In order to better protect the natural environment, MidCoast Council has adopted a biodiversity offsets procedure for Council activities.
When we deliver projects that are of benefit to the community, such as road improvements, the construction of water quality assets or the replacement of timber bridges, sometimes we need to remove trees, native vegetation and wildlife habitat. We always try to avoid or strictly minimise such clearing, but sometimes projects involve some loss of vegetation and habitat.
We understand that this can cause concern for the residents and visitors of our beautiful region.
Offsetting is a process used to compensate for the environmental impacts of an activity. Our procedure seeks to replace the area of native vegetation to be lost with an area of new planting in a strategically-important location. It also requires that natural tree hollows that are removed are compensated for by the installation of artificial nesting boxes.This is considered to be best practice.
The offset calculation is made as part of the environmental assessment for the proposed activity (often called the REF or Part 5 Assessment). All other statutory requirements of the environmental assessment process are followed.
Our procedure is a simple calculation based on the following:
- The area of clearing of native vegetation and/ or the number of native trees to be removed as part of a Council activity is avoided or minimised through good design, where possible.
- The area of clearing and/ or the number and types of native trees to be removed is calculated,
- The number and size class of natural hollows to be removed is calculated,
- A calculation is made of the area of native vegetation or the number of trees and the number of nesting boxes that are required to be provided as an offset for the work. For instance:
- For each hectare of a native vegetation that is an endangered ecological community that is removed; four (4) hectares of new plantings are required
- For each hectare of native vegetation that is not an endangered ecological community that is removed; two (2) hectares of new native plantings are required
- For each tree that is a threatened species that is removed; ten (10) trees are to be replanted
- For each tree that is a koala food tree species that is removed; four (4) trees are to be replanted
- For each tree other than threatened species or koala food tree species that is removed; two (2) trees are to be replanted
- For each natural hollows that is removed; two (2) nesting boxes are to be installed
- An assessment is undertaken which calculates the value of the required offset fund deposit, and
- The offset fund is paid by the project to the Natural Systems Branch of Council who then administers the plantings or nesting box installations required to offset the impact of the activity.
As an example, for a recent road reconstruction and installation of a new passing lane along The Bucketts Way near Limeburners Creek, it was calculated that the work would remove 31 preferred koala food trees and 78 other native trees, as well as 14 tree hollows. The offset fund required in this instance was $7,980, which was set aside to fund a local priority replanting and nesting box project. The offset fund cost is a very small proportion of the overall cost of the total project, but contributes to vital restoration and habitat enhancement work in our area.