Brisbane City Council’s proposed changes to Biodiversity Areas Overlay

Brisbane City Council has been working on a package of amendments to the planning scheme (City Plan 2014). The amendments include proposed changes to the workings of the Biodiversity areas overlay as follows:

Key Points

  • Developments within a mapped Koala habitat area that cannot satisfy the Acceptable Outcomes will have a harder time to show compliance against the Performance Outcome which now includes detailed criteria.
  • Biodiversity interface area sub-category has been removed.
  • Alignment with the State’s environmental offsets framework operating under the Environmental Offsets Act 2014 which includes:
    • A significant revision to the Offsets Planning Scheme Policy. It defines ‘significant residual impacts’. Offset ratio calculations have been simplified.
    • Biodiversity Offsets Code has been removed.
  • If a development proposes any encroachment into a Tree Protection Zone for trees to be retained, an arborist report will now be required with the tree survey plan.

For more detail read on below.


At a recent Brisbane City Council Industry Forum on 9 February, we were informed that the Council had recently completed the update to an amendment package of the City Plan 2014 following public consultation late last year. The Amendment Package A is now with the State government for review and is expected to be approved and adopted in mid-late 2017. Amendment Packages are designed “to ensure that City Plan remains effective and up-to-date”, and the changes are intended “to reflect changes in legislation as well as community and industry involvement in recent development assessment and neighbourhood planning processes”.

Amendment Package A – 2016 includes a number of amendments across a range of citywide provisions including:

  • measures to improve the management of the interface between sensitive and industrial uses
  • additional provisions for addressing local circumstances of topography and flood immunity in relation to the height of dwelling houses
  • refinement of refuse collection, traditional building character, heritage and pre-1911 provisions
  • refinement of the operation of the Biodiversity areas overlay provisions and alignment with the Queensland Government’s Environmental Offsets Act 2014
  • stronger measures to ensure existing infrastructure (e.g. the Story Bridge) is protected from encroachment by development to ensure it can be maintained
  • a range of amendments to the rooming accommodation, reconfiguring a lot, prescribed exempt development and neighbourhood plan provisions
  • a range of mapping amendments proposed to zoning maps and a number of overlays, including the Dwelling house character overlay, Heritage overlay, Pre-1911 building overlay, Traditional building character overlay and Waterway corridors overlay.

Changes to Biodiversity areas and offsets

This article looks at the detail of the key changes to the Biodiversity areas overlay and related parts of the planning scheme. For a complete list of the Amendment Package A contents, please visit the Council’s dedicated page by clicking here.

Biodiversity offsets code

Item-1 The Biodiversity offsets code has been deleted. Whilst offsets are still required for significant residual impacts on Matters of Local Environmental Significance (MLES), they will now be delivered in accordance with the Queensland environmental offsets framework established under the Environmental Offsets Act 2014. Therefore, all references to the Biodiversity offsets code have been removed from Planning Scheme Policies (PSPs), Neighbourhood plans, assessment tables and codes.

Biodiversity areas overlay code

Item-1 The code and associated mapping no longer includes the Biodiversity interface area sub-category.
Item-2 Performance Outcome (PO) 7 is relevant if a site is wholly or partly mapped in one of the Koala habitat area categories but not in one of the ecological significance categories. PO7 has been strengthened by spelling out the criteria for ‘protecting and enhancing koala habitat’ with text previously located in the Biodiversity areas planning scheme policy. The following criteria have now been included:

(a)    reducing threats to resident and transient koalas;

(b)    protecting the maximum number of non-juvenile koala habitat trees in the koala habitat area sub-category and the Priority koala habitat area sub-category;

(c)     consolidating and maximising the size of areas to be conserved on-site and in combination with adjoining sites;

(d)    minimising the edge-to-area ratio of areas to be conserved, to limit edge effects;

(e)    providing connectivity and safe koala movement between koala habitat areas;

(f)      minimising fragmentation by infrastructure, particularly roads; and

(g)    excluding filling and excavation from areas to be conserved.

Therefore it will be more difficult for developments that cannot satisfy the Acceptable Outcomes (AO) to show compliance against the Performance outcome.

Item-3 PO9 requires, without any AO option, that any development (regardless of lot size, etc.) that results in significant residual impact on a Matters of State Environmental Significance (MSES) or MLES will need to offset.

Biodiversity Areas Planning Scheme Policy

Item-1 The preparation of a tree survey plan (section 2.3) now requires an arborist report (to be prepared in accordance with Chapter 1 of the Infrastructure Design planning scheme policy) if there is to be any encroachment into Tree Protection Zones for trees to be retained.

Offset Planning Scheme Policy

Item-1 Section 2.1 provides a definition of ‘significant residual impacts’ as follows:

(1)        For the purposes of MLES, development has a significant residual impact where it directly or indirectly involves interference with any vegetation (vegetation being any tree or plant other than a non-native grass or non-woody herbage). Interference means engaging in any activity that damages or leads to the death of living vegetation, or that compromises the habitat value of dead trees.

(2)        Impacts of the following works are not treated as significant residual impacts for MLES:

(a)    works associated with habitat or vegetation restoration;

(b)   works commissioned by Council for the remediation or management of former landfills;

(c)    works commissioned by Council for the establishment, maintenance or upgrade of recreation facilities and associated infrastructure within Council-managed parks; and

(d)   works which only involve interference with pest species declared under Australian or Queensland Government legislation or Council’s Brisbane Invasive Species Management Plan 2013-2017.

Item-2 The planning scheme policy sets out simple land based offset ratios however they are the same for High ecological significance and General ecological significance. The ratio is 1:3 (for every 1 unit impacted, 3 units will need to be provided).
Item-3 Financial offsets as per Council’s adopted environmental offsets charges schedule which is yet to be published.


4 Comments Add yours

  1. Ted Fensom says:

    1. THE Biodiversity layer only has 5 sub layers
    2 Fauna layer is missing
    3 Endemism layers are missing
    4. High Value Regrowth is missing
    5. CNCCS entity is missing
    6, FFIS is missing
    7 Arc GIS has been refused
    8. Greenspace mapping lacks PMAVs, Urban Fooprint andx


    1. Thanks for your comment, Ted.
      Unfortunately, mapping is never perfect and a lot more could be added to it. That is why we always recommend field work to ground-truth any mapping which also helps pick up anything that is not mapped such as fauna!
      Some of the data you’ve mentioned is provided through different systems such as council’s eBimap (some fauna information and CNCCS) and the State’s DA mapping maintained by the Dept of Infrastructure, Local Government and Planning (Urban Footprint, High Value Regrowth, PMAVs).
      I’m not sure about your point #7 about ArcGIS, but Council has finally made available all its mapping in GIS formats through its Open Data website (


  2. Peter says:

    If your property is proposed to be turned into a Green Zone, what are the chances of the Brisbane Council accepting your submission and allowing property development to occur?


    1. Hi Peter! Unfortunately, that’s not an easy question to answer. It depends on where your land is; its size; what is mapped over it and whether a field survey has been conducted to confirm the mapping; why the Council wants to rezone; any compromises that could be made to allow some development but retain some native vegetation; etc. If you are personally in this situation, my advice would be to contact a town planner to pursue it with Council.


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