a BSA, costs that you should consider include (but are not limited to) the following:
- The cost of establishing a BSA, including:
- the BSA application fee,
- determining your eligibility for a BSA,
- engaging an accredited assessor to apply the Biodiversity Assessment Methodology, including site assessment and preparation of a Biodiversity Stewardship Site Assessment Report (BSSAR),
- engaging a suitably qualified person to prepare the TFD, and
- legal fees and taxation advice fees.
- The opportunity cost to you, for example:
- land value,
- stamp duty, and
- your profit or risk margin.
To recover these costs, you may choose to factor them into the price of your biodiversity credits. The credit pricing worksheet of the Total Fund Deposit Calculator can help you to weigh up the costs for establishing a biodiversity stewardship site on your property against the price you may receive for your biodiversity credits (see section 5.3.2). Note that the credit pricing worksheet is a tool you can use but does not need to be submitted to the BCT as part of the BSA application.
For more information on the cost of engaging an accredited assessor see section 4.5.1.
For more information on pricing your credits see section 5.3.2.
The business and financial structure for each stewardship site is different. The exact way in which taxation law will affect you will depend on your individual circumstances.
The BCT Taxation Guide for Landholders outlines the tax implications of establishing a biodiversity stewardship site and is available on the BCT website.
The information in the fact sheet is a guide only, and includes:
- Capital Gain Tax events (D41 and A12)
- Income Tax
- Goods and Services Tax (GST)
- NSW Land Tax Exemption.
Remember to factor in the costs of meeting these legal and taxation requirements into the costs of establishing and administering your biodiversity stewardship site.
Yes. You will need an ABN registered for GST that is in the same name as the title of the land. The GST registration must match the ABN of the business enterprise carrying on the business.
Further information on GST is available in the BCT Taxation Guide for Landholders.
The BCT strongly recommends you seek independent legal, financial and taxation advice before submitting a BSA application.
The bank account which receives the annual management payments from the BCT must be in the same name as the landholder listed on the title of the land. If there are two or more landholders, the bank account can be in either person’s name if the owner(s) of the bank account are also listed as landholders on the title search. If the land is owned by a company, the bank account must be owned by the company listed on the land title and not the relevant office holders.
As a BSA is placed on the land title, only those landholder/s are able receive the payments.
If the land is held in trust, either the trustee or the trust bank account can be used to receive annual management payments.
When you submit your BSA application, you will provide your bank account details using the ‘nominated bank account’ form.
Further information on bank accounts is available in the BCT Taxation Guide for Landholders.
4. Starting the BSA process
The main steps in the establishment and ongoing management of a biodiversity stewardship agreement (BSA) are outlined below.
Confirming the eligibility of your land, and you, as the landholder, is the first step in deciding if a BSA is right for you. The BCT encourages you to confirm your eligibility before taking further steps towards establishing a BSA. The BC Act sets the eligibility and legal requirements for a biodiversity stewardship site.
Biodiversity stewardship sites can be established on most land in NSW subject to the requirements of the BC Act and the BC Regulation. In some circumstances, the past use of your land may mean that it is ineligible for a BSA, for example where:
- current or previous use of the land is inconsistent with biodiversity conservation,
- current or previous land use will prevent management actions from being carried out,
- current or previous land use will prevent the purpose of management actions from being achieved, or
- if the land has already been used as a biodiversity offset.
Examples of ineligible land includes:
- land that is polluted and cannot be remediated,
- land that is subject to ongoing negative impacts that are out of the control of the landholder, that would prevent management actions from being completed or prevent biodiversity improvement, or
- if the land has already been used as an offset for impacts on biodiversity previously, such as a set aside, property vegetation plan, or an area retained to offset clearing as part of a subdivision.
If you are unsure whether your land is eligible for a BSA, further information is available in the BCT BSA Application Supporting Document Guide. You can also contact the BCT for more information.
There is no mandatory minimum size for a BSA.
A BSA must however be of a sufficient size and configuration so maintenance and improvement of biodiversity values on site are achievable. Isolated, fragmented, small, or narrow linear sites are more likely to require ongoing intensive management, and this may affect the financial viability of a BSA.
We encourage you to engage with the BCT if you are uncertain about the suitability and feasibility of your land due to the size, configuration or adjoining land.
For further guidance, you may also choose to engage a person with appropriate experience in the BOS in your location to undertake a feasibility assessment or business case.
Yes. A BSA can be established on separate parcels of land, provided all the parcels have the same ownership structure on the Certificate of Title (see section 4.1.8) The parcels must also be within the same property*.
*BCT defines a property according to the description provided by the Valuer General for the purposes of land taxation and council rates and is identified by a single Property Number.
Yes. A BSA can be established on publicly owned land, including:
- land owned or leased by Crown Lands,
- local government/council owned land, and
- land owned by the Commonwealth Government.
A BSA can be established on Crown Land if the land is under the control and management of:
- a government department,
- a public authority that is not a government department, or
- local government.
BSAs on Crown Land, including western land leases, must be created in accordance with the Biodiversity conservation agreements on Crown Land Policy and with the consent of the Minister administering the Crown Land Management Act 2016. The policy outlines which Crown Land may be considered and approved for BCT agreements, including BSAs.
A BSA cannot be established on Crown timber lands as the land management obligations are inconsistent with the conservation objectives of a BSA.
You decide which parts and how much of your property are included within your biodiversity stewardship site. You should consider future land use and exclude any areas you may want to develop or use for purposes other than biodiversity conservation. This includes areas for future dwellings, sheds or similar infrastructure.
Land that you own may have restrictions on the use of the land, or allow others to access it. If you do not have sole control of a portion of your land, biodiversity credits are generally not able to be generated from that area. Examples of such restrictions include:
- a Right of Carriage Way, Easement for Access or Right of Access over the land, giving another landholder the authority to use that portion,
- a power line easement that allows the company to maintain the vegetation underneath the poles,
- a Crown Road for which the land is not in the ownership of the landholder and cannot form part of the BSA, and
- a Section 88B covenant (Conveyancing Act 1919) restricting the way a portion of the land can be used.
Sometimes past land uses, the size of the land and/or adjacent land uses mean that it is unlikely that biodiversity values of the site can be improved even under management as a biodiversity stewardship site. This may mean no credits can be generated from that area or the area is excluded from the biodiversity stewardship site. Common examples include previous ground disturbance and small areas surrounded by residential development.
The BSA Application Supporting Document Guide provides more information on how to find out if portions of your land are not eligible to generate credits, or would generate a reduced number of credits.
If you have existing legal obligations to manage or conserve biodiversity on the land you’ve proposed as a biodiversity stewardship site, biodiversity credits will only be created for management actions that are in addition to those already required. The reduction in credits resulting from existing management obligations (‘additionality’), will be calculated by your accredited assessor when helping you prepare the BSA application. These calculations will be reviewed by the BCT once your BSA application is submitted. See section 9.1.2 for more information on additionality.
It is important that you tell your accredited assessor about any existing obligations or land use restrictions which may fit in this category. Examples of existing obligations to conserve biodiversity include conservation agreements and council-managed public reserves.
For more information on how reduced credit generation due to additionality may apply to your land, the BCT recommends that you speak to an accredited assessor or BCT staff.
