“This approach – biodiversity offsets – is becoming popular with governments around the world because it appears to provide a win-win: ongoing development without further loss of declining biodiversity.”
Biodiversity Offset Policy in the ACT
A biodiversity offset policy is underway in the ACT (if you’re a non-Aussie that’s the Australian Capital Territory). This is contiguous (both with regard to the content and the geographical location) to the the new biodiversity offsets policy and fund in the state of New South Wales (see my previous post Good news? Bad news? New biodiversity offset fund released in New South Wales, Australia).
Once again, it’s not quite clear whether these are good news or bad. Dr. Phil Gibbons from Australian National University (yes, that’s in the ACT) explained in an article in The Age why he considers the ACT biodiversity offset policy flawed (you can find the same comment also in The Sydney Morning Herald).
Problems with the new biodiversity offset policy
He identifies four problems:
- There is not enough knowledge how to restore much of the ACT’s biodiversity once it is lost. Therefore, the government needs to “say no” to more developments.
- Biodiversity Offsets would obviously increase the price of new housing developments (because the cost of restoration of destroyed biodiversity would have to be included). But this is unlikely to be acceptable as it contradict the aim of improving housing affordability.
- The policy allows offsets to be located outside the ACT in the surrounding state of New South Wales. This leads to the observation that any further development is unsustainable if it can’t be offset within the borders of the ACT.
- The policy is restricted to threatened species and not all native plants and animals. While threatened species actually shouldn’t be impacted at all, the more common species are likely to suffer the most from this policy.
For some background, you can also refer to an independent advice to the Office of the Commissioner for Sustainability and the Environment (OCSE) on potential biodiversity offset management actions and sites for the ACT that Phil had worked out already in 2011.
The ACT government has also established Online maps to highlight environmental offset sites. The online map viewer is called ACTMAPi.
For your conveniece I have also uploaded a pdf of the ACT biodiversity offset policy: ACT-Environmental-Offsets-Policy_15Aug