Facilitated workshops are an effective way to engage stakeholders in understanding and responding to complex challenges. The Native Vegetation Council (NVC) recognized URPS’ expertise in designing and running successful workshops, using our services to help elicit stakeholder responses regarding new models for off-sets when native vegetation is cleared.
Under the Native Vegetation Act, authorised clearance of native vegetation must be off-set by a Significant Environmental Benefit (SEB) in most instances. The NVC has found in recent years that:
- methods for assessing the clearance of native vegetation are inconsistent, leading to higher SEB requirements for clearing isolated paddock trees than for clearing patches of native vegetation;
- off-sets are generally not providing a significant biodiversity gain; and
- payments to the Native Vegetation Fund in lieu of an on-ground off-set are not reflecting the true cost of establishing, managing and maintaining an off-set.
What has become clear during these workshops is just how challenging it is to create a system that satisfies all stakeholders completely. Some consider SEBs to be a substantial impediment to development in regional areas, while others are concerned that mechanisms such as payments to the Native Vegetation Fund make it too easy/cheap for clearance to occur and responsibility to be passed-on.
At the same time, the workshops have been excellent forums for the NVC to test some new models for off-sets and hear ideas about how such models could be improved.