Nature Repair Market Bill introduced to protect biodiversity

TANYA Plibersek, the Minister for Environment and Water, recently introduced the Nature Repair Market Bill (2023) into Federal Parliament.

The Minister described the Bill as a “world first scheme’ in which landowners can be paid by a third party for protecting and restoring nature on their land.

Ms Plibersek said the Bill will make it easier for business, philanthropists and others to invest in repairing nature across Australia.

She cited a recent report that found a biodiversity market could unlock $137 billion to repair and protect Australia’s environment by 2050.

Examples of possible projects that could be funded under the scheme include excluding livestock and feral herbivores to restore a natural marsh to create critical habitat for diverse native frog, fish, turtle and wetland bird species, employing indigenous rangers to undertake feral animal exclusion and restoring a seagrass meadow to provide habitat for sea turtles, dugongs, marine fish and seahorses.

Under the scheme, the market will be regulated by the Clean Energy Regulator which will have monitoring and enforcement powers to ensure that projects are conducted in accordance with the rules.

“We’re supporting landholders including farmers and First Nations communities to do things like replanting a vital stretch of koala habitat, repair damaged riverbeds, or remove invasive species,” Ms Plibersek said.

“Creating a nature repair market with proper integrity and transparency, gives businesses and philanthropists a way to invest in nature with confidence.”

However, as with Labor’s Safeguard Mechanism to lower emissions, conservationists believe it could go further.

Dailan Pugh, spokesperson for the North East Forest Alliance (NEFA) said, “The principal problem with the Commonwealth’s Nature Repair Market Bill is that it is intending to create another offsets scheme.

“Last year the Commonwealth’s carbon offsets scheme was found to be fundamentally flawed and not providing the required carbon abatement, and the parliamentary inquiry into NSW’s biodiversity offsets scheme found it was doing more harm than good, particularly by allowing threatened species to be traded away for cash.”

Mr Pugh said the concept of biodiversity offsets is fundamentally flawed, because it basically means if someone has two patches of critical habitat for an endangered species they can clear one provided they pay to protect the other, resulting in a net loss for the species.

He said that providing stewardship payments to reward and assist landholders for protecting and restoring habitat of threatened species is needed, though not at the expense of destroying their habitat elsewhere.

“The folly of offsets is demonstrated by the issue of Grandpa’s Scrub, where a unique and irreplaceable stand of rainforest was to be cleared, while a different type of rainforest under no threat was to be protected in exchange,” Mr Pugh said.

By Andrew VIVIAN

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