If your land has already been used to offset past development or a property vegetation plan, your land is not eligible for a BSA. See section 4.1.1.
Land that is subject to a mortgage, lease, charge, covenant or mining interest
Before applying for a BSA, you must inform and obtain written consent from any property interest holders for land that is:
- leased, including land that is subject to a residential tenancy agreement, from the tenant or lessee,
- subject to a mortgage or charge from the mortgagee or charge, and
- the subject of a mining lease or mineral claim under the Mining Act 1992, or a production lease under the Petroleum (Onshore) Act 1991, from the holder of the lease or claim.
These parties are referred to as property interest holders.
It is recommended you seek written consent prior to an accredited assessor starting a full assessment of your land. If consent is not provided, your land will not be eligible for a BSA.
See the BSA Application Supporting Documents Guide or contact the BCT for more information on whether you need written consent, and if required, how to seek written consent.
Ministerial consultation with property interest holders
You may have a covenant and/or a mining exploration licence covering all or a portion of your land. In these circumstances the BCT is required to consult with the owner of the covenant and/or the mining exploration licence before you can establish a BSA.
If this is relevant to your land, the BCT will undertake this step once your accredited assessor has submitted the BSA application.
The BCT BSA Application Supporting Documents Guide provides guidance on how to determine if you have a covenant or a mining exploration licence over your land. We encourage you to contact the BCT for more information.
Only the person(s) who owns the land, or a legal entity that owns the land, can establish a BSA. A title search of the land will show the names of all landholders. All land proposed to form part of a biodiversity stewardship site must have the same ownership structure and be owned by the same landholder(s).
For information on how to complete a title search refer to the BSA Application Supporting Documents Guide.
Can you establish a biodiversity stewardship site on land owned by more than one person?
You can sign a BSA with other people or another legal entity, such as a company, provided that all the people or entities are owners of the land and are party to the agreement.
When a proposed biodiversity stewardship site comprises separate parcels of land owned by more than one landholder, the multiple landholders can establish a BSA only if they jointly own all the separate parcels. Otherwise, separate BSAs will need to be established.
For example, if company A, company B and Ms X propose to establish a BSA for land parcels 1, 2 and 3, all three parties must own all three land parcels.
Can you establish a biodiversity stewardship site on land owned by a trustee of a trust?
Yes, however additional supporting information must be provided to the BCT as part of the BSA application. The BCT will sign the BSA with the company trustee in both of its capacities; in its capacity as a company; and as trustee for the trust.
For more information see the BCT Landholder guide on taxation issues.
To assess if you are likely to fulfil your obligations under a BSA, all individuals and entities (such as corporations) seeking a BSA must meet the requirements of a ‘fit and proper person’.
Section 5.3 of the BC Regulation outlines the matters that may be considered when determining whether an individual or entity are considered to be a fit and proper person to establish a BSA. Factors that the BCT will consider as part of the fit and proper person test include whether the landholder:
- has not broken environmental legislation,
- has good character references which indicate the landholder is honest and acts with integrity,
- has the ability to undertake or project manage the conservation work required under the proposed BSA,
- has not been convicted of an offence involving fraud or dishonesty,
- has not been an undischarged bankrupt, or for a corporation, has not been the subject of a winding-up order or had a controller or administrator appointed to manage it over the previous three years, and
- has demonstrated their financial capacity to comply with the obligations of the proposed BSA.
In the case of a corporation, some of these considerations extend to directors.
The BSA application form prompts you to declare any factors that may be considered by the BCT as part of the fit and proper person test. Evidence of the applicant being a fit and proper person is required to be submitted with a BSA application (see BCT BSA Application Supporting Documents Guide for more information).
Please contact the BCT if you would like to discuss the fit and proper person test.
A BSA expression of interest (EOI) is one of the first steps you can take towards establishing a biodiversity stewardship site on your property. Submitting a BSA EOI is free of charge and indicates that you are interested in establishing a BSA and that you would like prospective credit purchasers to contact you. It does not carry any rights or obligations.
The BSA EOI provides information about the broad location of your property. It also lists the vegetation and threatened species present that might generate biodiversity credits if a biodiversity stewardship site were to be established. EOIs are recorded online on the Biodiversity Offsets Scheme credit supply register, and you can choose to limit the amount of personal information displayed. This public register is managed by DPIE (see sections 4.2.4 and 12.1 for more information on the Biodiversity Offsets Scheme public registers).
A BSA EOI may provide you with:
- an indication of demand for your potential credits and potential access to buyers who may be able to assist you in the BSA process in exchange for future credit purchases, and
- potential access to buyers who are interested in entering an arrangement to buy your credits once you sign a BSA.
The Biodiversity Stewardship Agreement Expression of Interest form outlines all the information needed to submit an EOI.
You will need to provide the following information:
- biodiversity values of the property, to indicate the type of biodiversity credits your land may generate (see below),
- proposed size of the BSA (in hectares),
- Lot and Deposited Plan numbers,
- IBRA Region and Subregion,
- Local Government Area of the property,
- contact details to appear on the BOS credit supply register, and
- length of time you would like the EOI to be displayed on the Biodiversity Offsets Scheme public register.
Sources of information about your property’s biodiversity values include biodiversity survey reports in environmental impact assessments available from your local council; the BioNet Atlas published online by DPIE; and the SEED Mapping Portal. You may need to consult with an ecological consultant to gather the biodiversity information needed to complete the EOI form. It is likely you will need to pay a fee for their services.
The number and type of credits created is only verified by BCT after you have applied for a BSA, not at the EOI stage. Submitting an EOI is not an application for a BSA, it does not create biodiversity credits and it does not carry an obligation to create biodiversity credits.
BSA EOIs are submitted through the Biodiversity Offset and Agreement Management System (BOAMS).
EOIs can be submitted by:
- yourself - directly through BOAMS,
- an ecological consultant – directly through BOAMS, or
- you can complete the BSA EOI form and send it to the BCT to upload to BOAMS on your behalf.
Once submitted through BOAMS your EOI is listed on the credit supply register for a default period of 12 months (you can request a longer period). Once this period has ended, the EOI is automatically removed from the credit supply register and will need to be re-entered.
The following information, entered from your EOI form into BOAMS, is listed on the register:
- your preferred contact details*,
- the type of biodiversity credits the site may generate,
- the Local Government Area of the property, and
- the size of the proposed BSA site.
*You will be able to choose the email address that will be publicly available on the register and whether you want the BCT or a third party to receive enquiries on your behalf.
If you are contacted by someone interested in your potential credits, it is your responsibility to communicate and negotiate with the prospective buyer. Negotiations will be dependent on subsequent confirmation of credit types and yield, and the management plan to achieve the required biodiversity gain.
A feasibility assessment is an optional step to assess the biodiversity values of your site for a BSA.
This is a relatively low-cost, initial assessment to give you information about whether a BSA may be feasible on your land. The feasibility study is carried out by a suitably qualified person, such as an ecological consultant undertaking a desktop assessment (i.e. based on existing information and mapping of the site and locality) to determine the number and type of credits, and the likely demand for those credits. However, it may also include a brief site visit (‘walkover’) of key areas of the site by an appropriately experienced person with the landholder.
A fee will generally be charged by the person who is preparing the feasibility assessment.
Further information on the scope of a feasibility assessment is available on the BCT website.
