What is biodiversity?

    Biodiversity is the variety of plant and animal life in a particular habitat. This variety is important in maintaining stable ecosystems.

    What is biodiversity certification?

    Biodiversity certification is a streamlined assessment process for areas of land proposed for development, such as the West Dapto Urban Release Area (WDURA). It integrates planning for biodiversity conservation at an early stage in the planning and development process.

    Councils' application for biodiversity certification is being assessed under an earlier version of the NSW Governments assessment methodology, which has been provided for through a specific regulation. Although there are differences in the previous and current assessment methodologies, the overall intent and outcomes are consistent.

    The Department of Climate Change, Energy, the Environment and Water has a range of information about biodiversity certification on their website.

    How does it work?

    The biodiversity cost of a future development involving native vegetation clearing is calculated and expressed in biodiversity credits. The value of biodiversity on land that will be protected and/or enhanced for future generations is also calculated in biodiversity credits. Credits generated on protected land can then be used to offset the biodiversity impacts on land that is likely to be developed or cleared.

    The difference between biodiversity certification and individual assessment is that Council and the State Government are taking a strategic approach to manage offsets for the impact of future development across the central and southern WDURA, rather than site by site. This strategic approach will provide greater certainty that the impacts to biodiversity values in area are offset by conservation measures in the release area or nearby in Wollongong Local Government Area

    Which areas does the certification cover?

    This assessment area for the application for biodiversity certification covers the WDURA. The areas proposed for biodiversity certification are focused in Stages 3, 4 and 5 of the WDURA. This is a large area of land west of the Princess Highway, covering Cleveland, Huntley, Avondale, Marshall Mount, and parts of Yallah.

    See the map below.

    How were the different areas determined?

    Council engaged an accredited ecological consultant to conduct vegetation, plant and animal surveys and assessments consistent with NSW Government legislation and the biodiversity certification assessment methodology. Surveys were carried out over an extended period on public and private land and involved consultation with relevant NSW Government authorities. Areas were allocated red, blue, and green based on the conservation significance of the native vegetation and potential habitat for native flora and fauna species.

    Who pays for conservation in the biodiversity certification area?

    In May 2021, the ‘West Dapto Biodiversity’ item was included in the NSW Government’s Illawarra – Shoalhaven Special Infrastructure Contribution (I-S SIC) to the value of $20 million. Information on the I-S SIC, including frequently asked questions, can be found on Department of Planning website. Future developments in the biodiversity certified (red) area will make a financial contribution calculated under a revised State Government development and infrastructure contribution scheme. Council will prepare a financial management and investment strategy that ensures the funds it receives through this contribution can only ever be spent on the conservation measures and invested to provide continuing in perpetuity funding.

    What certainty is there about the conservation outcomes?

    A key part of the Biodiversity Certification Assessment Report and Conservation Strategy – WDURA currently on exhibition, is Section 6 - Biodiversity certification strategy. Section 6 establishes Council and State Government joint commitments to deliver the conservation measures. Three types of biodiversity credit generating options are proposed with details summarised in ‘Table 6.2: Implementation and timing for the proposed conservation measures’ of the primary exhibited document. Importantly, if biodiversity certification is conferred, Council will enter into a Biodiversity Certification Agreement with the NSW Minister for the Environment to deliver the conservation measures including projected timeframes for specific measures (see Section 6.4). In addition, Council will prepare an Implementation Plan, with focus area sub plans to guide the operation phase of the WDURA biodiversity certification (see Section 6.6). Along with the Biodiversity Certification Agreement, the Implementation Plan will be reviewed every five (5) yeas by Council in collaboration with relevant NSW Government agencies.

    What are the next steps?

    Council is inviting submissions on the proposal during the exhibition phase. Submissions will be collated, reviewed, and responded to as part of a post exhibition Submissions Report. This report will be forwarded to NSW Department of Planning and Environment for their review and suggestions on further work or amendments.