Revelations by The Guardian showing land in western Sydney was sold as biodiversity offsets for millions of dollars more than what it was bought for by individuals who worked for the environmental consultancy recommending the offsets, essentially amounts to insider trading and must be urgently investigated, says Greens MP and environment and wildlife spokesperson Cate Faehrmann.
Last week, Greens MP Cate Faehrmann wrote to the Auditor General to audit the Biodiversity Offsets Scheme and the Biodiversity Conservation Trust, and to the ICAC, after a Guardian investigation revelations that a number of employees of the private companies involved in offsets were making huge gains by buying up land they knew would be required for offsets for major projects in western Sydney and then selling that land as offsets back to the government.
“These latest revelations are shocking and show that the Biodiversity Offsets Scheme is broken and easily manipulated for huge private gain by a handful of individuals in the know,” said Ms Faehrmann.
“It’s not good enough for the government to respond to these revelations by launching internal investigations, undertaken by the very departments that might be part of the problem.
“The Environment Minister needs to step in and refer the entire scheme to the Auditor General, including everything that has been revealed in the Guardian’s investigation.
“I’ve also referred these latest revelations to the ICAC and the Auditor General following my referrals last week and will also be seeking a Parliamentary inquiry into the issue,” said Cate Faehrmann Greens MP and Chair of the Environment and Planning Committee.
“Thousands of hectares of threatened species habitat is being cleared on advice that it can be ‘offset’ by purchasing land or ‘credits’ elsewhere, land that has been bought by the ecological consultants recommending the offsets. Surely there is no other way to describe this than ‘insider trading’.
“It’s clear that the foxes have been guarding the hen house with the Biodiversity Offset Scheme being turned into a developer rort.
“The scheme essentially gives developers licence to commit environmental destruction while making millions in the process.
“The scheme lacks many of the protections expected from a trading scheme valued at hundreds of millions of dollars annually,” said Ms Faehrmann.