‘BioBank’ a Backward Step for Conservation

May 19, 2010 Updated: October 1, 2015

BioBank will sacrifice one nature reserve to save another, say environmentalists. (Lucas Dawson/Getty Images)
BioBank will sacrifice one nature reserve to save another, say environmentalists. (Lucas Dawson/Getty Images)
“BioBank”, the New South Wales Government’s new environmental management scheme, devalues rather than values open natural areas, say environmentalists.

The Government has announced its first purchase of land under the scheme that will allow developers to buy credits preserving one area of environmentally sensitive land so they can develop another area of sensitive land.

Environmentalists say the scheme devalues nature reserves by sacrificing one area of significant ecological value to save another area of estimated “equal value”.

“Biobanking is essentially greenwashing some development, while being a backward step for conservation,” said NSW Greens MLC Ian Cohen.

Professor Michal Buxton from RMIT’s social Science and Planning Department says it is not only bio diversity that is threatened by the sacrifice, but quality of life.

Open natural areas, separate to football fields or playgrounds, are important within our metropolitan areas “for people to experience nature and to enjoy it for recreational purposes”, he said.

NSW Environment Minister Frank Sartor announced the purchase this week of 80 hectares of grassland near Camden as a permanent conservation reserve, the first of the state’s “BioBank” sites.

The offset purchase marks Government efforts to make environmentally sensitive areas economically viable and is the first step in securing surviving pockets of building land in western Sydney for the construction of 180,000 houses in 40 years.

“The reality is that development for urban expansion is continuing in this country due to the growth in population,” he said.

“The conservation outcomes we have been achieving on that have not always been terrific.

“What this does is says: ‘Let’s greatly expand the amount of land that is permanently conserved.’”

Mr Sartor said another 37 sites are close to being finalised.

The Greens say NSW has 957 species listed as threatened, including 91 ecological communities, and the number will now increase.

“The site conserved today in Camden is at the expense of some remnant Cumberland Plain Woodland, an endangered ecological community which will now be destroyed, said Mr Cohen

“BioBanking is a backward step for threatened species conservation in NSW because it allows land of significant ecological value to be destroyed if land of supposed ‘equal value’ is protected elsewhere,

Professor Michal Buxton says open land is increasingly undervalued at a time when urban living is becoming denser and the need for open space is greater.

“In the past, it was seen as very important,” he told The Epoch Times, but now: “Open space has gone right off the agenda for governments.”

Professor Buxton said saving one area of land while sacrificing another for development would not help bio diversity either. Most nature reserves are linked, enabling many species to travel from one nature reserve to the next as part of their normal habitat, he said.

“Lots of these reserves go down river valleys and gullies to make linear connections.” If they are developed, “they [species] are cut off from connecting”, he said..

The Nature Conservation Council of NSW says it is concerned about a range of issues surrounding the scheme, including how the value of one species over another will be assessed, how Indigenous sites will factor in assessments, how it is assured that conservation strategies are maintained after credits are sold and the extent to which the powers of local government will be eroded should a bio banking statement be placed on a site for development.