Environmental Offset Presentation, QELA - 29052014


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Environmental Offset Presentation, QELA - 29052014

  1. 1. Qld Environmental Law Association Annual Conference 29 May 2014 Jason Richard (Principal Ecologist) Queensland Office Level 22, 127 Creek Street, Brisbane
  2. 2.  What is an offset?  Principles underpinning offsets  Challenges to effective offsetting  The new Queensland Environmental Offsets Policy  Limitations of the new (and old) framework
  3. 3. The Productivity Commission in its 2013 review of major project assessment processes described environmental offsets as: “environmentally beneficial activities that counterbalance or compensate for the adverse impacts of a development on the environment.”
  4. 4. No net loss Species composition, habitat structure, ecosystem function Significant adverse residual impact Net gain Avoid, reduce and mitigate Counterbalance Compensate People’s use and cultural values Measurable conservation outcomes
  5. 5. A) Remnant Brigalow ecosystem B) Regrowth Brigalow ecosystem How much of B do you need to make up for loss of 1ha of A?
  6. 6. Protecting habitat which already exists = net loss
  7. 7. Relying on restoration/revegetation = net loss Source: Bekessy et al (2010)
  8. 8. 1. + = ? ? Equivalence?
  9. 9. 1. Restoration is feasible. 2. Clearing threaten a species, population, or ecological community. 3. Adaptive management. 4. Offsets provide values for periods commensurate with impacts from clearing. 5. Adequate auditing and compliance.
  10. 10. 1. 2002 – Fish Habitat: Mitigation and Compensation for Works or Activities Causing Marine Fish Habitat Loss 2. 2005 – Policy for Vegetation Management Offsets 3. 2006 – Offsets for Net Gain of Koala Habitat in Southeast Queensland Policy 4. 2008 – Queensland Government Environmental Offsets Policy 5. 2011 – Biodiversity Offset Policy 6. 2014 – Environmental Offsets Act and single Queensland Environmental Offsets Policy
  11. 11. 1. Five overlapping policies. 2. State and Federal policies trading in different currencies (RE’s vs habitat/ecosystems). 3. Lack of clarity around when offsets are required. 4. Multipliers which varied within and across policies. 5. Lack of “off the shelf options”. 6. Lack of clarity around financial settlement offsets. 7. Constantly shifting policy – several iterations over life of single project. 8. Difficulty in locating appropriate offset sites.
  12. 12. 1. A ‘one stop’ for environmental offsets. 2. A new Queensland Environmental Offsets Policy. 3. Applies to prescribed activities and prescribed environmental matters. 4. Includes new (off the shelf) tools such as Direct Benefit Management Plans and Strategic Investment Corridors.
  13. 13. Environmental Offsets Act (2014) • Provides the foundation an offset and how it is provided. • Defines prescribed activities (section 9), for which an offset may be required. • Defines prescribed environmental matters (section 10); • Establishes the concept of significant adverse residual impact. • Establishes the Offset Account, administered by DEHP; • Gives effect to the new Queensland Environmental Offsets Policy.
  14. 14. When the Policy Applies 1. Where ‘prescribed activities’ result in significant adverse residual impacts to ‘prescribed environmental matters’, including: • A Matter of State Environmental Significance (including an existing offset area); • An accredited Matter of NES; • A matter of local environmental significance under a local planning scheme 2. Offsets may not be required where there is a significant residual impact on a prescribed environmental manner
  15. 15. Offset delivery 1. Authority holder must notify administering agency of intended approach prior to commencement of activity. 2. Greater emphasis on financial settlement. 3. Proponent-driven (land based offsets, DBMP, Strategic Benefit Investment Corridors) remain an integral component. 4. Combination of financial settlement and proponent-driven offsets possible. 5. Draft Financial settlement offset calculator available.
