Offsets can be used to destroy bushland habitat, say Redlands koala activists

By June 14, 2019 News

Stacey Whitlock         JUNE 14 2019         12:00PM

 ENVIRONMENT: Koala trees felled at Cleveland in 2017. Photo: Chris Walker

A LOCAL koala group hopes for change when the results of a review into the state government’s environmental offset policy are released.

During a public consultation earlier this year, the Koala Action Group complained about the existing framework which outlines requirements for developers to provide compensation when projects cause unavoidable impacts on valuable species and ecosystems.

Under the framework, land secured at another site and managed over time could be used to replace environmental resources lost on a development site.

Offsets, which were first legislated in Queensland in the 1980s, have been controversial and policies have drawn criticism from developers and environmental groups.

The state government’s policy is of particular importance in Bowman, where the rate of development is high and the koala population is among the highest of the south-east Queensland electorates.

In February, the state government released a discussion paper on a review of offset policies and called for submissions from community members. 

When the review was announced, Environment Minister Leeanne Enoch said it was not about stopping infrastructure.

“The release of a discussion paper on the environmental offsets framework is key to identifying ways to balance growth while maintaining our environmental capital,” Ms Enoch said.

Koala Action Group president Debbie Pointing said the group had put forward its policy criticisms in a submission and hoped the feedback would be considered.

On the top of the list were concerns that offsets could be used to justify destruction of habitat.

 CONSERVATION: The Redlands has a high development rate and is one of the south-east’s most koala-rich areas.

The paper showed 97 per cent of offsets were delivered as financial settlements. Since 2014, $9.6 million was received to the state as offset payments, 15 per cent of which has been contracted, committed or spent delivering offset projects. 

“Financial offsets generally provide no benefit to the animals that have lost their habitat and development applications that cannot provide an immediate on-the-ground offset should not be given approval in the first instance,” Ms Pointing said.

KAG suggested offset approvals be subject to long-term monitoring to measure the offset’s environmental outcomes. Projects should be refused if appropriate offsets could not be produced.

The group also argued for an environmental and scientific measure of offset requirements to be developed. 

The discussion paper stated offsets would stay and the government would continue working with industry stakeholders to ensure the framework was viable.

“This review is exploring avenues that will encourage greater investment in activities that counterbalance the unavoidable impacts from development practices,” the paper said. 

The review has now gone to stakeholder consultation.

Results and an action plan are due to be released later this year.