NSW Department of Planning and Environment

A diverse environment interconnected by biodiversity corridors

The South East and Tablelands includes the alpine environment of Australia’s highest mountains, the State’s only wilderness coastline, rural landscapes and national parks. It is home to more than 100 threatened plant species, 112 threatened animal species and 13 endangered ecological communities.13

Biodiversity corridors help to connect plants and animals throughout the region, into and out of the ACT and beyond to Victoria. They form part of a national wildlife corridor extending from Victoria to Far North Queensland.14 A strategic approach on public and private lands will protect and manage natural ecosystems and connect habitats.

The region includes coastal lakes and lagoons, coastal wetlands, sensitive estuaries and the protected waters of the South Coast, where 57 estuaries represent almost one-third of those in the State. The Batemans Bay Marine Park showcases distinctive marine life and provides opportunities for the scientific study of marine biodiversity in a relatively natural state.15

The environmental, social and economic values of these landscapes underpin the region’s character. These values can be affected by over-extraction of water, contamination, sea level rise and storm surge, and conflicting land uses such as urban expansion.

Protecting the environment and building greater resilience to natural hazards and climate change will ensure these values are enjoyed by future generations.

Sensitive estuaries in the South East and Tablelands

Eurobodalla Local Government Area:

Bengello Creek, Bullengella Lake, Coila Lake, Congo Creek, Corunna Lake, Cullendulla Creek, Durras Creek, Kellys Lake, Kianga Lake, Brou Lake, Lake Brunderee, Mummuga Lake, Lake Tarourga, Little Lake, Maloneys Creek, Meringo Creek, Nangudga Lake, Saltwater Creek and Tilba Tilba Lake.

Bega Valley Local Government Area:

Back Lagoon, Baragoot Lake, Bournda Lagoon, Boydtown Creek, Bunga Lagoon, Curalo Lagoon, Cuttagee Lake, Fisheries Creek, Merrica River, Middle Lagoon, Nadgee Lake, Nadgee River, Nullica River, Saltwater Creek, Shadrachs Creek, Table Creek, Wallaga Lake, Wallagoot Lake and Woodburn Creek.

Criteria for mapping high environmental value lands

Lands with potential high environmental value include:

  • existing conservation areas such  as national parks and reserves, declared wilderness areas, marine estates, Crown reserves dedicated for environmental protection and conservation, and flora reserves;
  • threatened ecological communities and key habitats, and important vegetation areas;
  • important wetlands, coastal lakes and estuaries; and
  • sites of geological significance.

High environmental value mapping aims to provide a regional overview for strategic planning. Planning authorities should obtain the most recent spatial data from the Office of Environment and Heritage when considering proposals for land use change or intensification.

Up-to-date mapping can be found at http://www.seed.nsw.gov.au/.

Validation rules for identification of high environmental value lands are found at www.environment.nsw.gov.au.


south east and tablelands goal 2 coastal estuaries and environmental areas 646x1276

Direction 14: Protect important environmental assets

High environmental value lands and the region’s networks of biodiversity corridors are mapped in the map below. These areas provide diversity and habitat for flora and fauna, including significant koala populations in the Snowy Monaro and Wingecarribee local government areas. Criteria developed by the Office of Environment and Heritage to map lands with high environmental value is detailed on the previous page.

Groundwater-dependent ecosystems and aquatic habitats associated with rivers, streams, lakes, estuaries and coastal waters that may not have been included in this mapping also have high environmental value. Maps of these areas are available on the Department of Primary Industries website.

The intensification of land uses through urban development and other activities must avoid impacts on important terrestrial and aquatic habitats and on water quality.

Mapping areas of potential high environmental value will inform local planning strategies and local environmental plans.

The ‘avoid, minimise and offset’ hierarchy will be applied to areas identified for new or more intensive development. The hierarchy requires that development avoid areas of validated high environmental value and considers appropriate offsets or other mitigation measures for unavoidable impacts.

Where it is not possible to avoid impacts, councils will be required to consider how impacts can be managed or offset through planning controls or other environmental management mechanisms.

Sensitive estuaries have been mapped as part of the region’s high environmental value lands. These estuaries and their catchments are particularly susceptible to the effect of land use development and are not suitable for intense uses such as housing subdivision.

Travelling Stock Reserves move livestock and supplement land for grazing in times of drought. These reserves can contain significant biodiversity values and need to be carefully managed.

Environmental Assets

Click to enlarge.south east and tablelands goal 2 figure 7 environmental assets map 1200x1621


14.1 Develop and implement a comprehensive Koala Plan of Management for the Snowy Monaro and Wingecarribee local government areas.

