Biodiversity Offsetting

Marine biodiversity offsetting is a tool to address residual effects of development on marine biodiversity where they cannot be adequately avoided, minimised or remedied. A biodiversity offset aims to create at least equivalent biodiversity benefits on the same site or elsewhere, and to apply to similar types of biodiversity to that which is impacted. The goal is to achieve no net loss and ultimately a net gain of biodiversity in the marine area. 2599

There's no specific requirement for marine biodiversity offsetting in New Zealand at present. However, it can potentially be applied under the RMA and the EEZ Act, as part of the consenting process.

Biodiversity offsetting seeks to address the residual impacts of an activity once available avoidance, mitigation and remediation measures are taken. 2600  Offsetting is not appropriate where irreplaceable ecological values might be lost at the impact site. It is good practice for the design and implementation of a biodiversity offset, and communication of its results to the public, to be undertaken in a transparent and timely manner.

The Department of Conservation has recently prepared a non-statutory guidance document on biodiversity offsetting called Guidance on Good Practice Biodiversity Offsetting in New Zealand. 2601  This guidance provides a brief overview of biodiversity offsetting, in particular outlining key concepts, applying the concepts in this country and how to use good practice for implementing a biodiversity offset, ultimately to achieve no net loss. The guidance does not consider offsetting in the offshore marine environment. However, lessons can be drawn from the approaches to offsetting.

Example - Queensland Marine Fish Habitats Offset Policy

This example demonstrates how biodiversity offsets can be applied in the marine environment. The Queensland Government Environmental Offset Policy provides the principles for biodiversity offsetting in Queensland. This is supported by four specific policies, one of which is the Marine Fish Habitats Offset Policy. 2603 This particular policy sets out the requirements of Fisheries Queensland for environmental offset conditions to counterbalance permanent or temporary impacts or loss on fisheries resources or fish habitat. It applies to fisheries development approval decisions under the Fisheries Act 1994 and Sustainable Planning Act 2009. 2604

The principles specified for biodiversity offsetting include: 2605

  • Offsets will not replace or undermine existing environmental standards or regulatory requirements, or be used to allow development in areas otherwise prohibited through legislation or policy.
  • Environmental impacts must first be avoided, then minimised, before considering the use of offsets for any remaining impact.
  • Offsets must achieve an equivalent or better environmental outcome.
  • Offsets must provide environmental values as similar as possible to those being lost.
  • Offset provision should minimise the time-lag between the impact and delivery of the offset.
  • Offsets must provide additional protection to environmental values at risk, or additional management actions to improve environmental values.
  • Offsets must be legally secured for the duration of the offset requirement.

Development assessment by Fisheries Queensland addresses all impacts of proposed marine fish habitat losses and all fish habitat gains through a mitigation and offset hierarchy of “avoid, minimise, mitigate and offset”. All approved temporary or permanent fish habitat losses require the use of offsets to balance residual impacts. This helps to ensure that there is no net loss.

  1. http://www.doc.govt.nz/publications/conservation/biodiversity-offsets-programme/biodiversity-offsets-programme/what-is-biodiversity-offsetting/

  2. http://www.doc.govt.nz/documents/our-work/biodiversity-offsets/the-guidance.pdf

  3. http://www.daff.qld.gov.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0003/68601/Marine-Fish-Habitat-Offset-Policy-12.pdf

  4. http://www.daff.qld.gov.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0003/68601/Marine-Fish-Habitat-Offset-Policy-12.pdf

Last updated at 2:11PM on February 25, 2015