Scathing report by the Auditor General lays bare the failures of the NSW Biodiversity Offsets Scheme


The Department for Planning and Environment has fundamentally failed to design or implement an effective scheme for biodiversity offsets according to the NSW Auditor General who has today tabled the final report into the Effectiveness of the Biodiversity Offsets Scheme. 

Numerous endangered species are unable to be offset due to poor oversight and a lack of planning and supply for in-demand credits with half of all threatened species likely to be extinct in 100 years time. Despite commitments from the then Environment Minister Matt Kean last year that there would be a “full and thorough” internal review of the scheme, failings on the integrity, transparency, and sustainability of the scheme have not been resolved and show little progress in improvement. 

Greens MP and spokesperson for the environment Sue Higginson said “The report is absolutely damning and confirms that we are facing an environmental crisis and the Government’s current policy is broken and contributing significantly to it.”  

“This broken scheme has failed to adequately identify and provide like-for-like offsets for many developments in NSW creating a situation where threatened species and ecological communities will likely go extinct due to the lack of appropriate and available offset credits, 

“The Auditor General has made it very clear that there are insufficient biodiversity gains being made through the scheme compared to the losses and impacts from development in NSW. This is compounded by the Department of Planning and Environment failing to provide oversight of the quality of offset sites or any conflicts of interest that exist for assessors, 

“These failures by the Government mean that around 90% of demand for offsets cannot be matched with supply of appropriate credits and that the growth in required offsets for the NSW Government’s $112.7 billion dollar infrastructure pipeline will be a further challenge. 10 threatened species and 8 threatened ecological communities have almost no prospects for offsetting and these threatened species and communities will pay the ultimate price for the Government’s failures, this is a catastrophic cost for nature. 

“The Government needs to intervene now and halt projects that are relying on this offsets scheme until there is an accurate accounting of what offsets are available for developers and the Government. Right now, the offsets scheme is trading biodiversity that doesn’t and can’t exist anywhere else. 

“If Matt Kean is serious about reforming the scheme and rebuilding trust then there needs to be action that meets those commitments. The extinction crisis is happening now and the Biodiversity Offsets Scheme is a major contributing factor in the ongoing destruction of vital habitat in NSW,” Ms Higginson said.