Independent NSW MLC Justin Field has called on the NSW Government to commit to an independent investigation into the state’s biodiversity offset scheme following revelations in the Guardian that consultants advising the Government on major developments had made windfall profits buying land to obtain and sell biodiversity conservation offset credits back to the Government.
Independent NSW MLC Justin Field said, "The allegations raised in the media today should be independently investigated by the Auditor General as part of a thorough review of the entire biodiversity offsetting scheme in NSW.
"It is totally unacceptable that consultants with specialised inside knowledge of a process are able to make windfall profits from public money. This is money that now won’t be available for further investments in biodiversity protection.
“There are either fundamental problems with the scheme in terms of addressing conflicts of interest or the wrong thing has been done. The internal investigation promised by the Government is not enough, it needs to be independent.
The revelations come just as the NSW Government is consulting on changes to how offset credits and developer charges are calculated with a plan to reduce transparency in those calculations.
“Any changes to the scheme should be paused until a thorough independent review is completed.
"We need to step back and ask if the currently biodiversity offset scheme is even fit for purpose in terms of protecting biodiversity.
"Australia is in the grip of an extinction crisis, driven in large part by the loss of habitat through land clearing and development. You cannot offset your way out of that crisis and allow a continual loss of habitat which is what this offset scheme allows.
"It's time we had biodiversity protection laws that drew a clear line in the sand and protected what is important as well as investing in the regeneration of degraded land," Mr Field said.