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24 May 2012

BioBanking in NSW - a time for review, and the story so far

by Claire Smith, Jacyleen Ong

The discussion paper acknowledges that uptake of the scheme so far has been slow, attributing this to a range of factors

A review of the NSW BioBanking scheme has commenced, offering an insight into the success of the scheme so far.

The review comes two years following the publication of the BioBanking assessment methodology, as required under the Threatened Species Act 1997, and provides a consultation draft of a revised methodology. It also seeks comments about the strengths and weaknesses of the BioBanking scheme so far.

The scope of the review includes:

  • the performance and cost effectiveness of BioBanking;
  • the extent to which the scheme is achieving its goal of maintaining or improving biodiversity conservation;
  • the operation and use of the BioBanking Assessment Methodology and its relationship with similar methodologies; and
  • the scheme framework including matters associated with BioBanking agreements, statements and transactions, the BioBanking Trust Fund and assessor accreditation.

Facts and figures revealed

The discussion paper for the review reveals some interesting facts and figures about the uptake so far, including (correct as of 23 March 2012):

  • prices per credit generated range from $1,400-$9,500 (ex GST);
  • prices per credit sold range from $2,500 - $9,500 (ex GST);
  • nine BioBanking agreements have been approved – six of these with the generated credits having already been sold or reserved by identified buyers;
  • eight of the BioBank sites are in Sydney, and one is near Oberon;
  • four development sites have used BioBanking statements to satisfy approval conditions: Foresters Beach, Narraweena, Kellyville and Mullaway;
  • over 450 hectares of native vegetation and threatened species will be now conserved in perpetuity;
  • $530,000 has been paid to landowners from the Fund for management payments;
  • over $2.4 million has been deposited into the BioBanking Trust Fund;
  • applications covering an additional 1,500 hectares are currently being processed;
  • over 80 landowners have formally expressed interest in establishing BioBanking sites, with nominated areas totalling over 33,000 hectares; and
  • over 80 people have been trained and accredited as BioBanking Assessors.

The discussion paper acknowledges that uptake of the scheme so far has been slow, attributing this to a range of factors including infancy of the scheme, a lack of information and understanding about the scheme, perceptions as to the availability of credits and preferences for other methods.

Wider reforms and BioBanking at a national level

This review complements a number of other reforms currently taking place, including to the NSW planning system. Further, last year, the federal government completed its required 10 year review of the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (EPBC Act).

That review recommended that:

  • the EPBC Act be amended to facilitate and promote the use of BioBanking as part of project approvals and facilitate the operation of a national BioBanking scheme; 
  • the Council of Australian Governments (COAG) develop a national BioBanking system and standards; and
  • in the interim, the Commonwealth Government accredit State and Territory BioBanking schemes, subject to their meeting acceptable standards.

These recommendations were agreed to in principle by the Commonwealth Government, and the consultation draft EPBC Act Environmental Offsets Policy released in August 2011 confirmed that COAG has commenced consultation on development of national standards for BioBanking and will consider accreditation of biodiversity banking schemes, providing they meet these standards.

The NSW BioBanking review therefore also seeks to respond to the outcomes of those reform processes.

A chance to have your say

The review seeks public comment on a number of issues, including:

  • feedback on how participation in the scheme can be improved;
  • the significant factors influencing participation (or non-participation);
  • the appropriateness of "compulsory" management actions – those which must be incorporated into every BioBanking agreement including weed control, fire and disturbance management and supplementary planting;
  • the impact of restricting options for termination of BioBanking agreements – which currently are only exercisable by the Minister or by the Minister and landowner, in very limited circumstances and with little discretion; and
  • the key issues for developers in meeting the BioBanking and EPBC Act assessment requirements, which should be addressed in establishing a single, national BioBanking scheme.

Submissions close on Monday 9 July 2012.

 

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Clayton Utz communications are intended to provide commentary and general information. They should not be relied upon as legal advice. Formal legal advice should be sought in particular transactions or on matters of interest arising from this communication. Persons listed may not be admitted in all States and Territories.