Threatened species and ecological communities
Pressure on species and ecological communities
All major scientific studies of Australia's flora, fauna and ecosystems
indicate that there is significant ecosystem degradation taking place across
Australia, and that numerous species are in decline, with some of them facing
extinction. Three species have been declared extinct since 2000:
Galaxias pedderensis (Pedder Galaxias) (a fish) listed as
"extinct in the wild", on 6 June 2005.
Nyctophilus howensis (Lord Howe Long-eared Bat) listed as
"extinct in the wild", on 4 April 2001.
Vanvoorstia bennettiana (Bennett's Seaweed) listed as
"extinct", on 16 October 2001.
In addition, there have been no reported sightings for many years for several
other species, including:
Cinclosoma punctatum anachoreta (Spotted Quail – thrush
(Mount Lofty Ranges)) last recorded in 1984.
Litoria nyakelensis (Mountain Mistfrog) last recorded in
Litoria lorica (Armoured Mistfrog) last recorded in 1991.
The 2002 Australian Terrestrial Biodiversity Assessment concluded:
The extent of landscape modification in Australia means that
2891 ecosystems and other ecological communities are now threatened. These
assemblages are a priority for conservation to protect the immense species
diversity associated with them and for the protection of ecological processes... The
high number of threatened ecosystems identified in this assessment indicates
how extensive the repair task will be unless comprehensive action is taken.
It stated in respect of mammals that:
[t]here has been a significant contraction in the geographical
ranges and species composition of Australia's indigenous mammal fauna... [and
that] [e]vidence suggests that the wave of mammal extinctions in Australia is
Similarly, the 2006 State of the Environment report stated:
Australia’s most vulnerable ecosystems have been the first to
suffer massive biodiversity decline but this does not mean that other systems
will not follow. It is only a question of how long it will be before pressures
will overwhelm the resilience of the remaining ecosystems. This issue of
decline is now recognised by Australian farmers and others in the community,
and it is increasingly being incorporated into the evolving natural resource
Noting significant limitations on available data, the State of the
Environment report nevertheless concluded that fish species numbers have
declined, as have waterbird numbers and aquatic indicator species.
Prominent ecologist Professor David Lindenmayer, surveying the state of
Australian biodiversity, described Australia as 'a leader in environmental
degradation', with many species on an 'extinction trajectory'.
The committee notes that, of the issues raised in submissions it has received,
concerns over the protection of endangered species and ecological communities
have been most prevalent.
The committee heard of:
concern about the effects of amendments made to the legislation
doubt whether the Act was effective in affording protection even
when species were listed;
questions over the effectiveness of recovery plans; and
criticism of the use of offsets in development approvals.
How the Act works: listing threatened species and ecological communities
The Act requires the responsible minister to establish a list of
threatened species divided into the following categories:
Extinct in the wild;
In addition, the Act also requires the establishment of a list of
threatened ecological communities, which must be assigned to one of the
Nominations for listing may be made during each assessment period,
usually an annual cycle. The process for nomination and listing normally
followed during an assessment period involves a number of steps:
The minister may determine conservation themes (optional).
The minister invites people to make nominations for inclusion on
the lists for threatened species, threatened ecological communities or key
threatening processes. These nominations are given to the Scientific Committee.
The Scientific Committee prepares and provides to the minister a proposed
priority assessment list. The proposed priority assessment list developed by
the committee must include an assessment completion time for each item.
The minister finalises the list of items that are to be assessed
('finalised priority assessment list'). In finalising the priority assessment
list, the minister may add or omit any item, or make any other change(s) in
accordance with the regulations to the Act.
The Scientific Committee invites people to provide comments about
the items in the finalised list.
The Scientific Committee assess the items in the finalised list and
gives the assessments to the Minister. The Scientific Committee must assess the
items in the finalised priority assessment list by the time specified in that
list or by that time as extended under section 194P of the Act. In total, the
Minister may grant extensions of time up to but not beyond five years.
The Minister decides whether an assessed item should be included
in the relevant list. The Minister must decide whether or not to include an
assessed item on a list under the Act within 90 days of receiving the
assessment. This period can, however, be extended indefinitely.
Nominations for listing of native species, ecological communities and
threatening processes can be made by the public. Nominations require supporting
evidence such as information on the taxonomy, legal status and ecology of the
Listing provides for:
Identification of species and ecological communities as
Development of conservation advice and recovery plans for listed
species and ecological communities;
Development of a register of critical habitat;
Recognition of key threatening processes; and
Where appropriate, reducing the impacts of these processes
through threat abatement plans.
