The conservation of biodiversity is a well-established principle of ecologically sustainable development and is an integral part of environmental policy and legislation in Australia. How the concept of biodiversity as understood by scientists and policy makers is reflected in environmental planning instru- ments and law and managed at various scales is another matter entirely. This article contends that if strategies are to be effective in reducing the dramatic decline in biological diversity, they must be founded upon clear, holistic and workable concepts of biodiversity that are grounded in science and positioned within a spatial hierarchy. For urban areas that rely greatly on local government policy, practice and regulation to manage natural assets, more effective utilisation of scientific knowledge about a range of biodiversity attributes at local and regional scales is needed. This will enable local government authorities to plan strategically for biodiversity across all land uses and multiple scales, thus minimising the loss of bushland and mitigating against ecological impacts resulting from increased development pressure. However, this article argues that this will only be realised through the establishment of planning policies and management strategies with meaning- ful and achievable conservation goals, integration of regional conservation priorities, and consideration of community values and economic and socio-political connections.