The Queensland Government is currently reviewing Queensland’s environmental offsets framework. You can have your opinion on this important framework heard now – submissions due 5pm, 24 April
A biodiversity offset is intended to be a measure taken to compensate unavoidable impacts allowed on an environmental value by protecting or restoring an equivalent environmental value on another area. For example, if a developer clears key koala habitat for their development, under an offset requirement they may need to invest in restoring equivalent koala habitat on another degraded site to attempt to compensate for this impact.
Love them or hate them, biodiversity offsets appear to be here to stay in our environmental laws.
There is one thing we can be sure of, the current biodiversity offset framework is failing our environment and is in drastic need of improvement.
There is an opportunity now open to have your concerns heard to help improve our offsets framework. We encourage all interested to get a submission in by 5pm, 24 April!
Make a submission
Submissions now close at 5pm, 24 April 2019
Want more information? See the Queensland Government discussion paper: Review of the Queensland Environmental Offsets Framework
Environmental offsets - a flawed regime
Offsets have been part of our environmental assessment framework in Queensland for many years, and in 2014 were legally enshrined in the Environmental Offsets Act 2014 (Qld). The purpose of this Act is ‘to counterbalance the significant residual impacts of particular activities on prescribed environmental matters through the use of environmental offsets’.
The very notion of whether it’s possible to ‘counterbalance’ environmental impacts has been heavily critiqued, no doubt since concoction.
If environmental impacts are going to occur it is arguably better to offer some attempt at providing a measure to improve the health or protection of equivalent environmental features then to not undertake these measures at all.
However, poorly regulated offsets can act as a justification for allowing inappropriate environmental impact without any environmental benefit – leading to even greater environmental impacts.
EDO Qld’s key critiques of the current framework are, in summary, that it:
- is currently causing loss of biodiversity through justifying destructive development on the basis of unproven offsets;
- is not scientifically based in determining the ratio of offset required; and
- does not provide for timeliness, accountability or enforceability of offsets required.
Queensland needs big changes to avoid significant environmental loss.
We need as a minimum these 5 key changes:
- Assessment of whether an impact can actually be offset prior to a decision being made on whether to approve an impact, if it can’t the project should be refused outright;
- Clear restrictions to outright prevent impacts on our most vulnerable environmental values;
- Removal of exemptions from the offset framework which mean significant tree clearing and urban development across Queensland is allowed and species impacts are not required to be offset;
- Better accountability, transparency, security and enforceability of offsets required – to ensure they are delivered effectively; and
- Department of Environment and Science to be given concurrence agency power for all decisions involving assessment of proposed environmental impacts and offsets where state assessment is triggered.
What do you think? We welcome hearing your experiences with the offsets framework, particularly case study examples.
For helpful reports on best practice in environmental offsets to help with your submissions, we recommend the following reports:
Business and Biodiversity Offsets Programme, particularly this helpful Report on Standards of Biodiversity Offsets, page 17 onwards provides a helpful list of principles and indicators for best practice offset frameworks;
IUCN Policy on Biodiversity Offsets – a helpful summary of best practice and clear articulation that offsets should not be used to justify inappropriate development.
- OECD Policy Highlights – Biodiversity Offsets – see table 2, page 7 for a useful table of best practice key design and implementation features of biodiversity offset programs.
Also, you can view the Department's online register of the environmental offsets provided under the current framework on the Queensland Government website here.
Details for making a submission
Submissions are due by 5pm, 24 April 2019.
To have your concerns heard, send your written submissions to one of the following contacts:
- Use EDO Qld's template submission on this page
- Email: email@example.com
Environmental Offsets Review team
Department of Environment and Science
PO BOX 2454
BRISBANE QLD 4001