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Environmental offsets

Environmental offsets framework

On 1 July 2014, a new environmental offsets framework was introduced in Queensland.

The framework streamlines environmental offsets by providing an outcome-based approach to offsets, removing the complexities and duplication associated with the former offsets framework and aligning offsets across all three levels of government.

The framework includes:

  • Environmental Offsets Act 2014 (PDF, 490KB), as amended on 28 October 2014, which coordinates the delivery of environmental offsets across jurisdictions and provides a single point-of-truth for offsets in Queensland.
  • Environmental Offsets Regulation 2014 (PDF, 356KB), as amended on 19 December 2014, which provides details of the prescribed activities regulated under existing legislation and prescribed environmental matters to which the Act applies.
  • The Queensland Environmental Offsets Policy which provides a single, consistent, whole-of-government policy for the assessment of offset proposals to satisfy offset conditions.

The Queensland Environmental Offsets Policy 2014 Version 1.1 (PDF, 1MB) came into effect on 19 December 2014. (This replaces the Queensland Environmental Offsets Policy Version 1.0 (PDF, 795KB) which was in effect from 1 July 2014 to 18 December 2014).

Significant impacts

An environmental offset may be required as a condition of approval where—following consideration of avoidance and mitigation measures—the activity is likely to result in a significant residual impact on prescribed environmental matters. The Significant Impact Guideline is used for consideration of all potential offset requirements for Matters of State Environmental Significance, for applications made under the Environmental Protection Act 1994, Nature Conservation Act 1992 and Marine Parks Act 2004. It is used to determine if a residual impact from a prescribed activity is significant.

An impact site assessment tool is available to assist you in identifying the full extent of all significant residual impacts on prescribed environmental matters contained on the impact site. You can request to have the impact site assessment results emailed to you. The email generates a report and spreadsheet (in an attached csv file) of the impact site assessment results. This tool is not mandatory, however, applicants are encouraged to use the tool and submit the csv file results with their relevant development application.

The Landscape Fragmentation and Connectivity Tool enables a decision to be made on the significance of an impact on connectivity areas containing remnant vegetation Category B. The tool is available at the Queensland Spatial Catalogue (search for “offsets”) link.

For further information about significant impact guidelines for applications made under the Sustainable Planning Act 2009, contact the Department of Infrastructure, Local Government and Planning.

Offset delivery options

The Queensland Environmental Offset policy provides greater flexibility in relation to how offsets can be delivered including:

Where offset conditions specify, staged offsets can also be delivered.

Guidance material for offsets

A series of guides, forms, tools and templates are available to help you select and deliver your offsets. If you are unable to access these documents, please email offsets@ehp.qld.gov.au.

General guide

The General guide (PDF, 876KB) is available to assist you in interpreting and implementing the Queensland environmental offsets framework. This is a non-statutory document, and it provides an explanation of each step in determining if an offset is required, and guidance on how to deliver an environmental offset requirement.

Offset Delivery Plan Template

An offset delivery plan is required for all proponent-driven offsets. A non-mandatory Offset Delivery Plan template (Word, 77KB) is available to assist you in the development of your plan in line with the requirements under the Queensland environmental offset framework. You may choose to use or modify this template as necessary or provide an alternative plan which meets these requirements.

Financial settlement offsets

A financial settlement offset is a payment for a significant residual impact on prescribed environmental matter/s. It must be calculated in accordance with the Financial Settlement Offset Calculation Methodology. This methodology has been incorporated into a web-based calculator.

Calculate your financial settlement using the Financial Settlement Offset Calculator.

The required offset delivery forms for financial settlement offsets are:

Please note that you will also need to complete EOD6 (Staged Offset Details) (DOCX, 95KB) if your offset is staged.

These forms will need to be submitted to the administering agency for the relevant prescribed activity.

Proponent-driven offsets

Land-based offsets

The following tools and templates are available to help you deliver your land-based offsets:

  • Guide to Determining Terrestrial Habitat Quality (PDF, 2.36MB)
    This guide is used to assess the suitability of an offset site relative to the impact site and the prescribed environmental matters. It provides a step-by-step methodology for measuring and comparing the habitat quality of the sites and assists in monitoring changes in the habitat quality of an offset site over time. The guide can also be used for assessing the habitat quality of marine plants that are mapped and described using the regional ecosystem framework.
  • Tool: Land-based Offset Multiplier Calculator (XLSM, 233KB)
    This calculator uses multipliers to determine the required size of an offset site, relative to the size of the impact site for matters of state environmental significance (other than protected areas).
  • Template: Habitat Quality Scoring (XLSM, 9.24MB)
    This template automatically scores habitat quality from field data in accordance with the ‘Guide to Determining Terrestrial Habitat Quality’.

