Balancing the needs of biodiversity in the context of ecologically sustainable development remains a challenging and ongoing issue for consent authorities, developers and scientists alike. This article explores some of the practical, scientific, legislative and policy issues facing the protection of biodiversity in the context of urbanisation. The application of legislative and policy instruments to environmental decision-making needs to be complemented with more site-specific, evidenced-based research and with regard to the biodiversity of the broader landscape. It is argued that such an approach will help determine more accurately the likely long-term environmental outcomes that can be expected from setbacks, offsets, buffers and corridors within urban landscapes. In examining the question of setbacks adjacent to development, various relevant examples of court decisions are considered. In addition, a range of recent research studies are used to show that riparian zones are ecologically distinct as compared with non-riparian bushland. In addition, riparian corridor width is shown to influence the composition of flora and invertebrate fauna communities, supporting the use of wide buffers to maximise biodiversity outcomes. The application of site-specific empirical findings in biodiversity planning and decision-making will help limit and mitigate the key threatening processes of clearing and fragmentation.