Project Description

Net Gain for native vegetation in the state of Victoria, Australia

The State of Victoria’s native vegetation policy is one of the most advanced applications of Conservation Hierarchy principles to date. The overall aim of Victoria’s current sustainability and environment policy is to achieve ‘No Net Loss to biodiversity as a result of the removal… of native vegetation’. Victoria’s native vegetation management framework then outlines a goal for net gain:

“A reversal, across the entire landscape, of the long-term decline in the extent and quality of native vegetation, leading to a Net Gain” – Victoria’s Native Vegetation Management: a framework for action. The State of Victoria Department of Sustainability and Environment, 2011

Most impacts to native vegetation across the state come under the jurisdiction of the policy, aside from a list of exemptions such as actions taken to reduce wildfire risks. The policy mandates that all applications to damage or remove native vegetation – whether by individual landowners or large commercial companies – submit a statement demonstrating that they have avoided and minimised damage to native vegetation as far as possible, thus implementing the first stages of the Conservation Hierarchy.

The remaining negative impacts on native vegetation are calculated using the state’s biodiversity metric, and it is mandatory to offset these residual impacts. Offsetting most commonly occurs through the state’s multi-offset covenants million dollar native vegetation offsets market. Landholders across the state can generate offset credits through offset covenants on their land, which include commitments to protect and maintain native vegetation, and implement pro-active management actions to increase biodiversity. The predicted biodiversity gains from the increased level of legal protection and associated conservation actions are then estimated, and converted in to offset credits. Residual negative impacts to native vegetation as a result of damaging projects or actions can then be offset through purchasing these credits. The credits are then invested in other landholders’ estates, to fund positive conservation actions.

CLICK FOR EXAMPLES OF SPECIFIC ACTIONS UNDER EACH CONSERVATION HIERARCHY STEP:

Goal: Net gain in native vegetation

Mandate that impacts to native vegetation are avoided wherever possible, and that any projects or actions which will negatively impact native vegetation provide evidence of avoidance actions.

Require that any proposals to impact native vegetation outline how they have minimized their impact as far as possible

Legislate for time-bound operations (e.g. mining) to restore ecosystems after operations are finished through revegetation of impacted area

Create a biodiversity offsetting market so that any native vegetation impacts that cannot be avoided can be offset on private land that would otherwise be unprotected. High offset multipliers, particularly for clearing of vulnerable species and large old trees, to mitigate risk and uncertainty of biodiversity outcome.

Proactive native vegetation protection and revegetation programs, independent of damage mitigation measures and offset markets (e.g. state protected area network), and strict protection of threatened flora species.

Pro-active management actions to enhance biodiversity on private land.

Research for improved management.

Extension and community education service to encourage voluntary conservation–orientated approaches to land management.