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Biodiversity and Conservation SEPP

Updating biodiversity and conservation planning policy

We have updated the planning framework for protecting and managing our natural environment, which helps support the community’s health and wellbeing, economic security and cultural identity.

The simplified framework started on 21 November 2022 and consolidated and updated provisions in 7 former chapters of the State Environmental Planning Policy (Biodiversity and Conservation) 2021 (Biodiversity and Conservation 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  • supports the NSW Government’s SEPP consolidation program by removing unnecessary and outdated policy, and locating provisions in the most appropriate level of the planning system.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 consolidates former 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 relating to Chapter 6 are available on the NSW Planning Portal
  • amendments to the Standard Instrument – Principal Local Environmental Plan (LEP) and non-standard LEPs that transfer provisions prohibiting canal estate development from the Biodiversity and Conservation SEPP to LEPs. This has allowed Chapter 7 to be repealed.
  • a new clause protecting public bushland inserted into all relevant LEPs where this previously applied under Chapter 6. The provisions also now apply to Wyong, for consistency across the Central Coast local government area. This has allowed Chapter 6 to be repealed
  • the transfer of Chapter 12, which relates to the Willandra Lakes Region World Heritage Property, to the Balranald and Wentworth LEPs. Relevant maps are available on the NSW Planning Portal
  • 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 in regulated water catchments
  • new or updated ministerial directions under Section 9.1 of the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act 1979 on: water catchment protection, the Sydney drinking water catchment, the Sydney Harbour foreshores and waterways area, public bushland, and the Willandra Lakes region. View the Ministerial Directions
  • a new fact sheet on protecting public bushland.

Consent authority functions in Sydney Harbour

The consent authority functions of councils surrounding Sydney Harbour for development in the Sydney Harbour Foreshores and Waterways Area have been maintained but there are some changes to how these functions are assigned.

Section 4.5 of the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act 1979 means that a state environmental planning policy is no longer able to designate councils as a consent authority. Therefore, the Biodiversity and Conservation SEPP instead identifies the Minister for Planning for this role.

The Minister for Planning has delegated these consent authority functions to councils through an instrument of delegation (PDF, 505 KB).

The consent authority provisions of section 6.25 of the Biodiversity and Conservation SEPP should be read in conjunction with the instrument of delegation at Delegated decisions.

Sydney Harbour Foreshores and Waterways Area Development Control Plan

The Sydney Harbour Foreshores and Waterways Area Development Control Plan (PDF, 1.6 MB) continues to apply to the foreshores and waterways area as identified in Part 6.3 of the Biodiversity and Conservation SEPP. The development control plan includes design guidelines for development and criteria for natural resource protection.

Ecological communities and landscape characters maps

Other resources

Explanatory notes to the former Sydney Harbour Catchment Sydney Regional Environmental Plan 2005 (PDF, 293 KB).

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.

It also helps the wider community understand the importance of protecting and preserving public bushland. The fact sheet replaces 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.

Consultation and feedback

The department consulted on a 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 explanation of intended effect (EIE) and responded to the submissions received during exhibition over a series of stages. Key elements of the proposed policy were changed 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. Note, another planning instrument (such as a local environmental plan) may still require consent for oyster aquaculture.

The recent changes to the Biodiversity and Conservation SEPP primarily relate to updating, transferring, and consolidating provisions, without changing the policy intent. However, a small number of changes were made to support the orderly development of land in Sydney Harbour:

  • 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 of land in the Sydney Harbour foreshores and waterways area 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: