How to pass the Seven-part Test
Step 1: Survey for bushfire hazard and flora and fauna
Step 2: Identify potential opportunities and constraints
Step 3: Design your project around these
Step 4: Prepare the Seven-part Test
Step 5: You PASS!!
Is it that easy? YES!
Most developers are frustrated by delays gaining Council approval for Development Applications involving clearing trees and bushfire protection measures.
Early planning can save you time and money, and reduce this frustration.
Whether you are planning a subdivision, road construction, or a romantic mountain cottage, you need to apply to Council for consent. Your DA will need an environmental assessment, usually including a flora and fauna report and 7-Part Test. The "Seven-part Test" is a list of questions which allow decision makers to assess whether a proposed development is likely to have a significant effect on threatened species of plants and animals, ecological communities or their habitats.
Decision makers are usually planning and environmental officers in the local council. They prepare a report recommending either approval or rejection of a DA. The matter may or may not go to a vote at a Council meeting.
When a "Seven-part Test" is applied, following a survey of a site, it may or may not be found that a significant effect will be made either on the site or off the site. The "Seven-part Test" questions need to be answered fully before Council will make that decision. If the answer is "yes", a Species Impact Statement (SIS) will be required, which requires an extensive investigation of both the site and surrounding areas.
The view of both Council and the NPWS (DEC) is that it is preferable to avoid an SIS. How?
Negotiation with Council is often crucial at this stage. This will produce alternative development solutions resulting in a "Seven-part Test" which finds no significant effect, and so avoid an SIS. Your DA can then be submitted to Council with confidence, because you have negotiated a good development.
Endangered Species Profiles - Legal Issues - Management Issues
There are different levels of conservation concern for flora and fauna. These are:
a) Threatened Species, categorised as:
(i) Endangered (likely to go extinct unless something improves very soon), or
(ii) Rare and Vulnerable (declining in the face of serious threats)
These are both National (Commonwealth) and State matters
b) Regionally significant, being species which are uncommon and peculiar to an area
c) Protected, being most native species
d) Unprotected, such as the dingo
e) Exotic or introduced species
f) Noxious species, such as weeds or vermin (Cat, Fox, Black Rat)
An Honest and Comprehensive Flora and Fauna Survey and Report
State Government law in New South Wales requires a Council to consider the impact of a development proposal on the natural environment, among other things. This includes flora and fauna, and their habitat.
The Development Application and flora and fauna report you submit to Council needs to be clear and comprehensive, so that Council can make an informed decision on whether to permit your proposal, with all its impacts. Not every local Council has staff and Councillors who are highly skilled in environmental issues, so the report may be referred to either a consultant engaged by Council, and/or to DECCW for critical comment.
Firstly Council should have a list of Threatened Species (flora and fauna) for the area, from the NPWS Atlas of NSW Wildlife, which is a computer database. You can get this for free from Council. Other important issues will be in the Local Environment Plan, and a Development Control Plan. Then you can either write a report yourself, or engage a consultant. Again, Council has a list of consultants from a NPWS (DECCW) database. These people are not endorsed or approved by Councils or NPWS (DECCW), but merely a list of available consultants, with different skills and expertise, and geographic areas in which they work. Council may also have a document outlining their particular requirements for a report format.
The process could follow steps such as:
1. Check published maps and data bases for vegetation types, and species distributions.
2. Visit the site to see what soil, and vegetation actually occurs there.
3. Create an expected species list for the site and the surrounding area, based on habitat types.
4. Design a survey to detect all the species listed.
5. Survey the site in weather conditions and season appropriate to find these species.
6. Write a report which details all the above, and the results of the survey.
7. Assess the likely and possible impacts of the proposed development both for the site, and its surrounding area.
8. Identify constraints to development resulting from habitat of Threatened Species, sensitive vegetation communities, or other environmental issues targeted by Council regulations or planning laws.
9. Work out ways to avoid, reduce, or ameliorate the impacts by designing around any significant constraints.
10. Discuss your plan with Council to see if there are significant issues they need to address.
11. Prepare Seven-part Tests for Threatened Species, based on your final design.
There is a range of issues to be covered in any flora and fauna report, such as:
What is the existing condition of the site?
What will the site be like after the development is complete?
What steps did the consultant take to predict what species are likely to occur (common species) or which could possibly use the site (rare or threatened species)?
What methods were used to detect these species and what effort (number of searchers and how many hours) was made to find them?
What time of year, time of day and weather conditions were used for the survey?
Maps should show the area surveyed and the vegetation and fauna habitat on the site and surrounding areas.
If there are Threatened Species nearby or on your site, maps should show their habitat, where they are active for breeding, foraging, migrating, sheltering and so on, as well as how your site links to nearby areas of habitat for the species.
Step 1: Identify needs. What are your plans and desires?
Step 2: Survey for site character.
Step 3: Identify your opportunities and constraints.
Step 4: Design your Management Plan solutions.
Most land managers are frustrated by delays in gaining Council or Departmental approval for Development Applications on or near natural bushland sites.
Early planning can save you time and money and reduce this frustration.
Your property will work better with secure pasture, water and soil fertility.
A site analysis will provide an assessment of your needs.
A site survey will identify your opportunities and constraints.
The Management Plan will provide a framework for long-term sustainable and profitable use of your land.
Most sites have a range of both opportunities and constraints which affect planning the use of the site.
Management of these issues can be critical to the success of a project. Matters for management include pasture security, erosion control, bushfire, stormwater, effluent control, salinity, creek and river banks, native vegetation and wildlife.
Abel Ecology can:
Negotiation with Departmental or Council staff is often crucial at this stage. This will produce a Management design that fits a range of Planning Instrument requirements.
Your Plan can then be prepared with confidence because you have designed and negotiated a good outcome.
Many properties strike trouble because they are used up rather than managed for the long term, and plans are made before the site constraints, such as bush fire hazard, erosion and salinity issues, are identified.
Don't get caught. Plan ahead!
Good preliminary research will save time and money at all stages of the progress of a project, from concept, to design, to lodging your Plan with Council.
A well-managed property is more profitable, and is not only easier to sell, but is likely to achieve a higher selling price!
While anyone can do a survey and write a report, Council or other determining authority requires a "suitably qualified person" to do this work. Remember that being listed on the NPWS (DECCW) register is NOT a guarantee that a person or firm is suitably qualified.
So how do you find out?
Ask for their detailed CV.
The basic training will be a university degree which includes ecology, botany and zoology, or some equivalent disciplines. TAFE certificates are not adequate qualifications for this work.
Suitably qualified consultants are sometimes specialists. These people only do work with a limited range of species, e.g. birds. Some consultants have worked at gaining the relevant expertise and experience by attending supplementary courses at TAFE, or through government organisations. Conferences can include a field work component for learning skills, but these are usually options.
Since a Seven-part Test involves handling or interacting with Threatened Species, a qualified consultant will have a range of licenses and insurance. These include:
a) Scientific Research License from NPWS (DECCW), for general survey work and for working with Threatened Species of plants;
b) Animal Care and Ethics Committee licence showing that industry standards are met for surveying fauna;
c) Public Liability Insurance;
d) Professional Indemnity Insurance; and
e) Membership of the Ecological Consultants Association of NSW Inc or an equivalent body in another State. This is a professional body set up in response to requirements of the Threatened Species Conservation Act, and members sign a Code of Conduct.
It will be wise to use a consultant who is able to issue a Tax Receipt for GST purposes. Unfortunately, Council staff are not at liberty to comment on the suitability of consultants.
You need to engage a qualified consultant. Again, Council may have their own list of preferred consultants, or a list of consultants from a NPWS (DECCW) database. This list is now withdrawn by NPWS (DECCW), as these people are not endorsed or approved by Councils or NPWS (DECCW), but merely a list of available consultants, with different skills and expertise, and geographic areas in which they work. It is up to you to discover if a particular consultant is actually qualified for the work you require. Your Council may also have a document outlining their particular requirements for a report format.
DECCW has provided guidance for consultants and council staff in the form of a guidelines document called Circular 2. This shows the level of detail to be provided as a minimum standard for a report. If you engage a consultant, it is wise to ensure that the consultant abides by the Circular 2 guidelines.
Some consultants claim to be "accredited", but at present there is no accreditation in NSW. A new national scheme is proposed for accreditation of environmental professionals, which may come into effect in 2005.
Conditions of licenses held by a consultant require that data produced by survey be lodged with NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service. Conditions of licenses held also require that data produced by survey be lodged with the Atlas of NSW Wildlife. A report of results will be presented to the relevant Determining Authority.
The most common objection to a development, both by councils and by local residents, is overdevelopment of the site. That is, trying to get too much onto the site. You can't make an omelette without breaking eggs. There will be an impact on a site by a development. Your development may actually improve a site, if it is designed well.
Two concepts that are helpful are impact amelioration and habitat enhancement.
To ameliorate is to reduce, make less. A careful design can minimise the impact that a development has on soils, water, air quality, noise and natural habitat.
Enhance means to improve. Natural habitat is under constant threat and is in many places degraded. A development may offer an opportunity to reverse the process and create an outcome which is better than the existing natural habitat condition on the site.
Golf courses have a well deserved reputation for bad environmental management. This ranges from poor landscape planning to pollution of watercourses with disposal of unwanted chemicals and oils.
In some places, a golf course is the only green open space not used for farming, housing or commercial development. Trees, natural bushland, dams, and creeks offer opportunity to create clean habitat and are areas which act as cleaning agents. Natural vegetation can settle dust, reduce wind strength, reduce soil temperatures, enable rainfall infiltration and prevent salt scouring. Well managed fairways and roughs can be less expensive to maintain and provide more comfortable playing conditions. Water hazards, dams and water courses can purify water as it flows through the course.
A course which has a range of good quality fauna habitat enables wildlife to live on the site. Wildlife such as owls, micro bats and frogs eat pest insects by night, while birds and lizards eat pest insects by day. Wildlife provides valuable ecological services in this way, not only to the course, but to adjacent farmland or residential areas.
Conditions of licences held by a consultant require that data produced by survey be lodged with NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service. Conditions of licences held also require that data produced by survey be lodged with the Atlas of NSW Wildlife.
A report of your survey results will be presented to the relevant Determining Authority as part of your development application.
It is our experience that legal searches may not extend to finding environmental constraints, and that real estate agents may not be aware of such issues. Councils have no obligation to find impediments for any parcel of land beyond the zoning restrictions and opportunities. Land may be "capable" of supporting a particular development by virtue of zoning, but may not be "suitable" because of constraints peculiar to any individual site or development proposal.
We advise that before purchase of land, an assessment is undertaken to find out if Threatened species or plant communities exist on a development site, or if other environmental constraints exist.
Any contract for purchase of land needs to include clauses:
"subject to suitable finance", and
"subject to approval of Development Application".
Management Plans prepared for all property developments, including agriculture and land management.
Fast response, reliable, accurate advice.
Phone Abel Ecology for advice on:
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Biodiversity (biological diversity) is the variety of life: the different plants, animals and micro-organisms, the genes they contain and the ecosystem of which they form a part. The concept is often considered at genetic, species and ecosystem levels. It is a reflection and essential part of the operation of ecological processes. Some ecosystems are naturally more diverse than others and diversity does not necessarily directly relate to conservation value or management. Conservation of biodiversity is a fundamental principle of ecologically sustainable development. (Commonwealth Department of Environment, Sport and Territories 1996)
Ecologically sustainable development (ESD)
The concept and principles of ESD were first developed in the report of the World Commission on the Environment and Development, Our common Future, (Brundtland Report 1987). The basic concept of ESD is that present generations should meet their needs without compromising the needs of future generations. In recent years, ESD has been incorporated into environmental legislation and decision-making both in Australia and overseas.
The principles of ESD are:
a) the precautionary
principle – namely, that if there are threats of serious or irreversible
environmental damage, lack of full scientific certainty should not be used as a
reason for postponing measures to prevent environmental degradation
b) inter-generational equity
– namely, that the present generation should ensure that the health, diversity
and productivity of the environment is maintained or enhanced for the benefit of
c) conservation of biological
diversity and ecological integrity
d) improved valuation and pricing of environmental resources
Cumulative impacts refers to impacts resulting from a multitude of developments or activities, and their interactions in space and time.
Ecological processes are processes, which play an essential role in maintaining the integrity and continuity of an ecosystem. Important ecological processes are water and nutrient cycling, the flow of energy, and natural selection. Ecological processes are often described by the term, natural processes.
An ecosystem means a dynamic complex of plant, animal, fungal and micro-organism communities and associated non-living environment interacting as an ecological unit. An important ecosystem function is resilience, which is the capacity of a community or species to recover after disturbance and can be described as recovery potential.
Resilience is usually described in terms of the degree, manner and pace of restoration of the structure and function of an original ecosystem after disturbance.
An ecological community (or community) is an integrated assemblage of species occupying a particular area.
Habitat is an area or place occupied by a species, population or ecological community. It may be occupied permanently, periodically or occasionally. ‘Habitat value’ means whether an area is capable of supporting large numbers of a range of species. To enable this, it must have vegetation diversity (both species and structure) and contain a range of sufficient resources such as nesting places, food and protection from predators, etc. as required by each species present.
