NSW Department of Planning and Environment

Biodiversity and Conservation SEPP

Updating biodiversity and conservation planning policy 

We have updated the planning framework for the protection and management of our natural environment, which helps support the community’s physical health, economic security and cultural identity.

The new framework will start on 21 November 2022. The framework simplifies the NSW planning system by consolidating and updating provisions in 7 former chapters of the State Environmental Planning Policy (Biodiversity and Conservation) 2021 (BC SEPP).

This new framework:

  • streamlines the planning rules for several water catchments, waterways, urban bushland, and Willandra Lakes World Heritage Property.
  • supports the NSW Government’s SEPP consolidation program by removing unnecessary and outdated policy, and locating provisions in the most appropriate level of the planning system.

It includes:

  • a new Chapter 6 of the BC SEPP that consolidates chapters 8 to 11 related to water catchments for the Georges River catchment, Hawkesbury-Nepean catchment, Sydney Harbour catchment and Sydney drinking water catchment. The maps are available on the planning portal.
  • amendments to the Standard Instrument – Principal Local Environmental Plan (LEP) and consequential amendments to non-standard LEPs that transfer provisions for canal estate development from Chapter 7 of the BC SEPP to LEPs. This has allowed Chapter 7 of the BC SEPP to be repealed.
  • a new clause protecting public bushland inserted into all relevant LEPs where this previously applied under Chapter 6 of the BC SEPP and expanding its application to Wyong in the Central Coast. This has allowed Chapter 6 of the BC SEPP to be repealed.
  • the transfer of Chapter 12 of the BC SEPP which relates to the Willandra Lakes Region World Heritage Property to the Balranald and Wentworth LEPs. The maps are available on the planning portal.
  • consequential amendments to the Environmental Planning and Assessment Regulation 2021 to ensure that appropriate environmental impact considerations are taken into account for ‘activities’ undertaken by public authorities such as councils in regulated water catchments.
  • new ministerial directions under Section 9.1 of the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act 1979: Water Catchment Protection, Sydney Harbour Foreshores and Waterways Area, Public Bushland, and Willandra Lakes Region. View the copy of the Ministerial Directions that will start on 21 November 2022.
  • updated ministerial direction 3.3 Sydney Drinking Water Catchment. View the copy of the Ministerial Directions that will start on 21 November 2022.
  • a new protecting public bushland fact sheet.

Protecting public bushland

A new protecting public bushland fact sheet (PDF, 430 KB) supports councils, planners, developers, builders, and other professionals to better understand the planning process and assessment requirements for protecting public bushland. The provisions for public bushland are now located in the Standard Instrument – Principal Local Environmental Plan.  It also helps the wider community understand the importance of protecting and preserving public bushland. The fact sheet replaces the Circulars No. 114 (1986) and No. B13 (1989) which guided the application of former State Environmental Planning Policy No. 19 Bushland in Urban Areas.

The fact sheet gives guidance on where the public bushland provisions apply, the types of development applications it applies to, and what should be considered when implementing the provisions.

Download the fact sheet

Consultation and feedback

The department consulted on the proposed Environment SEPP between 31 October 2017 and 31 January 2018. We received feedback from a wide range of stakeholders, which was used to refine the policy.

The department has delivered the policy outcomes in the EIE and responded to the submissions received during exhibition over a series of stages. More vital elements of the EIE were progressed in December 2018 and June 2022, including:

  • permitting mooring pens in Zone 7 'Scenic Waters: Casual Use' in Sydney Harbour
  • allowing maintenance of certain lawful and non-commercial structures as complying development in Sydney Harbour
  • removing the need for development consent for oyster aquaculture in the Georges River catchment, where no other planning instrument requires it.

The recent amendments made to the BC SEPP primarily relate to updating, transferring, and consolidating provisions, without changing the policy intent. However, a small number of amendments relating to the Sydney Harbour catchment have been made to support the orderly development of land in Sydney Harbour. These amendments are as follows:

  • we have updated the objectives of Sydney Harbour Zone 8 to clarify the intent of the zone to support development of public and community facilities and clearly prohibit private over water development, consistent with the provisions in the land use table.
  • we have permitted subdivision on the Sydney Harbour foreshore land subject to consideration of the impact on public access to the foreshores and waterways. Subdivision of private land must also meet the development standards in the LEP.

For more information regarding the consultation process:

More information

For further information, please see the FAQs - State Environmental Planning Policy (PDF, 134 KB), or contact us by phone or online.

Page last updated: 24/11/2022