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Government must refer biodiversity offsets scandal to ICAC and review the whole system

The NSW Government must refer to ICAC the sale of biodiversity offset credits in relation to major roadworks in Western Sydney and conduct a comprehensive review of the state’s biodiversity offsets regime following revelations byThe Guardian Australia today. [1]

In a sensational piece of investigative journalism, Guardian environment reporter Lisa Cox has exposed significant flaws in the NSW biodiversity offsets scheme and potentially corrupt conduct by consultant ecologists and government officials.

The Guardian found two consultant ecologists who worked for Ecological, a company that advised the government on biodiversity offsets in relation to the proposed M12 motorway and the Northern Road expansion, had a significant interest in another company, Meridolum No 1, which made millions selling offset credits for the same projects.

“This episode raises very serious questions about the integrity of the whole system and should trigger a thorough review,” Nature Conservation Council Chief Executive Chris Gambian said.

“The issues highlighted by Ms Cox’s excellent report must be investigated by ICAC. If the government refuses to refer the matter to the corruption watchdog, we will.

“This report leaves numerous questions unanswered about transparency, integrity and credibility of the whole system.

“It is extremely concerning that enormous amounts of public money are buying biodiversity offsets from the very consultants who are assessing the offset requirements for major projects.

“The public must have confidence that their taxes are being spent on genuine ecological stewardship and not just providing windfall gains for private investors.

“We warned the government of the risks of corruption and species decline if it introduced its flawed biodiversity offset scheme as part of its planning and conservation law reforms five years ago. Sadly, our warnings were ignored and this is the result.

“Whether or not this matter is found to have involved corrupt conduct, it brings the whole system into serious disrepute and erodes public confidence in public administration.

“The government cannot simply conduct an internal investigation and sweep this scandal under the rug. There must be a thorough, public investigation to ensure this never happens again.”


[1] ‘Enormous sum of money’: $40m windfall from NSW environmental offsets sparks calls for inquiry, 16-4-21, The Guardian


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