What is Biodiversity Certification?

Biodiversity Certification provides an environmental approval for the clearing and cropping of native vegetation associated with proposed development while securing long term protection for residual native vegetation and threatened species habitat. The Biodiversity Certification process allows up-front environmental approval for areas to be developed in the future, on the basis that agreed environmental conservation outcomes will take place.  This means that the land that is to be conserved will be maintained as a conserved area in perpetuity (forever), either in its current state or managed so that its biodiversity values are improved. See http://www.environment.nsw.gov.au/biocertification/ for further information regarding Biodiversity Certification.

Why is Biodiversity Certification being undertaken for the Airport and surrounding lands?

Council completed a Master Plan for the Port Macquarie Airport in 2010 to provide for the future growth of the Airport in accordance with the requirements of the Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA).  Plans for the future of the Port Macquarie Airport can be seen in the Airport Master Plan 2010 and its companion document, the Airport Master Plan 2010 - Addendum Report. The CASA requirements are outlined in the Addendum Report.
The proposed actions in the Airport Master Plan include: ·  Widening the runway strip to the east and west, incorporating a parallel taxi-way and improving the OLS (Obstacle Limitation Surface - i.e. low level airspace that is clear of obstacles in the flight paths of planes at the approach and take-off zones of the runway) to comply with CASA Code 4C aerodrome standards. ·  Potential future relocation of the Airport apron, terminal building and car parking facilities. ·  Proposed expansion of the Airport Precinct Business Park. Proposed development of existing zoned residential and light industrial Council owned  land in the adjoining Thrumster urban release area. Proposed water and sewer easements to meet expected future needs of the Thrumster urban release area. Fire trails within proposed conservation areas to the west of the Airport, to aid in strategic fire and conservation management, and ·  Improved road infrastructure to and from the Airport, including an upgrade of Boundary Street and the possibility of a secondary flood free road access to Oxley Highway.  The aim of the current Biodiversity Certification proposal is to ensure that Council can implement key elements of the Airport Master Plan whilst providing a long-term environmental solution.  The Draft Biodiversity Certification assessment and strategy includes details of proposed conservation areas to be permanently protected and managed by Council to ensure that overall biodiversity values are improved or maintained in the vicinity of the Airport. Council does not have detailed plans for all elements of the Airport Master Plan and many of these elements will be the subject of separate community engagement and applications at the time that they are proposed to take place. Council has engaged Ecological Australia to prepare a Biodiversity Certification assessment and strategy now, to avoid the need for a succession of smaller scale environmental studies and to ensure that an overall positive environmental outcome can be achieved. The immediate priority from the Master Plan is  to widen the runway strip to the east and west, incorporating a parallel taxi-way and improving the OLS at the approach and take-off zones of the runway to comply with CASA Code 4C aerodrome standards. Other elements in the draft Biodiversity Certification proposal include a Business Park, which is currently subject to separate more comprehensive investigations. 

What does the Draft Biodiversity Certification map show?

The Draft Biodiversity Certification map shows the total assessment area, which covers 1.024.48 hectares.  The map shows land proposed to be cleared or cropped to implement the Airport Master Plan as well as planned development at Thrumster.  The map also shows the proposed conservation areas which are proposed to be permanently protected and managed by Council to ensure that overall biodiversity values are improved, or maintained in the vicinity of the Airport. Land that is not identified for either biodiversity certification (development) or for conservation, is termed ‘retained land’ and is not affected by the Biodiversity Certification process.  So, while individual or groups of trees or vegetation on certain private properties within the OLS may be identified under the Bio-Certification for removal (to avoid penetrating the OLS), the remainder of the property is classed as ‘retained land’ that will neither be impacted nor conserved.  Normal processes would apply where a landowner wishes to submit an application to develop ‘retained land’.

How can I understand the Biodiversity Certification proposal in more detail?

The Biodiversity Certification proposal has been developed by an expert in Biodiversity Certification, in consultation with the NSW Office of Environment and Heritage. 

The proposal includes terms such as ‘Biometric Vegetation Type’, ‘Ecosystem Credits’, ‘Red Flag Variation Criteria’ and ‘Credit discounting’.  It includes planning for a large number of vegetation types and for fauna, with the aim of providing secure habitat for such species in the long term.

Council staff will aim to provide feedback on any detailed questions during the exhibition period, in consultation with Ecological Australia.

What is the process after community consultation?

The Draft Biodiversity Certification assessment and strategy will be exhibited for a minimum of 30 days, after which all submissions will be reported to a future Council meeting for consideration. 

Subject to any necessary amendments, the Draft Biodiversity Certification assessment and strategy would then be referred to the NSW Environment Minister for endorsement.

The Ministerial order granting biodiversity certification on the land (Biodiversity Certification Order) is the legal instrument that details the certification, including any requirements for implementing identified conservation measures.

For further information

If you have any questions that are not addressed above, please contact Council’s Senior Strategic Planner, Sandra Bush on: 02 6581 8111 or email: sandra.bush@pmhc.nsw.gov.au