A business case is an optional step to assess the suitability of your site for a BSA. A business case is more detailed than a feasibility assessment and the purpose is to provide a reliable estimate of the potential financial viability of establishing a BSA. A business case will outline the costs of undertaking the management actions required to achieve biodiversity gain.
The business case relies on a preliminary field assessment and the knowledge and experience of an ecological consultant to provide an informed estimate of the type and number of credits likely to be created. The ecological consultant will also identify any management issues at the site, and in consultation with appropriately experienced people, make an initial estimate of the likely management costs and total fund deposit.
A fee will be charged by the person who is preparing the business case. If you choose to proceed with a BSA application, outcomes and information of the business case can be used as part of the assessment for a BSA.
Detailed information on the scope of the business case is available on the BCT website.
The BSA application process involves a number of steps, some of which need to be completed by an accredited assessor, and others that can be completed by an appropriately experienced person. Only an accredited assessor can apply the BAM and undertake the following tasks:
- conduct the BAM site assessment (section 4.5.1),
- determine biodiversity values (section 4.5.2),
- calculate biodiversity credits (section 4.5.3), and
- identify management actions and prepare a management plan (4.5.4)
Steps you may choose to complete yourself, or with the help of a suitably qualified person (such as an accredited assessor, ecological consultant or other appropriately experienced person) include:
- costing management actions and completing the Total Fund Deposit Calculator (sections 4.5.4 and 4.6), and
- preparing the supporting documents as outlined in the BCT BSA Application Supporting Documents Guide.
A proposed biodiversity stewardship site must be assessed in accordance with the BAM. The BAM must be applied by an accredited assessor to determine:
- the site’s biodiversity values (section 4.5.2),
- the number and type of biodiversity credits that can be created (section 4.5.3), and
- the management actions required to achieve improvement and gain in biodiversity values (section 4.5.4).
Only the results of a site assessment completed by an accredited assessor and documented within a Biodiversity Stewardship Site Assessment Report (BSSAR) can be submitted with a BSA application. This is to ensure consistent application and integrity of the BAM. Other consultants can provide relevant advice, but only an accredited assessor can apply the BAM to assess your site and generate the credit report that you submit to BCT as part of your BSA application.
The accredited assessor will charge you commercial rates for advice and assessment.
The most accurate and up-to-date list of accredited assessors and their contact details are provided on the DPIE Biodiversity Offsets Scheme website.
As part of preparing a BSA application, your accredited assessor will use the BAM to determine the biodiversity values at your site. This involves vegetation surveys of the area proposed to be a biodiversity stewardship site. This information will be used to determine the Plant Community Types (PCTs) and the condition of the vegetation. A PCT is a classification of the combination of plant species you have on your land but is also dependent on a number of factors. The PCT (or PCTs) present on your land determines the type of biodiversity credits you will be able to generate from a BSA. The condition of the vegetation influences the management actions that will be included in your BSA and number of biodiversity credits that will be generated.
If there is a likelihood of threatened flora or fauna species on your land, your accredited assessor can assess the land for habitat suitability and undertake surveys to confirm their presence. This is an optional step but will help determine the number of species credits for your site.
This information on biodiversity values is used to produce the Biodiversity Stewardship Site Assessment Report (BSSAR) including a management plan and management action costs (through the Total Fund Deposit Calculator) that is submitted as part of your BSA application.
It is recommended that you ask the accredited assessor for a copy of the documentation used to prepare the BSSAR. This documentation may include vegetation survey data and threatened species survey results. This data could be useful if you, or future land holders, decide to expand the existing stewardship site (data up to five years old can be used to vary a BSA – see section 9.1 for more information on varying a BSA).
Biodiversity credits are created on your land when your stewardship site is managed in accordance with the specific management actions set out in your BSA. This allows for the protection and improvement of biodiversity values.
The number and type of ecosystem credits are determined from vegetation surveys, other site characteristics (e.g. geographic location, connectivity to other native vegetation) and the specific management actions to be undertaken to improve biodiversity. If you choose to generate species credits, the number and type of species credits is determined from targeted surveys of the threatened species predicted to be on site, and the management actions to be undertaken to improve the number of individuals, or habitat of the threatened species.
To ensure consistency, biodiversity credits are calculated by an accredited assessor using the Biodiversity Assessment Method Credit Calculator (BAM-C), an online program that applies equations identified in the BAM. The key output of the BAM-C is a biodiversity credit report, which lists the number and type of biodiversity credits that are to be generated on your proposed stewardship site.
The biodiversity credit report will be appended to the BSSAR and is submitted to BCT as part of your BSA application.
Your BSA will include the specific management actions that you and future landholders are responsible for implementing. The intent of these actions is to maintain and improve biodiversity values on your biodiversity stewardship site. The management actions are determined based on consideration of the site’s vegetation condition, management issues and broader landscape context.
Some types of management actions are mandatory at all stewardship sites and these are outlined in the BAM as required management actions. While these are mandatory, the extent, timing and specific methods of these required management actions are determined by the landholder and their accredited assessor in consultation with the BCT.
Types of management that must be undertaken at a BSA include:
Other examples include:
- Fire management,
- Grazing management,
- Integrated pest animal control, and
- Management of human disturbance.
Active restoration management actions are additional actions that can be implemented to create additional credits on a biodiversity stewardship site. These actions address more complex biodiversity issues and generally need a contractor to plan, price and undertake these actions. Your accredited assessor can help you determine if these actions are suitable for your land. Where active restoration management actions are proposed, it is likely your accredited assessor will need to engage additional expertise to prepare the management plan, justify the use of these management actions, and determine their cost.
Active restoration management actions include:
- habitat enhancement,
- management and augmentation of native vegetation and habitat,
- integrated weed management and control of high threat exotic vegetation,
- hydrology management, and
You and your accredited assessor should break down your specific management actions and plans into individual tasks for the short, medium and long term, and determine the frequency of the actions.
Who can prepare a BSA management plan?
Your accredited assessor will work with you to identify suitable management actions to be included in your BSA management plan. Depending on the condition of the site and which management actions are proposed, specialist advice may be needed, such as from a bush regeneration consultant or an ecological fire practitioner.
Management action costs
Each management action or task should then be priced based on the units/materials and labour. You may need quotes or advice from specialists to correctly cost each action. The sum of all management costs determines the total fund deposit (section 4.6).
Even though you may be able to undertake most management actions yourself, the cost of labour and site administration must be based on a third party undertaking the work at commercial rates. This is in case you need help to undertake management actions or cannot continue to meet your management responsibilities in the future. It also ensures that if you sell your property, the new owner can be assured that the cost of a third party completing the management actions is covered.
The BCT Total Fund Deposit Guide provides advice on the costs of various management actions. The costs of managing a stewardship site vary according to its size, location, vegetation type, cover and condition, topography, fencing and the adjacent land uses.
The amount of your total fund deposit (TFD) depends on the cost of managing your BSA in perpetuity. It is the present value of all your biodiversity stewardship site management actions and recurring costs as outlined in your management plan.
Your TFD is the amount you will need to pay into the Biodiversity Stewardship Payments Fund (BSPF), using the money obtained through the sale and retirement of your credits (or you may choose to pay this upfront), before you receive your first annual management payment. These annual payments fund the management actions which commence from the first payment date. The date of your first payment commences your period of ‘active management’.
It is important to ensure your TFD is appropriately costed and secured for the long-term management of your biodiversity stewardship site. You should review the Total Fund Deposit Calculator and the justification of costs in the BSSAR to confirm you are comfortable with how the cost of the management actions have been determined. The management actions in the BSA will need to be completed, including in situations where there is a shortfall in the TFD. It is in your best interest to confirm the TFD appropriately covers the cost of management actions.
How is the total fund deposit calculated?
The total fund deposit is calculated using the Total Fund Deposit Calculator and is the sum of your management action costs in perpetuity. Management actions vary from site to site. Figure 3 provides an example of some of the management actions and related activities which may need to be costed for your biodiversity stewardship site. These include management actions that need to be undertaken in the short, medium and longer term.
The BCT Total Fund Deposit Guide can be used by the person preparing the TFD calculator to support accurate costing of management actions.
Prior to your accredited assessor submitting the BSA application, it is expected that you have reviewed and understood all documents that form part of the application. It is also expected that you understand the terms of a BSA. A template BSA is available on the BCT website.
Your accredited assessor will submit a completed BSA application to the BCT on your behalf via the Biodiversity Offsets and Agreement Management System (BOAMS). The BSA application form and BSA Application Supporting Documents Guide outline the documents that are required to be submitted as part of your BSA application.
Displaying your pending credits on the BOS credit supply register
You can choose for your biodiversity credits to be displayed on the BOS credit supply register (see Section 4.2.4) while your application is being reviewed by the BCT. Your accredited assessor will nominate this in BOAMS. These biodiversity credits will be marked with the status ‘pending review’ and can be viewed by prospective credit buyers as a more certain source of potential credits than a BSA EOI, as “pending review” status indicates that a survey by an accredited assessor has been undertaken.
The BCT reviews your application to ensure all the relevant documentation has been provided and to confirm:
- the application is complete and all required documents have been submitted,
- you meet the fit and proper person test,
- your land is eligible for a BSA, and
- any required consents are provided.
The BCT will contact you (as the landholder) and seek any outstanding information required for the application to be complete and to confirm the land is eligible for a BSA.
The BCT will not progress your BSA application to the site visit and review stage until all required documents are submitted and eligibility is confirmed.
Upon confirmation of eligibility, BCT will take a thorough desktop review of the BSSAR including the management plan, mapping and the TFD. BCT staff will visit the proposed biodiversity stewardship site/s to verify information included within the BSA application and BSSAR. The BCT recommends that both the accredited assessor and the landholder(s) are present during this site inspection so that the information provided is clear and consistent.
During the desktop review and site visit, the BCT will check items including:
- the BAM has been correctly applied,
- the final area of the biodiversity stewardship site and associated management zones have been calculated correctly,
- the BSSAR has been satisfactorily prepared,
- the credits have been correctly calculated,
- the management actions are appropriate and consider relevant BCT guidelines, and
- the total fund deposit is adequate.
Following the site visit and review of the BSSAR, the BCT will provide you and your accredited assessor with a consolidated list of comments and issues to be resolved prior to approving the BSA application. The BCT will work with you and your accredited assessor to explain any required amendments and resolve any issues.
Once any issues arising from the site visit and BSSAR review are resolved, the BCT will then prepare the BSA and all necessary documentation for you to sign.
5. Signing and establishing your BSA
Your BSA is a record of your obligations and entitlements under the Biodiversity Offsets Scheme (BOS) and details the credits generated by your biodiversity stewardship site. The BSA is drafted by the BCT and will be sent to you and your accredited assessor for review. An abstract will be prepared which is used to register the agreement on the land title.
The BSA and the abstract are signed by all landholders and the BCT Chief Executive Officer (CEO) on behalf of the Minister administering the BC Act. Where there is a mortgage on the property the abstract is also signed by the mortgagee.
After the BSA is signed, the BCT:
- registers the abstract on the land title to bind both you and future landholders to it’s conditions (see section 5.1.1),
- notifies the local council so that a certificate issued under section 149 of the EP&A Act will note that the land contains a biodiversity stewardship site,
- with your consent, places information about your agreement the Public register of private land conservation agreements*, and
- issues the credits on the Biodiversity Offsets Scheme credit supply register (see section 5.1.2).
The date your BSA is signed by all parties marks the start of your obligations as a BSA owner (see section 5.2).
*You choose the amount of information that is shown on the public register of private land conservation. The BCT will provide you with a form to complete where you can choose what personal information is or is not shown.
After you, property interest holders and the BCT Chief Executive Officer have signed the BSA, the BCT will apply to the NSW Land Registry Services (LRS) to register the BSA on your land title. The fee to register the biodiversity stewardship site on the title is paid by the BCT using part of your application fee for the BSA.
The BSA will be registered over the entire land title(s) designated in your agreement. You will have to pay the additional LRS fee if you want to identify the biodiversity stewardship site’s exact boundaries on the deposited plan for your property. To do this you must provide a ‘full plan’ for irregular boundaries or a ‘sketch plan’ for regular boundaries that is prepared and signed by a registered surveyor. The plan must also meet the requirements and any prior approvals set by LRS (visit this website for more information).
If you have any questions about registering your BSA on land title, contact the BCT or LRS.
The BCT adds your biodiversity credits to the Biodiversity Offsets Scheme credit supply register once your BSA is registered on title by NSW LRS.
When the credits are added, the Biodiversity Offsets Scheme credit supply register will display relevant information including:
- the number and type of biodiversity credits created by your BSA,
- the status of your credits as ‘Issued’, and
- the name and contact details of your nominated contact person.
When your credits are issued you will receive an email from the BCT providing you with information about your biodiversity credits. You will refer to this information when you need to complete a biodiversity credit transfer or biodiversity credit retirement form.
Once your agreement has been signed by all parties, registered on title, and your biodiversity credits issued, you as the landholder are responsible for undertaking management actions to maintain or improve the site’s biodiversity values, as set out in the BSA.
There are two phases of management associated with your BSA:
- passive management
- active management
The passive management phase starts from the ‘agreement date’ - the date the BSA was signed by the BCT CEO - and prior to you receiving your first annual management payment. Passive management actions have little or no cost and generally aim to maintain the existing condition of the site, such as not removing fallen logs or clearing vegetation.
The active management phase commences once your total fund deposit (TFD) has been satisfied through the sale or retirement of your biodiversity credits, and you have received your first annual management payment. The active management phase has to actively improve the site’s biodiversity values. Some management actions are mandatory for every biodiversity stewardship site, such as control of weeds and management of human disturbance. Other management actions will be individual to the specific biodiversity values and management issues at your site.
Who is responsible for your management actions being completed?
You, as the landholder, are responsible for management actions being correctly implemented. In some cases, you may need to engage a contractor to undertake this work on your behalf. This will have been identified and appropriately costed in your BSA management plan and TFD.
If you have any questions about your BSA or your management actions, you are encouraged to contact the BCT for advice and support as early as possible.
Each year you must submit a report to the BCT that details how you have complied with the obligations under the agreement. The BCT will provide you with an annual report template to assist you with this. It is recommended that you keep an ongoing record of your management actions and your observation of events that impact on the site’s biodiversity values. This record will help you produce the annual report. Your BSA will specifically outline your reporting obligations.