The required offset delivery forms for land-based offsets are:

You will also need to complete EOD6 (Staged Offset Details) (DOCX, 95KB) if your offset is staged.

These forms will need to be submitted to the administering agency for the relevant prescribed activity.

Environmental Offset Protection Areas

Legal security is generally required for offset sites. An area of land can be legally secured under the Environmental Offsets Act by declaring it as Environmental Offset Protection Area. You may apply to declare land as an Environmental Offset Protection Area using the Request for Environmental Offset Protection Area declaration form (PDF, 77KB).

This form will need to be submitted to the Department of Environment and Heritage Protection.

Direct Benefit Management Plan offsets

DBMPs are pre-approved packaged investments that outline priority actions to address threats to, and provide substantial benefits for, particular prescribed environmental matters. Substantial benefits are achieved by providing landscape-scale benefits for those matters, or if the matter is localised, improved outcomes compared to a traditional land-based offset. An offset delivery plan is required to implement Direct Benefit Management Plan offsets.

The required offset delivery forms for DBMP offsets are:

These forms will need to be submitted to the administering agency for the relevant prescribed activity.

Combination offsets

Use the Combined Offset Calculator (XLSX, 30KB) to assist in calculating the percentage breakdown of a combined proponent-driven and financial settlement offset obligation.

The required offset delivery forms for combination offsets are:

You will also need to complete EOD6 (Staged Offset Details) (DOCX, 95KB) if your offset is staged.

Advanced offsets

An area of land may be identified and registered as an advanced offset where the site contains, or is capable of containing a prescribed environmental matter and a baseline assessment of the habitat quality has been undertaken. The Guide to Determining Terrestrial Habitat Quality (PDF, 2.36MB) can be used for the baseline assessment against which improvement in habitat quality can be measured.

The required offset delivery forms for an advanced offset are:

These forms will need to be submitted to EHP or, if the advanced offset is for a matter of local environmental significance, to the relevant local government.

After an advanced offset has been registered, the landowner may apply to amend the boundary of the advanced offset, or they may apply to remove the advanced offset from the register.

If you wish to apply to amend the boundary of an advanced offset, or remove an advanced offset from the register, you must complete the Request for the removal of or amendment to an advanced offset form (PDF, 75KB).

This form should be submitted to the relevant agency (i.e. Department of Environment and Heritage Protection or the local government authority) that approved the advanced offset.

Strategic offsets

The policy introduces a more strategic approach to offset delivery through the introduction of Strategic Offset Investment Corridors and Direct Benefit Management Plans (DBMP). This more strategic approach will not only lead to greater benefits for the environment, but will provide more opportunities for landholders to receive income in return for voluntarily agreeing to manage their land, or part of their land, as an offset.

Direct Benefit Management Plans

The policy details the criteria that a Direct Benefit Management Plan (DBMP) must address, and requires pre-approval for a DBMP before it will be considered as part of an offset delivery approach.

The delivery of activities detailed in a DBMP depends on whether the outcomes are likely to deliver substantial and measurable benefits to the impacted matter(s).

In assessing this, landscape-scale benefits are likely to achieve substantial benefits for impacted matters. For localised matters substantial benefits will have been achieved through improved outcomes compared to a traditional land-based offset. These outcomes must be sufficient to counterbalance the impacts of a prescribed activity on that environmental matter.

Before a DBMP proposal can be used as part of a proponent-driven offset it must first be approved by EHP, or if the matter is regulated by a local government by that local government. On approval, the DBMP will be listed on the register of offsets (XLSX, 153KB). There is no obligation to use a pre-approved DBMP to provide an offset for a particular prescribed environmental matter.

Use this checklist (Word, 58KB) to assist develop your DBMP in line with the requirements of the Policy.