A species is a group of organisms capable of interbreeding freely with each other but (usually) not with members of other species. It includes any defined sub-species and taxon below a sub-species, and any recognisable variant of a sub-species or taxon. An ‘indigenous species’ is a species that occurs and reproduces naturally within a local area and which has genetic material deriving from that local area. An ‘introduced species’ means a species that is not locally indigenous to the pre-European Australia. The term ‘native species’ is normally used to refer to species indigenous to NSW but is also sometimes used to imply a locally indigenous species.
Modification includes those practices which would enable weed invasion, the alteration of hydrology, soil erosion and change to soil structure and chemistry, nutrient enrichment through effluent runoff, or creation of an inappropriate fire regime. Examples may include the probability of increased fire frequency, use of habitat of an EEC for effluent disposal and the extension of Outer Protection areas into an EEC.
Population means a group of organisms, all of the same species, occupying a particular area. A ‘sub-species’ is a geographically separate population of a species, being a population characterised by morphological or biological differences from other populations of that species.
A Threatened Species is a species considered to be at risk of becoming extinct, or of becoming endangered. Such species are listed in the NSW Threatened Species Conservation Act 1995. A ‘Rare Species’ means a species considered to be unusual or present in small numbers, usually due to a population decline.
Threatening Process means a process that threatens, or may have the capability to threaten, the survival of species, populations or ecological communities.
Native vegetation is vegetation that is indigenous to Australia, that is, of species that existed in Australia before European settlement. ‘Bushland’ is defined as land on which there are locally indigenous plant communities which are either a remainder of the indigenous vegetation of the land, or, if altered, are still representative of the structure and floristics of the indigenous vegetation. Bushland includes regrowth of a plant community at any stage of its lifecycle and at any one time some species may only be present as seeds in the soil.
A plant (or vegetation) community means a group of organisms living together in a definable region or habitat and defined by the vegetation.
Species composition refers to the floristics of a plant community and means the number, type and relative proportion of different species occurring on a site or in an area. Species composition of bushland varies from site to site.
Vegetation structure means the pattern of the height, form and density of the vegetation.
Wetland means land periodically inundated with water, comprising emergent vegetation dominated by characteristic wetland species.
Fauna means animals, and includes fish, birds, reptiles, invertebrates, mammals, frogs and so on.
Home range means the area used by a species for day to day activities on a seasonal basis such as feeding, breeding and nesting.
Arboreal means living in or associated with trees, tree dwelling.
Nomadic fauna are species which move widely in response to availability of resources, such as food or nesting sites. These species do not necessarily return to the same location on a regular basis.
Migratory species are those that move from one location to another, then return to the same location on a seasonal or annual basis.
Preservation means management that aims to retain a natural ecosystem system in its current state and to minimise change.
Conservation aims to maintain the continuity of a natural ecosystem, with or without change and refers to the process and actions of looking after a place so as to retain its natural significance. Conservation and preservation include protection, maintenance, enhancement and monitoring.
Restoration means the process of reinstatement of the structure, processes, inter-relationships and dynamics of a natural ecological community. It includes the rehabilitation of an ecosystem to a more complex, healthy, self-sustaining and biodiverse condition. The main objective is to enhance ecological processes, biodiversity and natural productivity.
The restoration capacity of an area is a measure of how difficult the restoration of a site will be and is based on an assessment of resilience and robustness. This will determine the type of restoration or rehabilitation that is feasible to undertake.
Bush regeneration means the rehabilitation of bushland from a weed infested or otherwise degraded plant community to a healthy community composed of predominantly indigenous species. Bush regeneration actively encourages natural regeneration of indigenous plant communities and relies on natural germination and resprouting of plants assisted by weed removal, management of disturbance and the enhancement of natural processes. It does not generally include replanting of vegetation.
Assisted regeneration uses natural regeneration but also includes replanting of degraded areas with locally indigenous seed or plant material derived from the locality and from a similar plant community to that occurring on the site.
Bush restoration is the process of restoring degraded bushland where resilience is depleted to a healthier condition. The purpose of restoration is to restore remnant vegetation and habitat to a more resilient and authentic state modelled on the indigenous plant communities of the area. Restoration focuses on repair and rehabilitation of degraded sites in order to reinstate ecological processes and enhance biodiversity. Restoration can include repair and reconstruction of natural elements to facilitate the recovery of natural processes and flora and fauna. It can include reintroduction of species through planting and major changes to the ecosystem structure and function on a site such as earth works or drainage work. Bush restoration is appropriate in situations where there has been significant disturbance to a site. It is proposed for areas where existing remnant vegetation has been degraded to an extent that bush regeneration is not likely to be successful.
For some important plant communities (such as those listed as endangered Ecological Communities) special measures may need to be applied to reconstruct plant communities to the highest possible level of authenticity where they have been extensively disturbed.
