Biodiversity offsets are measures that benefit biodiversity by compensating for the adverse impacts elsewhere of an action, such as clearing for development. Biodiversity offsets help achieve long-term conservation outcomes where development and infrastructure projects are likely to impact biodiversity.
Biodiversity offsets work by protecting and managing biodiversity values in one area in exchange for impacts on biodiversity values in another. For example, if a development requires an area of native woodland to be cleared, another area of similar woodland can be protected, improved and managed for conservation in perpetuity, effectively ‘offsetting’ the clearing at the development site. The gain in biodiversity achieved by improving a similar area of woodland balances the loss to biodiversity due to the clearing.
A practical tool to guide decision-makers
Offsetting is a practical tool to assist decision-makers who need to balance the relative environmental, social and economic merits of a development proposal.
Formal offset arrangements are a feature of:
These regulatory schemes use a range of mechanisms to secure offsets, including biobanking agreements, biodiversity certification agreements and property vegetation plans.
The NSW Government is currently developing a new approach to guide how biodiversity offsets are used for major projects (state significant development and state significant infrastructure).
Principles for the use of biodiversity offsets
The Government recently announced a new set of offset principles for major projects. For other projects, the Office of Environment and Heritage (OEH) will continue to apply its principles for the use of biodiversity offsets in NSW.
Page last updated: 06 August 2013