On 19 December 2014 considerable changes were made to the Queensland Environmental Offsets Framework.
Amendments to the Environmental Offsets Act (Qld) and the Environmental Offsets Regulations included:
- The removal of duplication between levels of government - when one government applies for an offset on a specific environmental matter of significance, another government cannot impose an offset for the same environmental matter
- Local government can seek a financial offset that is less than the cost determined through the Queensland financial offset calculator. This would only occur where Council accepts reviewing the calculation, for example when an applicant can demonstrate the inaccuracy of the mapping for this particular environmental matter.
Offsets for Koalas
Koalas have been listed as 'vulnerable' in South-East Queensland (SEQ) and as 'special least concern' throughout the regional areas of Queensland since 2012.
An offset for the clearing of Koala habitat in SEQ is currently required under the SEQ Koala Conservation State Planning Regulatory Provisions (Koala SPRP).
In June 2015, the Queensland Government changed the listing of Koalas in Queensland to 'vulnerable' under the Queensland Nature Conservation Act 1992 (the NC Act). The decision was made following recommendations presented by an independent technical committee of scientists who provided evidence that the Koala is endangered by increasing dog attacks, urban expansion and car accidents.
So, what does the new listing mean for the Koala offset and which policy should we follow – Koala SPRP or Queensland Environmental Offset Policy?
After speaking with the Queensland Government, it is apparent they have no intention to extend the application of the Koala SPRP beyond SEQ. Consequently, the impacts on Koalas habitat outside SEQ will be assessed as for other vulnerable species under existing pathways via the NC Act.
Recently, draft amendments to Koala SPRP were proposed to seek alignment with the offset provision with the Environmental Offsets Act 2014. The amendments provide clarification on the offset process for Koala across Queensland which require Koala offsets to follow the established process within the Environmental Offset Act and assess residual significant impacts on the species.
Amendments are currently being reviewed and submissions can be made to the Queensland Government until 17 August 2015. Refer to the Department of Environment and Heritage Protection's website for further details.
For further information email Kelly Matthews.