14.2 Protect the validated high environmental value lands in local environmental plans.

14.3 Minimise potential impacts arising from development on areas of high environmental value, including groundwater-dependent ecosystems and aquatic habitats, and implement the ‘avoid, minimise and offset’ hierarchy.

14.4 Improve the quality of and access to information relating to land with identified high environmental values.

14.5 Support planning authorities to undertake strategic, landscape-scale assessments of biodiversity and areas of high environmental value.

14.6 Protect Travelling Stock Reserves in local strategies.

Direction 15: Enhance biodiversity connections 

Regional biodiversity corridors are native vegetation links within a region, between regions or between significant biodiversity features. They expand and link different habitats and are critical to long-term ecological connections, particularly in the context of long-term climate change.

Regional biodiversity corridors form part of the Great Eastern Ranges Initiative, to which the NSW Government is a partner. The initiative identifies biodiversity corridors across the continent, from the Grampians in Western Victoria to the wet tropics of Far North Queensland.16

Land uses within regional biodiversity corridors should maintain and, where possible, enhance ecological connectivity.

Protecting sensitive urban lands on the South Coast 

The NSW Government’s South Coast Sensitive Urban Lands Panel Review provides advice on planning outcomes for potential development sites in sensitive coastal locations on the South Coast (Long Beach, Malua Bay, Rosedale, Moruya Heads, Narooma South, Wallaga Lake, Bega South and West, Wolumla, Tathra River and Lake Merimbula).17

The Panel’s recommendations are incorporated into planning for all sites and will continue to be considered for future land use planning decisions to protect and conserve sensitive coastal locations.


15.1 Protect and enhance the function and resilience of biodiversity corridors in local strategies.

15.2 Improve planning authority access to regional biodiversity corridor mapping and methodology.

15.3 Confirm and validate the location and boundaries of regional biodiversity corridors.

15.4 Focus offsets from approved developments to regional biodiversity corridors, where possible.

Direction 16: Protect the coast and increase resilience to natural hazards

Most people live near areas subject to natural hazards. The appeal of these places is obvious, however, they may also come with challenges, such as flooding and bushfires.

Flooding is predicted to occur more frequently and with greater intensity in the future. Planning for new urban release areas and infill areas must consider the impact of climate change, including sea level rise, on flooding.

Councils are primarily responsible for flood risk management through the development and implementation of floodplain risk management plans. These plans are prepared in consultation with the local community and relevant agencies. They incorporate up-to-date information on regional climate projections and related impacts, and prioritise resilience to climate change in the siting and development of infrastructure and land uses.

The impacts of rising sea levels and climate change will be critical to managing coastal and floodplain risks. Relevant councils will need coastal zone management plans and associated controls to deal with current and potential erosion. Other hazards, including bushfires, storms and landslips, may occur more frequently and, possibly, with greater intensity. These events may occur in areas that face development pressure.

Enabling adaptation in the South East

The NSW Government’s South East Integrated Regional Vulnerability Assessment (2012) identified regional climate change vulnerabilities and potential actions to reduce these vulnerabilities.

The assessment laid the foundations for the Enabling Adaptation in the South East project, which starts the planning process for government service delivery to sectors most vulnerable to climate change. It sets transition pathways for tourism, regional and agricultural centres, coastal development, mixed farming, dairy farming, landscapes and ecosystems, and infrastructure.

Wingecarribee Local Government Area will be incorporated into adaptation planning for the Illawarra region.


16.1 Locate development, including new urban release areas, away from areas of known high bushfire risk, flooding hazards or high coastal erosion/inundation; contaminated land; and designated waterways to reduce the community’s exposure to natural hazards.

16.2 Implement the requirements of the NSW Floodplain Development Manual by developing, updating or implementing flood studies and floodplain risk management plans.

16.3 Update coastal zone/estuary management plans and prepare new coastal management programs to identify areas affected by coastal hazards.

16.4 Incorporate the best available hazard information in local environmental plans consistent with current flood studies, flood planning levels, modelling, floodplain risk management plans and coastal zone management plans.

16.5 Update and share current information on environmental assets and natural hazards with councils to inform planning decisions.

16.6 Manage risks associated with future urban growth in flood-prone areas as well as risks to existing communities.

Direction 17: Mitigate and adapt to climate change

Communities need skills and knowledge to deal with the effects of climate change. The NSW Climate Change Policy Framework and the draft Climate Change Fund Strategic Plan set policy directions and prioritise investment to reduce carbon emissions and adopt and mitigate the impacts of climate change.

