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.