'The scars are local'


Northern Beaches Mayor Michael Regan has called on the State Government to come to the table and work with Council to pioneer a new environmental offset scheme.

Currently, the NSW Government’s Biodiversity and Offsets scheme, known as biobanking, requires developers to purchase ‘biodiversity credits’ from private landowners to counterbalance any environmental destruction from development.

A parcel of land must already be pre-approved and its dollar value of biodiversity credits assigned when the construction contract is signed for it to qualify under the scheme. This can take between 12 to 18 months.

As such, a major construction project in one local government area (LGA) may be offset by biobanked land in another area of the state.

With the Northern Beaches region soon to see the major construction of the Beaches Link Tunnel and Wakehurst Parkway flood mitigation projects, Mayor Regan is advocating for a pilot scheme that would see cleared bushland offset by land within the LGA.

To do this, he is urging the State Government to work with Council to identify appropriate land parcels, waive the need for pre-approval prior to construction, and fund land regeneration where needed.

“If we're taking 10 hectares of land away from this area, we want 10 hectares preserved in our area,” he explains.

“We know the government owns significant parcels of land in this area of varying degrees of biodiversity value. Could the State Government not work with us on a process even while it's under construction? 

“Also, why can't we look at where the opportunities are to increase the biodiversity on some of these parcels of land?"

He says with the state-led construction projects planned for the area likely to ‘significantly impact the environment’, offsetting should occur locally.  

“The scars are local. The damage is done locally, so why wouldn’t we want to offset the balance locally?

“It's not unreasonable to expect that when there is such significant degradation of the local environment for major infrastructure projects.”

At the October Council meeting, Mayor Regan will seek the support of his fellow councillors to meet with NSW environment minister and planning minister to discuss a pilot scheme.

Should he be successful, he hopes the scheme could then by rolled out in LGAs across the state.

Stephanie Aikins, Editor-in-Chief, Peninsula Living Magazine

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