A species or ecological community listed as threatened under the Act becomes
In addition, listed threatened species are eligible for funding via the
Threatened Species Network Community Grant Program, a collaboration between the
Australian government and WWF-Australia. The Threatened Species Network Grant
Program provides funding to on-ground, community-based conservation projects,
including habitat restoration, feral predator control, and monitoring and
surveying species populations.
Species or ecological communities that are not listed as threatened under
the Act do not benefit from the protection mechanisms afforded by it,
regardless of their conservation status.
There are significant differences between the scope of endangered
species listings under Commonwealth and state legislation. For example, in the
Cumberland Plain in 2002, there were 85 species listed under the NSW
legislation, the Threatened Species Conservation Act 1995, as endangered
or vulnerable. However, at that time the Commonwealth had only 35 species listed
as endangered or vulnerable under the EPBC Act.
Comments about the listing process
Prior to the amendments enacted by the Environment and Heritage
Legislation Amendment Act (No. 1) 2006, section 185 of the Act required
that the minister maintain the lists in 'up-to-date condition' by taking 'all reasonably
practical steps to amend as necessary'.
It was also a requirement that nominations be considered within one year of
The repeal of section 185 removed the obligation on the minister to update or
amend lists for threatened species or ecological communities in a timely
Concerns have for some time been expressed by stakeholders about delays
in the listing process, and about whether some nominations have been
inappropriately rejected. These delays in the listing process were an issue
before enactment of the 2006 amendments. The Wilderness Society claimed that
these delays were due to inadequate resources devoted to the task and that
keeping the lists up to date, as required, 'proved impossible so instead of the
government finding more resources, the Act was changed to "relieve"
the obligation to keep the lists up to date'.
The removal of the section that had required the minister to maintain
lists under the Act in up-to-date condition appears to have endorsed delays
already apparent in the listing process. ANEDO described the repeal as 'a
serious flaw in the Act'.
EIANZ considered that the listing process is slow and noted that the minister
has discretion whether to list a species or not, 'irrespective of whether
Australia has an international obligation to conserve it'.
The Institute stated:
Getting species listed is difficult and because of a lack of
integrated biodiversity monitoring at the national level, the process of
reconsidering the status of species is even slower.
Further, EIANZ argued that the listing process is inadequate, as the
Act limited its scope to species that are considered 'vulnerable' or above,
All species are threatened to an extent and the challenge we
face is not to focus [on] just those species that are heavily threatened, but
to make sure those more commonly occurring do not become increasingly uncommon.
There has been criticism of the lack of transparency and certainty that
the Act currently creates in the nominations process. These uncertainties
relate to many aspects of the process, including the timeframes for decisions;
the criteria considered by the minister in determining priorities for
assessment; and the lack of transparency in decision-making under this part of
ANEDO was critical of the very long extensions of time for assessment
that were possible under the Act, and of the wide range of factors that could
affect priority assessment lists, rather than priorities for assessment being
based solely on conservation status and threats.
HSI contrasted their experience under federal legislation with that at
the state level:
We also note in regard to both the technological challenges and
the resourcing issues, that other jurisdictions have been able to process HSI’s
nominations within their statutory deadlines. While HSI doesn’t always agree
with their decisions, processes to list threatened ecological communities and
threatened species under the NSW Threatened Species Conservation Act 1995
and the Victorian Flora and Fauna Guarantee Act 1998, run comparatively
smoothly and efficiently.
The use of conservation themes is intended to prioritise the
consideration of relevant listing nominations, perhaps because their protection
is deemed more urgent. However, the use of conservation themes for each annual
cycle appears to be unpopular. It also appears there may have been an
unintended consequence resulting in all listing nominations outside of the
conservation themes being excluded from consideration:
In deciding upon a theme, the Minister has broad discretion
which may relate to a particular group of species, a particular species or a
particular region of Australia. This is not a definitive list of criteria and
so in practical terms, this means that a range of considerations may come into
play, not just the conservation status of the species. It is likely that the
more controversial species (such as those currently commercially exploited) are
unlikely to qualify thematically.
IFAW held a similar view about the effect of themes,
while Birds Australia described it as 'inappropriate. The listing process needs
to be timely, rigorous and comprehensive, and it needs to clear a large backlog
of neglected taxa. The only way to do this is to resource it adequately'.
