Government launches environmental offsets crackdown

The Albanese Labor Government has announced a full audit of environmental offsets to crackdown on developers who are shirking their responsibilities to protect nature. 

The audit will investigate the compliance of over 1,000 offset sites approved under national environmental law over the last 20 years, to make sure developers are meeting their obligations. 

It will consider whether offset requirements have been met, and whether they are delivering the environmental benefits they said they would. 

Until recently there has been no reporting to track whether developers are actually delivering on their responsibilities. 

It’s not clear whether offset arrangements prevent environmental decline, particularly where they are not effectively enforced or maintained. That’s why our stronger environment laws will include a new offsets standard, and our independent body Environment Protection Australia will monitor compliance.  

But we won’t wait. Work will commence immediately to assess current projects and ensure they are meeting their commitments. Penalties may be imposed for projects found to be in breach of their approval conditions. 

Quotes attributable to the Minister for Environment and Water, Tanya Plibersek: 

“When developers agree to offset the impacts of their projects, it’s not an optional exercise. It’s a legal obligation.  

“For too long, projects have gotten away with promising one thing and not following through. 

“I’ve been told of a carpark being built where trees were meant to be planted to provide habitat for threatened species, and of unauthorised clearing of a site that was not properly protected.  

“Accurate reporting on projects – where the projects are and how they are being managed – is critical to ensure we are protecting nature. We need systems to identify and call out bad behaviour. And it should be easy to see who is doing the right thing.

“Approval holders should consider themselves on notice – deliver on your obligations for nature, or face penalties. 

“Work will begin immediately. Companies should check their house is in order and come forward to discuss any issues before the department comes knocking.

“We want to better protect nature, while also supporting essential sustainable development like housing and renewable energy. Developers should do everything they can to avoid habitat destruction and reduce impacts on nature. Properly managed offsets are a last resort but will help to make sure nature is better off overall.”