Protecting Wilderness and National Parks

NSW Government's new biodiversity fund is bad policy

“Last Saturday Environment Minister Robyn Parker issued a media release about a new fund to compensate losses to threatened species habitat caused by development.  Apparently accreditation is to be sought for this offsetting process under the Federal environmental laws,” said Keith Muir director of the Colong Foundation for Wilderness.

“The Minister’s media release explains that the new fund will make ‘it easier for the construction industry to get on with the job’, and that the fund will ‘reduce red tape’ for business but the details are yet to be worked out,” Mr Muir said.

“The mining industry got what it wanted.  The new fund can be used for ‘rehabilitating degraded land’.  Miners will be able to reduce the offset compensation when clearing endangered species habitat by planting trees and bushes into rock waste they leave behind.  Allowing such offsets will not save threatened wildlife”, Mr Muir asked.

“The new fund might as well issue shares to threatened wildlife stating:

The NSW Government owes you a habitat, redeemable at the nearest coal mine in thirty years (if it grows back – in small print),” he said.

“More puzzling still is that offset funding calculations for wildlife are to be ‘discounted where significant social and economic benefits accrue to NSW’.  Social welfare and saving endangered wildlife are not exchangeable commodities.  This arrangement just duds threatened wildlife”, he said. 

“The fund will allow biological capital to be ‘sold’ to fund wildlife management expenses. Selling assets may be fine where you have lots of capital, but threatened species are at risk of becoming extinct and need all the capital (i.e. habitat) they have left.  Funding day to day wildlife management from clearing a limited pool of quality habitat is a strategy for extinction,” Mr Muir said.

“Some individual ‘demonstration’ projects could benefit from this fund.  Few land managers, however, will feel good about taking blood money from the mining and property development industries,” said Mr Muir. 

“The NSW Government must do a lot more work on the policy behind this biodiversity fund announcement if it is to secure a future for our threatened wildlife,” he said.

For more information contact: Keith Muir, (02) 9261 2400 (wk) or 0412 791 404 (mob)

Ministerial Media Release 20 July 2013 Boost for biodiversity – new fund to support the environment