The committee sought details from the department of how many nominations
made it on to priority assessment lists, and how many had failed to be listed
twice and thus were no longer eligible for consideration. The department
advised the committee that sixty outstanding nominations for listing made prior
to the 2006 amendments had been considered for inclusion in the 2007 and 2008
finalised priority assessment lists. Of these nominations, 21 were not placed
on the finalised priority list for either of the two assessment periods and were
therefore no longer eligible for consideration.
Further, the committee was informed that since the commencement of the
2006 amendments, 101 nominations for listing (including the 60 nominations
described above) had been considered and 71 of these had been placed on a
finalised priority assessment list. Of the 71 included on a finalised priority
list, 32 had been the subject of a decision by the minister whilst 39 are
currently under assessment.
The committee notes the important role members of the public and
conservation groups play in making submissions to the threatened species and
ecological communities lists. Further, the committee recognises the resources that
some conservation groups devote to making nominations to the lists under the
The amendments to the Act in 2006 and the application of a system of
prioritisation appear to have had a limited impact on delays in the listing of
threatened species and ecological communities. The evidence presented to the
committee suggests that in some instances, the 2006 amendments and the use of priority
areas have exacerbated existing problems. These delays and the need to repeatedly
re-submit nominations falling outside of annual priority areas has caused
frustration for conservation groups.
The committee acknowledges that the volume of nominations for listing
received by the department appears currently to necessitate some form of
prioritisation. It is otherwise difficult to choose between nominations which
may be equally worthy of consideration, in a situation where it is not possible
to consider them all in a timely manner. The committee is aware that the department
has had recent increases in resources, some of which are being used to deal
with threatened species and ecological community nominations. The department
stated that it has:
increased resources to the listing of threatened species and
increased resources dedicated to the development of recovery
plans and recovery actions, which has included accelerating the preparation of
conservation advices for listed threatened species under the Act.
The committee also notes the work capacity of the Scientific Committee
is identified in the legislation as a potential constraint on conducting
assessment of nominations.
The committee did not take evidence from members of the Scientific Committee;
however it would be concerned if a lack of resources to this committee was
resulting in a bottleneck in the assessment process. The committee hopes that this
possibility was addressed in the allocation of the increased resources received
by the department generally, and the Approvals and Wildlife Division in
particular, in 2007.
The committee notes that, whereas the Scientific Committee is restricted
in the matters it can consider when preparing advice on a listing, the minister
is not. The Scientific Committee's assessment is based on whether an item is
eligible for inclusion on a list, and 'the effect that including the item in
that List could have on the survival of the native species or ecological
No equivalent clause guides the minister's decision.
This appears to reduce the transparency and policy consistency of the
decision process. The decision to list does not in itself have direct
consequences for development proposals that will be assessed pursuant to Part
3. The Act gives the minister scope to consider matters other than just impacts
on matters of national environmental significance at that later point. It is
not clear why such broad, and unspecified, discretion operates at the point of
a decision on whether a species or ecological community deserves listing.
The committee is concerned that the ministerial discretion and
indefinite extensions of time provided for under section 194 of the Act are
undermining the credibility of the nomination and listing process. The
committee believes all stakeholders benefit from greater certainty under the
Act regarding how listings will occur, how long the process will take, and what
information will be taken into account during the consideration of proposed
The committee recommends that the process for nomination and listing of
threatened species or ecological communities be amended to improve transparency,
rigour and timeliness. Changes that should be considered include:
Either requiring publication of the Scientific Committee's
proposed priority assessment list or reducing ministerial discretion to
revise the priority list under section 194K; and
Reducing the maximum period allowed for an assessment under
Effectiveness of listings under the Act
Clearly, ensuring the effectiveness of listing processes was a major
concern for many submitters. However, perhaps paradoxically, the committee
received similar numbers of submissions expressing dissatisfaction with events after
listing had taken place.
The committee was given numerous examples by submitters of particular
species or communities where they felt that recognition of conservation value
under the Act had not led to improvements in environmental management, or had
not prevented continuing decline. These cases included abalone fisheries,
Southern Brown Bandicoot (Isoodon obesulus),
Short-tailed Shearwater (Ardenna tenuirostris),
Golden Sunmoth (Synemon plana) and Leadbeater's Possum (Gymnobelideus
Lungfish (Neoceratodus forsteri),
Baw Baw Frog (Philoria frosti),
South-eastern Red-tailed Black Cockatoo (Calyptorynchus banksii graptogyne),
Grassy Box woodland,
White Box woodland,
and the Western Ringtail Possum (Pseudocheirus occidentalis).