Your annual report must be submitted to the BCT within 15 days of your anniversary date (if your BSA was established under the BC Act). Your anniversary date varies depending on the status of your TFD. For example:
- Until you satisfy the TFD, your anniversary date is the date your BSA was executed by the BCT CEO, and
- If 100% of the TFD is reached, your anniversary date changes and becomes the date of your first annual management payment.
Before you have fulfilled your TFD, you only need to report on your passive management actions. After the TFD is fulfilled, you must report on both passive and active management actions.
Your annual report includes:
- a record of the management actions you have undertaken on the biodiversity stewardship site, including minor alterations that are part of adaptive management,
- a record of events that have had an impact on the site’s biodiversity values,
- photos from the photo monitoring points,
- any problems you have experienced, and the recommendations you propose or the actions you have taken to address them, and
- details of any other requirements set out in your biodiversity stewardship agreement.
For further information on compliance with your BSA and annual reporting, see section 7.
Annual report review and site visit
Once you have submitted your annual report, your designated BCT Officer will arrange to do a site visit to review the actions undertaken in the previous year and clarify expectations for the next year. It is important for the qualified contractors as well as the landholder/s to be present for the site visit.
If you do not satisfactorily complete the management actions set out in your BSA, you will not receive your next annual payment (see section 7 for more information on BSA compliance). In this situation, the BCT will not authorise the release of funds until you have completed the agreed management actions and submitted an updated annual report.
How much are my annual management payments?
Payments are made to you according to the payment schedule included in your BSA. The amounts shown in the payment schedule are at today’s dollar value and payments following the first annual management payments will be adjusted each year according to inflation.
You will not be required to provide receipts for management actions, but you will be required to demonstrate in your annual report that the actions have been implemented (see Section 5.2.2).
When do I receive annual management payments?
Your first management payment occurs once the TFD has been fulfilled. The date of the first annual management payment then becomes known as your ‘anniversary date’. You are paid in advance to complete your management actions in the following year. For example, the first annual management payment funds the first year of annual management actions.
If you have complied with the terms of your agreement, annual payments will be released into your nominated bank account for the subsequent year.
Prior to applying for a BSA, it is important to have identified a buyer for your credits, or at least have a good understanding of the potential demand for your credits.
Likely buyers are:
- development proponents who need to offset biodiversity impacts at a development site,
- government bodies purchasing specific credit types, or credits in strategically located areas, to achieve conservation outcomes,
- the BCT to meet credit obligations paid into the Biodiversity Conservation Fund, or
- philanthropists, conservationists or corporations that aim to ensure the biodiversity benefits of their endowments are maintained in perpetuity and that specific communities or threatened species are protected.
The NSW Planning Portal and local government websites should be viewed to understand the likely developments occurring within your area. These developments may indicate potential biodiversity credit demand.
The Biodiversity Offsets Scheme public registers on the DPIE website can help you publicise the credits you have available for sale. The ‘credit supply register’ shows all credits available for sale, those which are pending subject to BCT review of the BSA application, and potential credit supply from landholders who have submitted an expression of interest.
You should also check the ‘credit demand register’ to see if anyone is seeking your credit types.
Demand for biodiversity credits will vary depending on the types of credits you are selling. The Biodiversity Offsets Scheme (BOS) ‘transaction register’ provides information on BOS transactions that may help you assess historic credit demand and price.
All BOS public registers are open to the public via the DPIE website and are free of charge to view. See section 12.1 for more information on the public registers.
Selling your credits to the BCT
The BCT’s Biodiversity Offsets Program is responsible for securing biodiversity credits when developers choose to meet their offset obligation by paying into the Biodiversity Conservation Fund. The BCT provides opportunities for credit owners to sell biodiversity credits through a range of delivery mechanisms, including biodiversity credit fixed price offers and credit tenders. The BCT’s biodiversity credit open fixed price offer is open for all credits on the BCT’s Wanted Credits List. The BCT will offer applicants a price for their credits upon submission of an application, and applications operate on a ‘first in’ basis.
Biodiversity credit trading takes place in an open and competitive market where the price of credits is subject to the forces of supply and demand.
Ultimately the sale of your biodiversity credits must cover the total fund deposit (TFD). This is important to consider when determining a minimum price for your credits. The minimum TFD payment to the Biodiversity Stewardship Payment Fund (BSPF) must be proportional to the biodiversity credits created on the site (example shown in Table 1).
You may also want to recoup some of the other costs you have incurred in establishing your biodiversity site such as establishment costs (e.g. site assessment costs and fees), opportunity costs (e.g. lost revenue due to cessation of grazing within the stewardship site), or you may want to factor in a risk or profit margin. The credit pricing worksheet of the Total Fund Deposit Calculator allows you to input various costs associated with establishing and managing your biodiversity stewardship site to help you determine the price of your credits.
In summary, the cost of a biodiversity credit comprises two parts:
- ongoing management actions (i.e. the TFD) – often referred to as Part A costs, and
- establishment costs, opportunity cost and profit or risk margin – often referred to as Part B costs.
The transactions listed on the Biobanking credit transactions and sales register and the Biodiversity Offsets Scheme transactions register include information on the price of the credits traded. This may help you to determine whether the prices you set for your credits are likely to be competitive with those of other participants. The public registers can also help you gauge the supply and demand of biodiversity credits, which plays an important role in credit pricing.
Strategically pricing different credit types to fulfil the TFD
Most biodiversity stewardship sites are likely to create several different credit types. Some of these credits will be in demand whereas others, such as native vegetation communities that are neither highly threatened nor cleared, might be difficult to sell.
You may consider pricing your credits to reflect differences in market pricing and known or predicted demand. You should consider what proportion of your credits are in demand, by monitoring the market and seeking professional advice as necessary. The credit pricing worksheet of the TFD Calculator allows the user to calculate credit prices under different credit sale scenarios.
One suggested approach involves entering only high demand credits (such as ecosystem credits) into the credit pricing worksheet, and pricing these to allow the sale of these credits to fulfil the TFD. Applying different approaches and scenarios in the credit pricing worksheet will help you to price your credits. For example, in the credit pricing worksheet you can:
- enter the total number of credits created on your biodiversity stewardship site,
- enter different proportions of credits likely to be sold to demonstrate how those affect credit price, and then
- calculate the proportion of credits you must sell at a specific price to cover the TFD.
The credit pricing worksheet automatically calculates the suggested credit price after you have entered all your part B costs and automatically transfers your part A costs from the TFD calculator.
Understand your risks
Risks you might encounter relating to selling your biodiversity credits include (but are not limited to):
- an inability to sell some or all your credits because there is little or no offset demand, or the market has an over-supply, and
- an inability to sell enough credits to fulfil the TFD.
If you have concerns about your ability to sell the type of credits potentially generated by your site, we recommend you discuss other conservation mechanisms with the BCT, such as a funded conservation agreement.
Biodiversity credits are available to be sold and transferred to a buyer once they are issued on the Biodiversity Offsets Scheme credit supply register. To transfer biodiversity credits you must submit a signed copy of the ‘Application to transfer biodiversity offsets scheme credits’ form from the DPIE Biodiversity Offsets Scheme public registers website with the required supporting documents and pay the relevant transfer fee. You will need to submit this form each time you transfer credits to a buyer.