  16. 16. Offset Ratios 1. Capped at 4:1 for most values. 2. Up to 10:1 for protected areas. 3. 3:1 for Koalas in SEQ, plus 3 x on ground costs. 4. As low as 1:1 for some values.
  17. 17. Financial Settlement Offsets 1. An authority holder can acquit offset obligations for marine/aquatic and terrestrial environments via payment to the Offset Account. 2. On ground operations may commence when payment is received. 3. Standard payment is based on the following formula: Financial settlement = (total offset area on ground x cost per ha + landholder incentive payment + admin cost)
  18. 18. Financial Settlement Offsets – Example
  19. 19. Financial Settlement Offsets – Example Clearing 35ha of Wallum Froglet habitat, Maroochydore Financial settlement = (total offset area on ground x cost per ha + landholder incentive payment + admin cost) Total offset area on ground: 35 x 4 (multiplier) = 140ha Cost per ha: 140 x $20,000 = $2,800,000 Landholder incentive: 140 x $17,694 (UV/ha) = $2,477,160 Admin cost: 25% = $700,000 TOTAL = $5,977,160
  20. 20. Proponent-driven offsets • Must deliver a conservation outcome: A conservation outcome is achieved by an environmental offset for a prescribed activity for a prescribed environmental matter if the offset is selected, designed and managed to maintain the viability of the matter. • Legally secured – although offsets can be cleared? • Must be set out in an Offset Delivery Plan. • Can be delivered solely via Direct Benefit Management Plan.
  21. 21. Limitations – capped multipliers • The Policy seeks to cap risk multipliers at 4:1 for most matters. • Aside from being arbitrary in nature, experience tells us these are unlikely to be adequate to accommodate risk of failure. • For example – Green and Golden Bell Frogs at Sydney Olympic Park, ultimate offset ratio 19:1. Pickett, E.J., Stockwell, M.P., Bower, D.S., Garnham, J.I., Pollard, C.J., Clulow, J. & Mahony, M.J. (2013). Achieving no net loss in habitat offset of a threatened frog required high offset ratio and intensive monitoring. Biological Conservation, 157, 156–162
  22. 22. Limitations – ‘no net loss’ and like for like? • No recognition of irreplaceability. • Substitution of values (that is, offsetting the clearing area with a different, albeit similar value) and provision of offsets hundreds of kilometres from the offset site. • Habitat or ecosystem-based approach can be likened to grouping overlapping but often quite separate goals.
  23. 23. Limitations – Irreplaceability
  24. 24. Limitations - time lag in delivery and restoration uncertainty? • There is no offset framework in Australia which adequately addresses time lag. • Ideally, the offset would prove itself before the value was removed. • Uncertainty around restoration can be factored in to the equation.
  25. 25. The positives – strategic investment corridors • Landscape context. • Investment in strategic corridors. • Potential to reduce ad hoc delivery of offsets. • See Galilee Basin Offset Strategy for an example. • Doesn’t guarantee you’ll meet EPBC Act requirements.
  26. 26. The positives – defining significant residual impact • Determining whether an impact is significant should not fall to the proponent – guidance is required. • Offsets Act defines ‘significant residual impact’. • Guidelines will be developed to determine what is, and what is not, a significant residual impact. • Reduced costs and increased certainty for proponents.
  27. 27. The unknowns • Offset assessment guide (calculator) • Habitat quality assessment guideline • Self administered Code of Compliance
  28. 28. • Offsets are a critical policy tool. • Streamlined but potentially costly to implement. • There is a price to pay for certainty through a financial settlement. • Engage the process early and seek advice on delivery options for offsets. • Ensure that the dialogue extends to the C’wlth. • Invest in comprehensive baseline studies.
  29. 29. Jason Richard - 0425 881 087 Principal Ecologist Level 22, 127 Creek Street, Brisbane Adelaide - (08) 8372 7829 / Brisbane – (07) 3221 3352 Geelong – (03) 5221 8122 / Melbourne – (03) 9377 0100 www.ehpartners.com.au