Pockets of land deemed to hold high conservation significance that have fallen through the cracks of current legislation can now be nominated for protection in NSW.
A new program, which will declare "areas of outstanding biodiversity value", will make swathes of extra land across the state eligible for conservation funding and legal protection.
But conservation advocates say the long-awaited reform is "underwhelming" and mistakenly relies on the "goodwill of landholders".
The scheme is aimed at safeguarding any land critical for conservation efforts that is not covered by National Parks legislation, like Manly's Little Penguin colony or the Wollemi Pines forest.
They are two of only four areas of outstanding biodiversity value already declared in NSW.
Nominated "areas of outstanding biodiversity value" will undergo assessment, and once identified, will be automatically prioritised to receive funds from the Biodiversity Conservation Trust (BCT).
Announcing the new legal instruments on Thursday, NSW Environment Minister Matt Kean said the scheme was critical to protect flora and fauna left vulnerable under the state's current conservation measures.
"This is another tool to ensure areas of irreplaceable biodiversity on private and public lands across NSW can be protected," Mr Kean said in a statement.
While the areas can only be declared with landholders' consent, BCT chair Niall Blair is excited the legislation's creates the potential to safeguard private land.
"This new mechanism will help us capture areas and pockets of high value biodiversity that otherwise may have slipped through the net," he said.
But Nature Conservation Council chief executive Chris Gambian says the voluntary nature of the scheme is a "significant shortcoming".
"It actually offers no more protection than landholders are currently prepared to provide, although it does reward them financially for doing so," he said.
The government's private land conservation efforts should instead focus on the small minority of landholders who do the wrong thing.
"The AOBV scheme was a key component of the coalition's overhaul of conservation laws in NSW, but for some reason it has taken four years to deliver and is a little underwhelming."
"The truth is that even with this new scheme, wildlife and critical habitat is still woefully unprotected because the whole system relies on the goodwill of landholders."
Australian Associated Press