Advanced offsets for landholders and graziers in Queensland

 

The latest changes in Queensland’s offset framework, give landholders the ability to register their land as an advanced offset with the Queensland Government.  This gives landholders the ability to supplement their income by allowing their land to be used as an offset.

The environmental offset framework is covered under the Environmental Offsets Act 2014, Environmental Offsets Regulation 2014 and the Queensland Environmental Offset Policy 2014.

A list of properties currently listed as available for advanced offsets is available at:

http://www.ehp.qld.gov.au/assets/documents/pollution/management/offsets/offsets-register.xlsx

How much money can you get for an offset?

Changes in the offset framework have provided an opportunity for developers to offset their clearing through a financial contribution. This does create an upper limit that you can ask for an offset, but also standardises what an offset is worth.

There are a large number of variables involved in the offset, including the type of offset, the condition, location etc.  The table below provides examples of maximum offsets payments available to some landholders, based on the “on ground cost” and “landholder incentive payment” divided by the “Total Offset area” (which is usually at 4:1).

Local Government area Example offset type Maximum offset worth per ha
Gladstone Endangered RE 12.3.3 (blue gum flats on alluvial) $24,000
Rockhampton Endangered RE 11.4.9 (brigalow) $6,500
Central Highlands / Emerald Connectivity $3,500
Gympie Koala habitat $29,600
Livingstone / Yeppoon Wetlands $6,500
Mackay Marine Plants/Mangroves $30,000
Blackall/Tambo Least concern RE watercourses $6,500
Banana/Biloela Squatter Pigeon habitat $6,500
Brisbane Endangered RE 12.3.3 $249,000
Gold Coast Koala habitat $76,000

Offset value is determined by supply and demand and the available financial settlement options. In order to attract a buyer for your offset, you would need to offer less than the financial offset options. However there are also circumstances where the vegetation could be offset at ratios less than 4:1, in these situations the maximum offset could up to four times the above values.

Offsets are negotiable and you should always seek professional advice, Some common landholder questions and answers are outlined below.

What are the advantages of advanced offsets over past offset requirements?

An advanced offset allows a landholder to deal with the offset without being registered through an offset broker, which can allow landholders greater control over the offset, and a higher income for their offset.  It also allows the landholder to take care of (and receive the income from) the management of the offset – like weed control and reporting.

Traditionally a landholder could only identify their land as a potential offset through a private offset broker.  The offset broker managed the offset, and would take part of the offset income for their services.  In some cases offset brokers would take a significant cut of the offset income.

The advanced offset still allows a landholder to manage an offset through an offset broker if they wish.

Do I still own the offset area?

Yes

During the course of the offset delivery, the offset area is declared as an “Environmental Offset Protection Area”

Once the offset requirements have been met, the Environmental offset protection area can be removed.

Could I still graze cattle and manage an offset area?

The management of an offset area is going to depend on the type of offset and what is agreed within the offset delivery plan.  Grazing practices could continue in an offset area if it does not impact on the offset outcome.

For example offsets for endangered REs, watercourses or connectivity will require the vegetation to regenerate to the average tree height and increase species diversity. Grazing is unlikely to have an impact on these types of offsets.

Could I still thin/control regrowth in an offset area?

This would depend on the offset delivery plan that is negotiated.  In many circumstances thinning and some regrowth control would be allowed within an offset delivery plan.

What management would be required in an offset area?

The management of an offset is defined within the offset delivery plan.  Before you agree to an offset you would have the opportunity to discuss all the requirements within the offset delivery plan.

At minimum you would be required to control weeds and allow the native vegetation to naturally regrow.  In many cases this would be sufficient to meet management requirements.

Management requirements of an offset area would often be similar to how you manage your land on a day to day basis.

Does identifying my land as an advanced offset lock me into an offset?

No

Registering your land as an offset just identifies that you are interested in using your land as offset, and identifies what values you are offering.

