Skip to main content
NSW Department of Planning, Industry and Environment
  • Share:

Certain developments in NSW require approval under both the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act 1979 (EP&A Act) and the Commonwealth’s Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 2016 (EPBC Act). Further information about what projects need approval under the EPBC Act can be found on the Commonwealth Department of Environment and Energy website.

The Commonwealth and NSW governments have signed a bilateral agreement under the EPBC Act that establishes a one stop shop for environmental assessment in NSW. The bilateral agreement accredits certain NSW processes for assessment which allows the Commonwealth Minister for the Environment and Energy to rely on specified NSW environmental impact assessment processes in assessing actions under the EPBC Act.

Under the bilateral agreement, the NSW Government will use its best endeavours to inform proponents that an action may need to be referred to the Commonwealth. The Commonwealth, in consultation with the NSW Government, will then make a determination about whether the action is a ‘controlled action’ under the EPBC Act that requires approval. The NSW Government will confirm whether the action can be assessed under the bilateral agreement

The NSW Government will then undertake an assessment of the development proposal and in doing so will ensure that there is sufficient information in its State Assessment Report on each relevant matter of National Environmental Significance (MNES) so that the Commonwealth can consider those impacts and make a decision whether to approve the action.

When NSW provides the Commonwealth with its State Assessment Report, it will also make a recommendation to the Commonwealth Minister about whether the action should be approved and, if so, what conditions (if any) should be attached to manage the impacts on MNES.

Frequently Asked Questions

The bilateral agreement commenced on 26 February 2015 and remains in operation


The Australian Government has published a Notice of Intent to amend the existing bilateral agreement with the NSW Government that will take account of recent legislative changes in New South Wales, namely the commencement of the Biodiversity Conservation Act 2016.


The current bilateral agreement remains operational and will continue to be used for projects that are being assessed under the transitional arrangements under the Biodiversity Conservation Act.

The bilateral agreement applies to certain major projects under the NSW Environmental Planning and Assessment Act 1979 (EP&A Act). This includes State Significant Infrastructure (SSI) and State Significant Development (SSD) projects and modifications that are determined to require assessment and approval under the EPBC Act. The bilateral agreement also extends to applications made under Part 5 of the EP&A Act.

The bilateral agreement allows the state to conduct environmental assessments on behalf of the Commonwealth, removing duplication including the need for a separate Commonwealth assessment. 

The key benefits for proponents results in:

  • Cost Savings — there are potentially significant cost savings for projects assessed under the bilateral agreement. A single assessment will reduce costs arising from the need to prepare two separate environmental impact statements and proponents may be exempt from the fees associated with stage 2 and stage 3 of the Commonwealth assessment and approval process.
  • Less complexity and reduced time frames — the bilateral agreement ensures a project is assessed against a single set of requirements. 
  • Single biodiversity offset methodology — The bilateral agreement enables proponents to determine offset requirements against both State and Commonwealth law through a single biodiversity offset methodology. The NSW Biodiversity Offset Policy for Major Projects and the Framework for Biodiversity Assessment have been endorsed by the Commonwealth for the purpose of approvals under Part 9 of the EPBC Act. Offsets proposed through the application of this methodology will be acceptable for approval under the EPBC Act as long as the methodology has been applied correctly and the extent of EPBC Act listed ecological communities has been mapped accurately in accordance with the listing criteria.

Page last updated: 13/08/2019