It is recommended that you read the form carefully, confirm you have the authority to request the credit transfer and submit all relevant documentation with the form. For example, you will be required to provide proof of identity with this form.
DPIE will commence the credit transfer when:
- the biodiversity credit transfer fee has been paid,
- the relevant portion of the TFD has been paid to the BSPF (see section 5.4), and
- DPIE has processed and approved the application to transfer biodiversity credits.
DPIE will transfer the relevant credits to the new credit owner and issue a Credit Ownership Report to you and the credit buyer. When a credit transfer occurs, the Biodiversity Offsets Scheme public register is automatically updated. The credit prices associated with your credit sale will be shown on the Biodiversity Offsets Scheme transaction register.
The new credit ownership will also be reflected on the Biodiversity Offsets Scheme credit supply register.
The standard timeframe for processing an application to transfer biodiversity credits is 3-4 weeks. You are encouraged to contact Environment, Energy and Science if you have questions about the BOS credit transfer form.
As the credit owner, you are responsible for paying the TFD. Figure 5 below illustrates the relationship between the biodiversity credit purchaser, you as the credit owner and the BCT’s BSPF.
Biodiversity credits must be retired to offset the impact of a development on biodiversity values. Retiring biodiversity credits removes them from the market. Once retired, biodiversity credits are removed from the Biodiversity Offsets Scheme credit supply register and can no longer be traded. You can apply to retire your credits without selling them, or the party who buys your credits may retire them.
If you choose to retire some or all of your credits, you will need submit a signed copy of the ‘Application to retire biodiversity credits’ form with the relevant supporting documentation. In addition to submitting the form you will need to pay the application fee and pay the relevant portion of the TFD into the Biodiversity Stewardship Payments Fund (if the TFD has not already been met). This process, including payment of the application fee, is required each time you apply to retire credits. The application to retire biodiversity credits form is available on the DPIE Biodiversity Offsets Scheme public registers website.
When a credit retirement occurs, the Biodiversity Offsets Scheme public register is automatically updated. Your credit retirement will be shown on the Biodiversity Offsets Scheme transaction register and will no longer be shown on the Biodiversity Offsets Scheme credit supply register.
DPIE will process the application and retire the relevant credits. The standard for timeframe for processing an application to retire biodiversity credits is 3-4 weeks. You are encouraged to contact Environment, Energy and Science if you have questions about the BOS credit retirement form.
When you sell your biodiversity credits or retire them without selling them first, the proceeds must be deposited into the BSPF. Payment to the BSPF continues until the TFD is fulfilled and can be paid from the proceeds of credit sales, or self-contributed prior to the sale of credits (as discussed in section 5.3.2). You may choose to pay the TFD upfront and recoup those costs as you sell credits in the future.
Payment into the BSPF ensures money is set aside to fund the BSA annual management payments for biodiversity stewardship agreements. When you sell credits to someone who then re-sells them, no further payments are paid into the BSPF from the proceeds of the re-sale.
If you are using credits to offset impacts from your own development, you will need to pay the required amount of TFD before retiring your biodiversity credits.
See section 5.3 for information on biodiversity credit transfer and retirement.
The proceeds of any biodiversity credit sales must be paid to the BSPF until the TFD amount is fulfilled. You will not be able to transfer credits to a buyer unless the relevant portion of the TFD is paid.
The proceeds of credit sales must ultimately cover the TFD (see section 5.3.2 on pricing your biodiversity credits). If all the biodiversity credits created are sold and transferred to a new owner, or retired by you, the full amount of the TFD must be paid. The Biodiversity Offsets Scheme credit transfer and retirement forms will assist you to calculate the relevant portion of the TFD.
Once the TFD has been fulfilled, any additional proceeds from the sale of credits flow directly to the credit holder (see example in Table 1 below).
Payment of the TFD to the BSPF can be made by Electronic Funds Transfer (EFT), or by cheque (refer to details below). The BSA ID number is used as the reference or description for the transfer.
Payment of the TFD by EFT (preferred payment method)
Account Name: Biodiversity Stewardship Payments Fund
BSB: 032 001
Account Number: 181 364
Payment of the TFD via cheque (if unable to pay via EFT)
Biobanking Trust Fund
Postal Address: Locked Bag 5022, Parramatta NSW 2124
For biodiversity stewardship agreements established under the Biodiversity Conservation Act 2016, active management of the biodiversity stewardship site commences when 100% of the TFD has been paid.
Once the TFD is fulfilled, the first annual management payment is automatically released by the BCT into your nominated bank account.
The first annual management payment is your trigger to start management actions that are listed in your biodiversity stewardship agreement as ‘Ongoing from first payment date’. This is commonly known as active management.
6. Management plan review and variation
BSA management plans are formally reviewed every five years by the BCT together with the landholder. Activities under each management action may be amended, deleted or added, and the management plan may be varied to reflect these changes. The five year management plan review allows management actions to be adapted as the biodiversity values on the BSA improve, to address shortcomings in the current management, or implement an adaptive management approach.
Variations to the management plan are formalised through a Deed of Variation which is registered on the land title.
The BCT will support you through this process.
7. Compliance with your BSA
You and any future landholders are accountable for the commitments you have made under your BSA. To understand your responsibilities, you should read and/or seek independent legal advice to help you understand your BSA in conjunction with the Biodiversity Conservation Act 2016 and the Biodiversity Conservation Regulation 2017. You should also read the BCT Compliance Policy, which is available on the BCT website. Under the BC Act, the BCT and the Minister have various powers to check that the terms of your agreement are being met.
The BCT’s experience is that most landholders who participate in private land conservation wish to do the right thing and implement the actions outlined in their agreement. The BCT will still visit your site annually to confirm that the management actions committed to in the agreement are being carried out to the required standard.
Where non-compliance is suspected, the BCT will use an escalating response based on the scale and impact of the non-compliance, from issuing warning letters to implementing statutory compliance mechanisms. The statutory compliance mechanisms available to the BCT are outlined in the BCT Compliance Policy. These include:
- suspension or cancellation of biodiversity credits
- biodiversity credit enforcement orders
- civil proceedings
- criminal proceedings
- referrals to other regulatory authorities.
If your biodiversity credits are suspended, the credits cannot be transferred (sold) or retired while the suspension is in force. Credits can only be cancelled in limited circumstances, such as termination of your agreement or when you have failed to undertake the management actions set out your BSA. If your credits have already been retired, they cannot be cancelled. Cancelled or retired credits cannot be bought or sold.
In extreme situations, where a potential offence under the BC Act (such as a native vegetation offence) may have occurred, the BCT will refer the matter to the Department of Planning, Industry, and Environment (DPIE) for consideration. DPIE may instigate an investigation and commence criminal proceedings in accordance with DPIE’s compliance and enforcement policies. Division 5 of the BC Act allows the use of biodiversity offset enforcement orders as part of compliance matters. This allows fines to be used if the directions of the order are not undertaken.
If you are failing to comply with the obligations of your agreement, the BCT will, in the first instance, work with you as the landholder to develop an outcome-focused approach to any non-compliance.
8. Landholder support available from the BCT
The BCT understands that you may need practical or technical support to meet the terms of your agreement. Natural ecosystems are also complex and ever changing, so over time you may require new information or management advice.