The South East and Tablelands is the first region in NSW to implement a regional response within government to climate change, and this process has been adopted across NSW. The opportunity to work with the ACT Government (which undertook a parallel regional adaptation planning process and set similar policy targets) will allow the region to leverage the transition to a low emissions economy and prepare for climate change.

Preparedness will be enhanced by embedding emission reductions and climate change into business-as-usual planning, program delivery and governance. This will include initiatives to improve awareness of climate change impacts, strengthen natural ecosystems, safeguard public assets, support business and communities, unlock funds for communities to undertake adaptation strategies, and develop a services market to support adaptation strategies. The infrastructure built today must consider the climate projections for the near future and, in some cases, the far future.

Building community capacity to deliver and own renewable energy, promoting the use of advanced technology vehicles, identifying low emission pathways for energy-intensive industries and improving access to start-up funding to accelerate innovation will help to reduce emissions and minimise energy consumption.


17.1 Enhance government service delivery and implement local initiatives to address climate change impacts on local communities.

17.2 Collaborate with the ACT Government to reduce emissions and adopt adaptation strategies.

17.3 Support councils to assess and respond to impacts and opportunities associated with a changing climate.

17.4 Help communities and businesses to understand and respond to climate related risks and opportunities by providing climate information, building capacity and unlocking financial mechanisms to help fund emission reductions and climate adaptation.

Direction 18: Secure water resources

The future growth and development of the region, coupled with the uncertainties of drought and climate change, mean that long-term planning for water supply must be integrated into strategic planning. This planning must also consider the region as a source of potable water for Sydney.

In some areas, such as the Wingecarribee Local Government Area, water supply is comparatively secure – although much of Wingecarribee’s water resources flow north towards Sydney. Goulburn- Mulwaree Local Government Area has enhanced its water supply through the construction of an emergency pipeline from the Wingecarribee Reservoir. Hilltops Local Government Area includes areas that need to secure a sustainable water source for urban use, while the Yass Valley and Upper Lachlan local government areas face water security issues that are intensified by a changing climate. Eurobodalla Local Government Area can secure water resources by improving storage and reticulation to meet growth and environmental outcomes.

An acceptable reticulated water supply is required for any new land release or an increase in housing densities in existing areas. The provision of potable water must conform to the following water planning principles:

  • a reliable supply to provide certainty for consumers (both residential and other);
  • an affordable water supply in terms of both capital and recurring costs; and
  • a quality of supply that meets relevant health standards.

In some areas, including Hilltops, Goulburn-Mulwaree and Upper Lachlan local government areas, securing an ongoing water supply for agricultural industries will bring economic opportunities.

Parts of the region are covered by the Australian Government’s Murray-Darling Basin Plan (2012) which sets out regional water use at environmentally sustainable levels by determining long-term ‘average sustainable diversion limits’.

This is implemented through water sharing plans that include rules for managing extractions and licence holders, accounts, as well as water trading. Changes in water demand from different uses may require water to be reallocated over time.

Protecting the Sydney Drinking Water Catchment

Part of the region is located in the Sydney Drinking Water Catchment, which supplies drinking water for almost 60 per cent of the State’s population.18 Protecting water quality and quantity in this catchment is essential for the health and security of communities in the region and Greater Sydney.

Rigorous planning and development controls apply to proposals within the Sydney Drinking Water Catchment including:

  • State Environmental Planning Policy (Sydney Drinking Water Catchment) 2011;
  • local planning direction 5.2 Sydney Drinking Water Catchments, issued under Section 9.1(2) of the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act 1979;
  • the Water NSW Act 2014 and the Water NSW Regulation 2013; and
  • the Water Management Act 2000.

Under the Water NSW Act 2014 and Water NSW Regulation 2013, land has been declared as parts of the Metropolitan, Woronora and Shoalhaven special areas, which are critical in protecting water quality in the storages.

The NSW Government has also announced the cancellation and buy-back of all petroleum exploration licences covering the Sydney Drinking Water Catchment, including the special areas.19


18.1 Locate, design, construct and manage new developments to minimise impacts on water catchments, including downstream impacts and groundwater sources.

18.2 Finalise water resource plans for rivers and groundwater systems as part of the Murray-Darling Basin Plan and implement water sharing plans.

18.3 Prepare or review integrated water cycle management strategies to ascertain long-term infrastructure needs to accommodate population growth.

18.4 Incorporate water sensitive urban design into development that is likely to impact water catchments, water quality and flows.

Page last updated: 28/07/2022