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Habitat offsets breaches little surprise in broken system

Widespread non-compliance uncovered in a national audit of biodiversity offsets is the tip of the iceberg, given Australia’s main environmental laws use offsetting conditions to enable unacceptable impacts on threatened wildlife and there are no habitat areas that are off limits.

The audit found big companies are regularly breaking offset agreements put in place for projects that destroy habitat home to species at risk of extinction.

Lock the Gate Alliance head of research Georgina Woods said, “The findings of this report come as little surprise and are a symptom of a much deeper problem: Australia’s environment laws facilitate extinction. 

“Biodiversity offsets are supposed to be used as a last resort but in fact they are used routinely to enable habitat destruction. 

“The promised reforms to Australia’s national environment law were supposed to fix this, but Tanya Plibersek has put these on indefinite hold. 

“In practice, big coal and gas companies are regularly given approval for projects that destroy huge swathes of habitat critical to the survival of threatened species. 

“Focusing on compliance alone does not address the rotten core of this system. Habitat that is known to be vital to the survival of animals like koalas and critically endangered woodland birds cannot be offset. 

“Right now, there are a host of new coal and gas projects in Central Queensland and NSW Hunter Valley that will destroy huge swathes of koala habitat if they are built. Offsets will do nothing to protect the wildlife that lives there.

“Reforming biodiversity offsetting means reforming biodiversity law. Tanya Plibersek needs to summon the will to outright refuse coal mines and gasfields that would clear critical habitat.”


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