In addition, numerous submissions made reference to species in Tasmanian
forests that have been discussed in the context of the Regional Forest
Agreement and the Wielangta case (to be discussed in the committee's second
report), including the Swift Parrot (Lathamus discolour), the Tasmanian
Wedge-tailed Eagle (Aquila audax fleayi), stag beetles and the
endangered orchids Corunastylis nuda (Tiny Midge Orchid) and Pterostylis
atriola (Snug Greenhood).
In all these cases, the species or community nominally has some form of
protection under the Act. Submitters were particularly concerned that listing
of a species did not appear to consistently result in protection of its habitat
from damage or from clearing. The MCA and The Wilderness Society alike voiced
concerns that the Act may not always be delivering improved environmental
The committee does not wish to debate the details of individual cases,
and it recognises that some of the circumstances in any particular example may
be beyond any party's control. The committee believes that there are a range of
positive developments which will go some way toward addressing these concerns.
The increased resources of the Approvals and Wildlife Division,
which appear to be facilitating progress both with listings of species and
communities, and with raising the quality and reliability of assessments of
Increased enforcement action taken by the department, also
underpinned by additional resources;
The department's decision to prepare and implement a
and to make use of outplaced staff and field officers; and
Ministerial leadership being used to raise the benchmark for
developments with regard to protecting endangered species, such as in the case
of Carnaby's black cockatoo.
The committee also believes that several of its recommendations, if
adopted, will also address this situation, particularly in relation to:
Continuing to increase the resources of the Approvals and
Wildlife Division for their activities (chapter three);
Review of provisions governing discretion in ministerial action
Carefully limiting the use of offsets in habitat conservation
(this chapter); and
Expanding the scope of judicial review of certain actions under
the Act (chapter six).
Under the Act, the minister may make or adopt and implement a recovery
plan for a listed species of threatened fauna or flora
or a listed threatened ecological community.
Recovery plans are intended to stop the decline, and support the recovery, of
listed threatened species or threatened ecological communities.
Recovery plans are binding for the Australian government and government
agencies must act in accordance with a recovery plan once it is made or
This includes ministerial decisions under the Act itself.
The regulations to the Act require that a recovery plan describe:
to the extent practicable, with spatial information
The location of species or
ecological communities for which it is made; and
Areas of habitat critical to the
survival of the species or ecological communities; and
Important populations of the
species or ecological communities that are necessary for their long-term
survival and recovery; and
Any areas that are affected by a
key threatening process.
A recovery plan should state:
What must be done to stop the
decline of, and support the recovery and survival of, the species or ecological
community, including action:
To protect important populations;
To protect and restore habitat;
To manage and reduce threatening
To the extent possible, what
management practices are necessary to avoid significant adverse impact on the
species or ecological community.
The committee notes that there are currently 354 recovery plans covering
456 species and 15 ecological communities.
There are another 244 recovery plans currently under preparation.
The department advised that, following the 2006 amendments to the Act,
conservation advices had been developed and used preferentially in some
instances over recovery plans. This change was in recognition that recovery
plans 'were not necessarily effective and efficient in terms of driving
Conservation advices are prepared by the department in consultation with the
Threatened Species Scientific Committee and focus on known threats to the
An approved conservation advice has a number of legislative
implications. Once a conservation advice has been approved for a threatened
species or ecological community, the Act requires that the minister must have
regard for the conservation advice when:
Making a declaration that actions do not need approval under Part
9 of the Act (section 33);
Entering into a bilateral agreement (section 53);
Deciding whether to approve an action which will have or is
likely to have a significant impact on a listed threatened species or
ecological community (section 139);
Approving an action (section 146K); and
Issuing permits under the Act (sections 202 and 238).
The department explained what they perceived to be the benefits of
conservation advices over recovery plans:
We think those are a much more useful document. They are more
rapid to prepare, they target what the real risks are to the species and they get
information out to people quickly.