There is no obligation for you to sign up to any offset offers, and you can remove your property from the offset list at any time.

What can be identified as an advanced offset?

The new offset framework has combined offset requirements from the:

  • Queensland Government Environmental Offsets Policy (2008)
  • Marine Fish Habitat Offsets Policy (version FHMOP005.2)
  • Policy for Vegetation Management Offsets (2011)
  • Queensland Biodiversity Offset Policy (2011)
  • Offsets for Net Gain in Koala Habitat in South East Queensland Policy (2010)

As a result there are many matters that be identified as an offset, including:

  • Endangered and of concern REs
  • Watercourses under the Vegetation Management Act 1999 (VMA)
  • Essential habitat for threatened species
  • Flora and fauna threatened species
  • SEQ koala habitat
  • Marine plants
  • Connectivity requirements under the VMA
  • Wetlands
  • Matters of local environmental significance (MLES)
  • Matters of state and national environmental significance (MSES) (MNES)
  • Nature Refuges

Under the current offset policy almost any land can be offset for a multiple of matters, including areas that are mapped as remnant vegetation under the VMA.

The most valuable offsets (worth up to four times the value identified in the above table) occur when you contain vegetation that is mapped as Category X on a PMAV, but contains fully grown trees.  These offsets also require little management requirements.

If I an offset area is ‘locked’ in, can it be cleared at a later date?

Yes (mostly)

If an offset area is required to be cleared, then you would need to offset the offset (providing there is somewhere else in the state that can provide the same offset requirement).

How long does an offset area last?

The vegetation created by the offset is protected, often through a category A area on a PMAV.

The offset delivery plan and actions remain in place until the offset has been delivered.  In drier areas of the state this could be around 20 years.

Offsets that contain fully grown vegetation that are mapped as Category X area on PMAV could be completed within a year or two.

How do I register my land as an advanced offset?

To register your land as an offset the following forms need to be completed and submitted to the Department of Environment and Heritage

  • EOD1—Environmental Offsets Delivery Form 1: Notice of Election and Advanced Offset
  • EOD3—Environmental Offsets Delivery Form 3: Offset Area Details
  • EOD5—Environmental Offsets Delivery Form 5: Habitat Quality Details

These forms require:

  • GIS shapefiles of the offset areas and/or maps and GPS coordinates
  • The legal interests in the land
  • The extent and offset matters (ie REs, wetlands, Koala habitat etc)
  • Habitat quality assessment of the offset areas following the Guide to determining terrestrial habitat quality.
  • Habitat quality scoring values of the offset areas

There is currently no application fee to be registered as an advanced offset.

Can I have my land taken off the offset register?

Yes

You simply have to fill in the Request for the removal or amendment to an advanced offset form

Can I use my own advanced offsets?

Yes

Advanced offsets have the added advantage of allowing you to use offset area on your land for any clearing that may be required for your business.  This can greatly speed up the development/clearing permit process. The clearing would need to meet other legislative requirements.

How can Ecosure help?

Ecosure’s environmental consultants have dealt with many offsets, both under the old and current legislation.

Ecosure can:

  • Identify what areas on your property/land that can be used for offsets, and what types of offsets would be suitable
  • Assess habitat quality for the offset area
  • Advise on appropriate management actions for the offset plan
  • Advise on the kind of price you could expect to ask for your offset
  • Supply relevant information for the offset forms EOD1, EOD3 and EOD5
  • Help negotiate and formulate the offset delivery plan when an offset is requested.
  • Help with the management of the offset requirements (like weed control and reporting) if needed

Ecosure is interested in giving landholders a greater control over their land for offsets, and allowing them to receive a greater cut of the offset income.

Ecosure can also help with PMAVs, clearing permit requirements, property management plans on the property, which could be done at the same time as the habitat assessments.

Contact:
Geoffrey Sinclair (Central Qld) 07 4994 1000