The BCT provides ongoing technical support for all our landholders through access to our staff and/or best available information. If you need advice or support, contact your regional BCT officer, email [email protected] or call 1300 992 688 for general enquiries.
9. Variation and termination of a biodiversity stewardship agreement
A biodiversity stewardship agreement (BSA) can be varied by establishing a subsequent agreement between you and the Minister. All variations must align with the Variation and Termination of BCT Agreements Policy and generally variations will only be entered into by the Minister where there is a gain in biodiversity.
The most common reason for varying a BSA is to add biodiversity credits (either species or ecosystem credits).
To vary a BSA (established under either the TSC Act or the BC Act), you must submit to the BCT a signed BSA Variation Application Form with the appropriate BSA variation fee. The BSA variation fee is listed on the DPIE Biodiversity Offsets Scheme fees webpage. Depending on the nature of the variation, you may need to provide additional documentation with the application. The BCT will review the application to confirm it is consistent with the Variation and Termination of BCT Agreements Policy. If the application is consistent, the BCT will progress the application.
When the varied agreement has been approved and signed by all parties, it will be placed on the Public Register of Private Land Conservation Agreements, registered on the land title via NSW Land Registry Services and, where applicable, biodiversity credits will be uploaded on the Biodiversity Offsets Scheme public register.
If you are uncertain whether your proposal to vary your BSA is consistent with the Variation and Termination of BCT Agreements Policy, contact the BCT for advice prior to submitting the BSA variation form.
To vary your BSA to add species credits you will need to engage an accredited assessor to prepare the relevant documents, undertake field work in accordance with the Biodiversity Assessment Method (BAM) (if applicable) and submit your variation request via BOAMS. Relevant documents are outlined on the BSA Variation Application Form.
The BAM is to be applied when preparing the Biodiversity Stewardship Site Assessment Report (BSSAR) for a BSA variation, including when varying BSAs formerly known as Biobanking Agreements established under the Threatened Species Conservation Act 1995.
If you choose to add species credits to an existing BSA, the management actions that form part of the existing agreement are considered ‘existing obligations’ and ‘additionality’ will apply when calculating new biodiversity credits. (see section 4.1.6 for more information).
Section 11.9.3 of the Biodiversity Assessment Method 2020 outlines how the credit reduction (additionality) is applied, and under which circumstances.
- For agreements that are in passive management – additionality will apply if you submit your variation application 36 months after the agreement is executed.
- For agreements that are in active management – additionality will apply 12 months after the first annual management payment
Species credits cannot be added to an agreement that has been in active management for longer than 12 months unless additional management actions are being undertaken.
In very limited circumstances, the Minister can vary a BSA without your consent. These circumstances include proposals by public authorities, and mining authorities and petroleum titles that may affect a stewardship site.
Where the Minister proposes to vary a BSA without your consent, the Minister must give you written notice of the proposed variation and an opportunity to make submissions. The Minister must then consider any submissions you make.
If the Minister proposes such a variation, you can terminate the BSA provided that no biodiversity credits have been sold or retired. Any credits are then cancelled.
No compensation is payable in respect of such a variation other than compensation to which the landholder may be entitled under the Land Acquisition (Just Terms Compensation) Act 1991 or any other Act.
You can voluntarily terminate your BSA within the first three months of your entry into it, or after five years of your entry into it, provided you have neither sold nor retired any of the biodiversity credits, and you agree to have the credits cancelled.
This situation might arise for example, if you cannot find a buyer for your biodiversity credits. To terminate your BSA, you must submit a BSA termination application to the BCT. All landholders and property interest holders must sign the application and it must be accompanied by the appropriate fee. When the Minister has approved the termination, the BCT will remove the dealing on the land title.
If considering this option, we recommend contacting the BCT.
10. Selling land subject to the biodiversity stewardship agreement
If you are considering selling your property, we recommend you contact the BCT as soon as possible.
Your biodiversity stewardship agreement (BSA) outlines several steps that you need to take during the selling process and the timeframe for these steps. Importantly you must notify the BCT in writing when:
- You decide to sell a property with a biodiversity stewardship site
- You have put your biodiversity stewardship site up for sale
- There is a change of ownership or occupancy (noting this is to occur within 7 days following the land sale).
It is expected that you will provide prospective landholders with all documentation relevant to the establishment and management of the BSA, including the Total Fund Deposit Calculator, management plan and the Biodiversity Stewardship Site Assessment Report.
Before completing the sale of the land, you must provide the new landholder with:
- a copy of the signed BSA, and
- all annual reporting records and documentation.
Once your biodiversity stewardship site has a new landholder, annual management payments are paid to the new landholder.
If the ownership changes in the middle of a reporting period, you will need to submit a report for the period when you were the stewardship site’s legal landholder. You will need to negotiate what amount of the management payment (which you have already received) you will provide to the new landholder so that they can undertake the remaining management actions and reporting obligations for the year.
If you have unsold biodiversity credits, you retain ownership unless you decided to transfer a portion to the new landholder.
The person who creates the credits for a biodiversity stewardship site owns those credits. This means that if the land is sold, the credits are not automatically transferred with the land. However, the obligation to manage the land according to the BSA will lie with the new landholder. The new landholder will then receive the annual management payments once the total fund deposit has been fulfilled.
Irrespective of who owns the land, proceeds from credit sales must be contributed to the Biodiversity Stewardship Payments Fund (BSPF) until the total fund deposit (TFD) is fulfilled. Once the TFD is fulfilled, additional proceeds are retained by the credit owner. The new landholder will receive the annual management payments, but if they do not own the credits they are not entitled to the proceeds from credit sales.
You do have the option to sell the land subject to the BSA including all the credits created by the BSA. In this case, you may not be required to pay the TFD for this transaction. The new credit owner will be responsible for paying the TFD when they sell or retire the credits.
11. Buying land subject to a biodiversity stewardship agreement
If you are looking to buy land with an established BSA, it is important you understand your obligations as the owner of a biodiversity stewardship site and understand the opportunities and restrictions associated with having a BSA on your land.
The person selling the BSA must provide you with:
- a copy of the signed BSA, and
- all annual reporting records and documentation.
It is recommended that you also request the landholder provide you with a copy of all documentation relevant to the establishment and management of the BSA, including the Total Fund Deposit Calculator and the Biodiversity Stewardship Site Assessment Report.
When reviewing these documents, we recommend you pay attention to understanding:
- the boundary of the BSA,
- what activities are allowed and are not allowed on the site,
- what the management obligations are,
- what management actions have been completed since the most recent annual report was prepared by the landholder,
- what the annual payment amounts are and whether you are comfortable with the costs allocated to the management actions,
- the tax implications from receiving annual management payments,
- how much of the total fund deposit (TFD) has been paid into the Biodiversity Stewardship Payments Fund (BSPF) to date,
- whether active management obligations and annual management payments have started, and
- whether the most recent audit report from the BCT identified any actions that have not been completed adequately.
Prospective buyers may wish to engage a Biodiversity Offset Scheme accredited assessor to help them understand the BSA management obligations. We also recommend prospective buyers seek independent legal, financial and taxation advice prior to purchasing land subject to a BSA.