Frankly, we found the old process of doing recovery plans
sclerotic. It was slow. It tended to pull together established interests, if
you like. And it tended to identify research questions and open-ended things
rather than really focussing on management requirements. So we have been trying
to free the system up, while still focussing on identifying the risks to
species and finding ways to deal with that. So we tend now not to focus on
recovery plans per se. We look at the whole package.
The committee also heard evidence in support of the use of conservation
advice but in addition to recovery plans rather than as an alternative:
I think it is an improvement that they do the conservation
advice on listing so that, as soon as the species or community or heritage
place is listed, there is advice going across to the people who do the
environmental impact assessments, rather than waiting for a recovery plan,
which would take three to five years or would not happen at all. So I think it
is good that that conservation advice is developed at the point of listing. However,
that does not take away the need to do a more detailed recovery plan, so I do
not think it should be either / or. Not that all species warrant a recovery
plan, but most would.
Both recovery plans and conservation advices play key roles in
determining steps to be taken in conserving and protecting threatened species
and ecological communities. In addition, the publication of proposed recovery
plans on the department's website and the opportunity for public comment is
vital to ensuring public engagement and providing assurances that recovery
plans are appropriate and likely to be effective.
The committee notes, however, that recovery plans for some threatened
species and ecological communities are never developed, or are developed and
It was suggested to the committee that recovery plans could be an
effective means of implementing and enforcing requirements from strategic
assessments. The ACF explained:
Senator BIRMINGHAM – Are there any provisions at present for
that type of very sweeping strategic assessment to be undertaken and for its
findings to be enforced in some way, either at a state level or through the
Mr Berger – I think the species recovery plans are one possible
mechanism for advancing that. The recovery planning generally has been of the
form of, say, targeted land acquisitions, additional research plans,
reintroduction and relocation programs. That tends to be the bread and butter
of these recovery plans, but there is no reason that they could not be somewhat
more ambitious in terms of containing broader guidance for private landholders
in terms of what is likely to be allowable and what is not and for mobilising
much greater resources than typically we have seen go into the recovery
planning. So there is a tool there and, again, I think the strategic
assessments, if used robustly and with the goals of the act squarely in mind,
are another possible tool that can be used.
The committee believes that recovery plans play an important role in
detailing steps to be taken to prevent the continued
decline, and assist in the recovery, of listed threatened species and
The use of offsets in habitat conservation and species protection
According to the department's 2007 'Draft
Policy Statement: Use of environmental offsets under the Environment
Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999':
The Australian Government defines environmental offsets as 'actions
taken outside a development site that compensate for the impacts
of that development – including direct, indirect or consequential
impacts'...Environmental offsets provide compensation for those impacts which
cannot be adequately reduced through avoidance and mitigation. They should be
distinguished from 'mitigation', which refers to the range of actions that can
be undertaken to reduce the level of impacts of a development (usually
Environmental offsets fall into two categories: direct offsets and
indirect offsets. Direct offsets are aimed at on-ground maintenance and
improvement of habitat or landscape values. Indirect offsets cover the range of
actions that improve knowledge, understanding and management resulting in
improved conservation outcomes.
The Australian Government's draft policy statement describes eight
principles which should be applied to the use of environmental offsets:
Offsets should be targeted to the matter protected under the Act that is
going to be impacted.
A flexible approach should be taken to the design and use of
environmental offsets in order to achieve long-term and certain outcomes which
are cost-effective for proponents.
Offsets should deliver a real conservation outcome.
Offsets should be developed as a package of actions, which may include
both direct and indirect offsets.
Offsets should, at a minimum, be commensurate with the magnitude of the
impacts of the development and ideally deliver outcomes that are 'like for
Offsets should be located within the same general area as the proposed
Offsets should be delivered in a timely manner and be long lasting.
should be enforceable, monitored and audited.
Offsets may be seen as a measure of 'last resort',
when no other approach to impact mitigation is feasible. In a recent paper, DEWHA
Deputy Secretary Gerard Early wrote:
Sometimes there are simply no mechanisms available to avoid
impacts of developments on habitat which, although not of critical importance,
may nevertheless have value for wildlife either now or in the future. The value
of such habitat may not be sufficient to deny approval to the development. On
such occasions, the use of offsets may be appropriate. In such cases, offsets
are not sought simply on a one-for-one basis; the aim is to secure a positive
The committee heard a degree of disquiet amongst submitters about offsets.
The committee heard evidence in favour of the use of offsets as well as concern
that offsets were inadequate and / or being used inappropriately.
