The NSW Governments’ new State Environmental Planning Policy (SEPP) (Koala Habitat Protection) 2019 came into legislative force on March 1st 2020. This replaces the previous State Environmental Planning Policy 44 – Koala Habitat which has been in effect since 1995.
To support the SEPP, a draft Koala Habitat Protection Guideline has been developed. Feedback is currently being sought from stakeholders until 30 March 2020 on the draft guidelines. Submissions are encouraged.
The guidelines aim to guide how councils prepare their Koala Plans of Management and to standardise the process that applicants are to follow and consent authorities to implement when preparing and assessing development applications.
Importantly, the guidelines specify what ‘core koala habitat’ in the Koala Plan of Management (KPoM) is. This is:
- Land identified as category 2 sensitive regulated land on the Native Vegetation Regulatory Map under the Local Land Services (LLS) Act 2013. Any clearing of native vegetation must be approved by the Native Vegetation Panel unless it is an allowable activity in the LLS Act. You can view that map here: https://www.lmbc.nsw.gov.au/Maps/index.html?viewer=NVRMap
- Land included on the Biodiversity Values Map under the Biodiversity Conservation Regulation 2017. This means that a development proposal in ‘core koala habitat’ or that requires the clearing of native vegetation in areas where the SEPP (Vegetation in Non-Rural Areas) 2017 applies triggers the Biodiversity Offset Scheme and will require Native Vegetation Panel approval. You can view that map here: https://www.lmbc.nsw.gov.au/Maps/index.html?viewer=BOSETMap
The guidelines also outline the development assessment process under the new SEPP. This process is split into 2 tiers.
Tier 1 is for developments that have low or no direct impact on koalas or koala habitat if it meets these criteria:
- Indirect impacts that will not result in clearing of native vegetation within koala habitat
- The development is below the Biodiversity Offsets Scheme threshold under the BC Act
- There is no native vegetation removal
- The development footprint will not impede movement between koala habitat
- Adequate mitigation measures are implemented as necessary
If these criteria cannot be met, then a Tier 2 assessment is required. A Tier 2 Assessment lists 13 criteria that must be complied with,
Any development that requires a Tier 2 assessment is subject to a Koala Assessment Report. A Koala Assessment Report must be prepared by a suitably qualified and experienced person.
The guidelines also provide a template for the Koala Assessment Report.
Finally, for council and landowners that require, the preparation of a KPoM, Appendix B of the guidelines lists several criteria which must be included in a KPoM and Appendix C of the guidelines lists survey methods for ‘core koala habitat’.