If you purchase land with a BSA, it is recommended you contact the BCT immediately. You will need to provide the BCT with the following information:
- Nominated bank account form with the bank account and ABN in the name of the landholder on the land title, and
- Confirmation of property transfer to your ownership, such as a title search.
12. Biodiversity stewardship agreement questions
Biodiversity credits created by biodiversity stewardship agreements established under the Biodiversity Offsets Scheme (BOS) are published on the Department of Planning, Industry, and Environment (DPIE) Biodiversity Offsets Scheme public registers webpage. If you have an agreement established by the Biobanking Scheme under the Threatened Species Conservation Act 1995, at the time your agreement would have been termed a Biobanking Agreement. If you have credits available, your credits will be shown on the Biobanking public registers. Table 3lists the key differences between the Biobanking Offsets Scheme and Biodiversity Offsets Scheme public registers.
The public registers provide information on biodiversity credits, obligations and transactions. They help to connect both buyers and sellers, by listing credit supply and credit demand. The public register ensures transparency of the scheme and helps facilitate the biodiversity credits market.
The Biodiversity Offsets Scheme public registers include:
- Credit supply register – details of the number, type and location of credits available for purchase. This register includes Expressions of Interest (potential credit supply), pending credits (those which need assessment/approval) and issued credits.
- Credit demand register – details of the number, type and location of credits sought for purchase. This register includes credits wanted (potential credit demand) and pending credits associated with development offset obligations. The BCT maintains a separate ‘Wanted Credits List’ for biodiversity credits the BCTis interested in purchasing. This list is accessed via a link on BOS registers web page.
- Transactions register – information about BOS credit transfers and retirements including credit type, number, price and date, as well as suspensions and cancellations.
- Accredited assessors register - provides contact details for individuals accredited to prepare assessments of biodiversity values under the BOS.
- Private land conservation agreements register – details of private land conservation agreements with the Biodiversity Conservation Trust.
If you have an agreement established under the Biodiversity Offsets Scheme, your credits will be shown on the Biodiversity Offsets Scheme credit supply register and a redacted version of your agreement will be available on the private land conservation agreements register.
Personal information, as defined by the Privacy and Personal Information Protection Act 1998, will not be disclosed to the public registers unless the BCT is satisfied that the disclosure complies with section 57 of that Act. Personal information does not cover information about companies or information available publicly.
You can choose the contact details displayed on the credit supply register and they do not need to be the owner of the credits. Your accredited assessor will enter this information into BOAMS during the BSA application process. You can request that these contact details are changed at any time, by contacting the relevant agency, as outlined in section 1.9.
You can transfer and retire BioBanking credits to meet either BioBanking credit or Biodiversity Offsets Scheme (BOS) credit obligations. If transferring or retiring BioBanking Credits to meet a BOS credit obligation, you must first apply for an assessment of reasonable credit equivalence through DPIE. The written ‘statement of assessment of reasonable equivalence of biodiversity credits’ sets out the number and class of BioBanking credits that are reasonably equivalent under the Biodiversity Conservation Act 2016 (BC Act) Biodiversity Offsets Scheme. Further information on how to obtain an equivalence statement is available from the DPIE Applying for an assessment of reasonable equivalence webpage.
Once an equivalence statement has been issued by DPIE, you are able to have the ‘reasonably equivalent’ credits under the Biodiversity Offsets Scheme advertised on the BOS credit supply register. If you choose this approach, your Biobanking credits will still be displayed on the Biobanking public register.
Biobanking Offsets Scheme
Biodiversity Offsets Scheme
When the scheme was active?
2008 - 2016
2016 - present
Is the register active?
Methodology used to assess agreements and generate credits
Biobanking Assessment methodology
Biodiversity Assessment Method
Name and location of the offset credit register
Who to contact regarding uploading or amending Expressions of Interest
DPIE at [email protected]
BCT at [email protected]
Who to contact for credit transfer and credit retirement questions
DPIE at [email protected]
DPIE at [email protected] nsw.gov.au
You can only subdivide a property with a BSA if the subdivision does not affect the biodiversity stewardship site.
If subdivided portions are not part of your biodiversity stewardship site, you can ask the BCT to vary the BSA to update detail of relevant lots within the agreement (see section 9.1). To remove the registration of the BSA from the title on a newly created lot, the landholder must request the BCT submit a Release Request Form 11R to NSW Land Registry Services (LRS).
If you live in a region that is regularly affected by natural events such as bushfires or floods, you should factor this into your management actions and insurance. For example, if your land is in a 1 in 20 flood zone, your BSA management plan may consider the likely effects of a flood every 20 years.
You must notify the BCT in writing as soon as possible after the event if there has been, or if there is likely to be, a sudden or significant decline of biodiversity values on the stewardship site (see the BSA template for more information).
As the BSA allows for adaptive management, you can alter your management actions to respond to a natural event or malicious damage by a third party.
It is strongly recommended that you insure your property against damage from natural events and malicious third parties. Insurance should cover matters such as the cost of replacing fences and other fixed assets after a fire or flood. Check that your existing or new insurance policy covers such costs.
You are responsible for undertaking the passive and active management actions in your BSA even if a natural event or malicious damage has occurred. A natural disaster is not necessarily an ecological disaster. In some cases, BSAs in passive management may be eligible to apply for grants to fund specific management actions following natural events. If you cannot comply with your obligations because of a natural event or malicious damage, you should contact the BCT to discuss your options.
BSA applications must be reviewed and approved by the BCT as the Minister’s delegate. Other government agencies or local councils cannot approve a BSA.
Where a project approval or condition of consent/condition of approval indicates a site or location for a BSA, the proposed BSA application must still be reviewed and approved by the BCT.
All BSA assessments, decisions and assumptions made by the accredited assessor must be made in accordance with the Biodiversity Assessment Method (BAM) and the relevant operation manuals.
Justification for decisions and assumptions must be outlined in the Biodiversity Stewardship Site Assessment Report. If appropriate justification or information is not provided, the BCT will request this is provided. Where appropriate justification or information cannot be provided, the BCT may not accept the decisions that have been made by accredited assessor.
If you have been approached by a company or agency who wants to access or impact (develop or use) part of your BSA, contact the BCT via 1300 992 688 or [email protected] as soon as possible.
The BCT will be able to assist you in understanding what actions are not permitted to be undertaken by third parties on your biodiversity stewardship site.
Changes to a BSA are considered through the Variation and Termination of BCT Agreements Policy (see section 9 for more information).
Key reference materials
- Biodiversity stewardship agreement expression of interest form
- Biodiversity stewardship agreement application form
- Biodiversity stewardship agreement variation form
- Biodiversity stewardship agreement template
- Biodiversity stewardship agreement management plan template
- Biodiversity stewardship agreement annual report template
- BSA TFD guide
- Nominated bank account form
- Management action and monitoring guides
- Public Register of Private Land Conservation Agreements
- Total Fund Deposit Calculator
- Biodiversity Assessment Methodology
- Biodiversity Assessment Methodology Operational Manual Stage 1, Stage 2 and Stage 3
- Biodiversity Offsets Scheme public register
- Biobanking Scheme public register
- Biodiversity Offset and Agreement Management System (BOAMS)
- List of accredited assessors
- Threatened Species Profile Database
- Credit transfer and credit retirement forms
- Biodiversity Offsets Scheme fees list