The Central West Environment Council discussed the approval of offsets
in association with clearing of Grassy Box Woodland in the central west of NSW:
In 2007 Moolarben Coal Project Stage 1, adjacent to Wilpinjong
Coal Project received approval to clear 65 ha of mature, good condition Grassy
Box Woodland. This approval was granted by a member of the EPBC Unit.
These approvals were given with a condition that a 2:1 offset be
purchased on private land to be transferred to the NSW Minister for the
Environment and Climate Change. However, the [critically endangered ecological
community] on private land is already protected under the NSW Native Vegetation
Act 2004. Clearing of CEEC under the state legislation would not be approved or
with much larger offsets of up to 50:1.
The government has released only a draft policy statement on the use of
offsets and is yet to develop a final policy.
However, the committee would be concerned that the approval of offsets as
allegedly occurred in the example above may not have been consistent with the
government's intention that 'offsets should be real'
and 'should not rely on securing habitat that is already protected for
A claim was put to the committee that the minister 'improperly took an
offset into consideration when making the decision' to approve the clearing of
wetland on the Fleurieu Peninsula in South Australia.
Further, it was suggested to the committee that the private landholder in
question had failed to comply with the offset requirement and had been given
more than one extension of time to do so.
The committee notes that the decision on the referral in question
(2005/2060) did not involve an offset. The decision determined that the area of
2ha to be cleared contained 0.8ha of swamp which was degraded and of low
biodiversity value, and that the loss of this area would not significantly
impact on the listed 'Swamps of the Fleurieu Peninsula' ecological community.
Notwithstanding that the proposed action would not have a significant impact on
the swamp ecological community, the landholder had proposed that 19.7ha of
remnant vegetation, comprising the listed ecological community and open
woodland, be fenced and rehabilitated.
The department had approved a number of extensions to complete the fencing, as
the requests were made on the grounds of delays in council approval processes,
legal proceedings and inclement weather.
The Possum Centre Busselton succinctly summarised the concerns of a
number of submitters on the use of offsets:
Offsets are often insufficient, not providing like for like, and
in some instances the same offset is used by the proponent for several stages
of the development in order to 'get away cheaply'.
The committee also heard evidence from proponents regarding the use of
offsets. The NFF commented on what they felt was the inconsistent application
of offset conditions:
It is not the offsets that are the concern for the NFF but the
inconsistency by which they are implemented. NFF stresses that each application
should be assessed on its merits but individual farmers should have some faith
that there is an equal and consistent approach to how their application is
The MCA recommended the development of an offsets policy under the Act. The
MCA supported the use of offsets but had been unhappy about the application of
offset conditions to date.
The MCA was not alone in questioning the scientific basis for offsets. Conservation
groups were also critical of the absence of scientific evidence supporting the
use of offsets, albeit for different reasons:
An emphasis on offsetting is inconsistent with the first listed
object of the EPBC Act which is "to provide for the protection of the
environment, especially those aspects of the environment that are matters of
national environmental significance". The idea that impacts on such unique
matters of national environmental significance can simply be offset, is deeply
concerning. In many cases it will not be possible to offset impacts on specific
unique places and species...There is no standard scientific methodology for
assessing quantity, quality or location of offsets, and there is little
evidence of success of offsets...
The evidence did not make clear the current status of any offset policy.
The policy appears still to be a draft, though a departmental official did
remark that he thought that 'offsets are used a bit more these days than they
have been in the past... perhaps partly because there is now a properly developed
policy dealing with offsets, so the rules are a bit clearer'.
The submission of the MCA also appeared to indicate the policy was still under
preparation, and expressed concerns about the consultation process.
The committee recognises that the use of offsets must only be applied as
an adjunct to avoidance and mitigation. Offsets must not be used as a tool to
get projects, which would otherwise be unacceptable, 'over the line'. Whilst
government statements on the use of offsets are clear that they should not be
used in this way, the evidence provided to the committee suggests that at least
in some circumstances, offsets may not be improving the 'net effect of a
proposal on the environment because of the reparation or "environmental
gain" achieved through those actions'.
The committee recommends that government policy regarding the use of
'offsets' for habitat conservation state that the use of offsets:
is a last resort;
must deliver a net environmental gain; and
should not be accepted as a mitigating mechanism in instances
where other policies or legislation (such as state vegetation protection laws)
are already protecting the habitat proposed for use as an offset.
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