Strategic Offset Investment Corridors

Strategic Offset Investment Corridors (SOICs) identify some of the best places in the landscape for environmental offsets. They mainly consist of core areas of largely intact remnant vegetation, generally associated with protected areas such as national parks, or areas that provide important links between those core areas.

SOICs make offsets easier and cheaper to find. They provide income opportunities for landholders willing to provide offsets on their land. They also provide strategic conservation benefits for important environmental values, such as threatened regional ecosystems and species that have been significantly impacted by development elsewhere.

The Department of Environment and Heritage Protection is identifying SOICs in each bioregion of Queensland with local input from regional Natural Resource Management groups, ecology experts, landholders and local government.

Maps and other information on the following SOICs are now available:

Detailed spatial mapping of the Galilee Basin SOIC, Southern Brigalow Belt and New England Tableland SOIC and Western Queensland – Gulf Plains, Northwest Highlands, Mitchell Grass Downs and Channel Country Bioregions SOIC are available for download from the Queensland Spatial Catalogue – QSpatial website (search “offset”). These spatial mapping datasets identify state environmental values included in each of the SOICs.

Please note that the spatial mapping datasets for each of the SOIC areas have been created for computers with GIS capabilities.

For further information in relation to SOICs, including information for landholders seeking to register their interest in providing offsets, and proponents or offset brokers seeking offset sites for the potential provision of offset services, please email offsets@ehp.qld.gov.au

Offsets register

The Environmental Offsets Act 2014 requires administering agencies to make available for inspection a register of offsets (XLSX, 153KB) under that Act including advanced offsets.

Duplicate Offset Conditions

An authority holder seeking to remove duplicate conditions imposed on an authority granted from an application made on or after 1 July 2014 must apply using the Request to amend an authority form (PDF, 61KB).

This form will need to be submitted to the administering agency for the relevant prescribed activity.

Applications under superseded offsets policies

Applications for prescribed activities that were lodged prior to the commencement of the Act (1 July 2014)—for which an environmental offset condition has been imposed on the approval—will continue to operate under the superseded offset policy in effect at that time. This includes applications to amend an existing approval, where the amendment was lodged prior to commencement of the Act.

Copies of the superseded offset policies can be obtained by visiting the online library catalogue and searching for the following titles:

  • Queensland Government Environmental Offset Policy (QGEOP)
  • Policy for Vegetation Management Offsets (PVMO)
  • Queensland Biodiversity Offset Policy (QBOP)
  • Marine Fish Habitat Offsets Policy (MFHOP)
  • Offsets for Net Gain of Koala Habitat in Southeast Queensland Policy.

In some circumstances you can request that consideration be given instead to the Queensland Environmental Offsets Policy, provided that no impacts on the environmental values have occurred. Circumstances in which you may apply to amend an existing authority under section 95B of the Act are:

  • To allow the selection and delivery of an environmental offset in accordance with the environmental offset policy; or
  • To allow a financial settlement offset (however described) determined in accordance with the environmental offset policy; or
  • To remove a requirement to provide an environmental offset for –
    • an environmental value that is not a prescribed environmental matter under the Environmental Offset Act; or
    • an impact on a prescribed environmental matter that is not a significant residual impact.

Authority holders may apply to amend an existing authority using the Request to amend an authority form (PDF, 61KB).

This form will need to be submitted to the administering agency for the relevant prescribed activity.

Applications for Internal Review

Under the Environmental Offsets Act 2014 you may apply for the review of certain decisions. Circumstances in which you may apply for an internal review of a reviewable decision are:

  • an administering agency’s failure to provide a notice within 40 business days after receipt of a notice of election;
  • an administering agency decision that the offset should be delivered in a different way to that stated in a notice of election;
  • failure by the administering agency to enter into an agreed delivery arrangement within the required period;
  • a decision in relation to removal of duplicate conditions;
  • a decision in relation to amending existing authorities;
  • administering agency’s decision in relation to a proposed advanced offset, or amendment of an advanced offset.

You may apply for an internal review of a reviewable decision using the Request for an internal review form (PDF, 62KB).

This form will need to be submitted to the administering agency for the relevant prescribed activity.

For further information or assistance in relation to the guides, forms, templates or information about offset delivery, please email offsets@ehp.qld.gov.au.

Financial settlement

Calculate your financial settlement using the Financial Settlement Offset Calculator.

Licence
Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Australia (CC BY 3.0)
Last updated
26 February 2016

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