Type conversion. Creation of a new plant community is sometimes referred to as type conversion. This is appropriate where conditions are permanently changed and better-adapted ecological systems can be regenerated/constructed to restore integrity to the landscape. This refers to a designed plant community with the emphasis on revegetation, which means the planting or establishment of plants on a site with an emphasis on the maintenance of natural processes rather than replication of a previously existing system. Revegetation is normally carried out for specific purposes such as site stabilisation, and prevention of erosion, habitat creation, agriculture, landscaping and improving amenity, modification of groundwater levels and salinity, fixing of atmospheric carbon dioxide in plant material to compensate for greenhouse gas emissions and the like.
Assessments of the condition (or 'health') of native vegetation have regard to the degree of degradation of a plant community. Bush regenerators normally base this on an estimate of weed density and the regenerative (or recovery) potential of a site which is an indication of the potential of the vegetation to re-establish on a site once weeds and other disturbances have been controlled.
Landscaping (or landscape design) is used to describe the activity of modifying the environment for cultural and aesthetic purposes by design. This often includes removal of existing vegetation but can integrate revegetation and other physical structures or works to create a new physical landscape arrangement, use and appearance. Landscaping often ignores or degrades ecological processes that operate on the site. Landscape design using locally indigenous plant material to create an artificial system using local components can be described as native landscaping or retroscaping.
Natural significance means the importance of biodiversity and ecosystems for their existence value, or for present or future generations in terms of their scientific, social, aesthetic and life support value, and is sometimes referred to as conservation importance, significance or value.
Conservation Significance of a species or community is determined by the adequacy of its conservation within reserves such as National Parks or Nature Reserve. Conservation Significance can be broken down into National, State or Regional Significance. If a species or community is rare or threatened across Australia, it may be considered of National Significance and listed under the Commonwealth’s Environmental Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999. If a species or community is rare and threatened within NSW is would be listed under the Threatened Species Conservation Act 1995. Similarly, species that are rare or threatened within a region (i.e. Western Sydney) are of Regional Significance, although in most cases they have no formal listing under legislation.
A corridor is an area of habitat that enables migration, colonisation and interbreeding of plants and animals between two or more larger areas of habitat. Corridors may consist of a sequence of discontinuous areas of habitat (such as feeding trees, caves, wetlands and roadside vegetation).
Region is a concept used to group geographic areas having some common feature or relationship, generally for the purposes of administration or study. Regions may coincide with natural boundaries such as water catchments or bioregions, or with socio-economic or other boundaries and are landscape units. Some legislation allows regions to be determined for the purposes of administration.
Locality (or local area). For the purpose of much biodiversity survey work locality refers to an area within a 10km radius of a site. Note that locality has a different meaning to local.
Local refers to a grouping of land at the scale of a single local government area.
Water catchment means the area of land drained by a river or body of water.
A bioregion (or bio-geographic region) is a region in which the boundaries are determined by (or reflect) similarities in geology, climate and vegetation.
Scale means the level or extent or geographic area to which an issue relates. For example spatial scales commonly used are global, continental, regional, catchment, local and site. Temporal scales can also apply and range from long-term to short-term.
Detention basin (syn. detention wetland). A water storage area where the water is held for a period of time. These structures are usually used to regulate stormwater flows in modified catchments or to release treated effluent in a regulated fashion.
Retention basin (syn. retention wetland). A water storage area where water is stored for a future use e.g. irrigation or drinking water. These structures may also be used to regulate the flow of rivers, creeks or runoff or to reuse stormwater or treated effluent.
Legal and Administrative Concepts
An environmental study is an evaluation document required prior to the preparation of a local environmental plan or regional environmental plan as referred to in the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act 1979.
Development means the erection of a building, the carrying out of a work, the use of land, or the subdivision of land and is defined in the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act 1979. This definition is used for regulating development and land use in environmental planning instruments.
Activity means an action, whether a use of land or in association with use of land, leading to a disturbance or change to the ecosystems on the land.
Natural area means community land under the management of a local council predominantly managed to protect and retain the natural ecosystems occurring on that land, and is as may be defined in the Local Government Act 1993.
A land management plan (or plan of management) is a document describing land and how it will be managed. A land management plan may be generic (applying to a number of situations such as a catchment or local government area) or site specific. Plans may be legally binding (such as a condition of consent), required by legislation (such as for community land identified in the Local Government Act 1993) or advisory (private farm management plans).
Land and Environment Court Definitions
Likely "a real or not remote chance or possibility regardless of whether it is less or more than 50%".
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