Recognising that native vegetation management is an important part of biodiversity conservation, the Victorian minerals industry has supported the intention of the state's native vegetation permitted clearing regulations - achieving no net loss - since their development in 2002. However various incarnations of the regulations sought to pass responsibility for achieving the state's broader biodiversity objectives onto a small number of regulated industries.
The Victorian Government's review of the state's native vegetation regulations go part way towards improving the workability of the regulations for the minerals industry. The MCA Victoria strongly supports the government's commitment to develop a framework for offsets on Crown Land, review the function of the state's offset market and develop low availability offsets.
Broadening the range of offset tools available to proponents is necessary to further improve workability and encourage targeted support for strategic and community-identified biodiversity conservation projects in host communities. Financial-based offsets are already available in some Victorian urban growth areas under the Melbourne Strategic Assessment. There is no reason why this option should not be available for regional industries.
Together, a framework for offsets on Crown Land and the availability of financial-based offsets, would enable proponents to contribute to biodiversity conservation activities within a project's host community.
While the review outcomes are a start, significant additional work is required to address outstanding issues regarding consistency and fairness in application of the regulations by decision-makers and difficulties obtaining timely and accurate advice from relevant government agencies. Without resolution of these issues the proposed policy and regulatory changes cannot deliver the intended improvements or reduce the high cost and delays characteristic of the current framework.