To maintain (no net loss) or improve (net gain) the population status of listed threatened eagle species impacted by wind farm developments, currently Wedge-Tailed Eagle (Aquila audax fleayi) and White-Bellied Sea-Eagle (Haliaeetus leucogaster).
A combination of direct and indirect offsets may be appropriate. Direct offsets are preferred.
1. Direct Offsets
Direct offsets are those actions which provide a measurable conservation gain for a threatened species. Offsets should aim to replace like-for-like. That is, the offset proposal should have characteristics that are similar to the value being lost.
Currently there are no feasible direct offsets for an eagle mortality as a result of a collision with a wind turbine. However, if an eagle nest was to be impacted, securing an at-risk nest would be considered a direct offset.
Where a like-for-like replacement is not possible, alternative offset options which result in an indirect conservation benefit to the species may be considered (i.e. an indirect offset).
2. Indirect Offsets
Indirect offsets aim to improve conservation outcomes of the species over the long-term by improving knowledge and understanding of the species to enable better management decisions. Indirect offset actions may include, but are not limited to:
- Protecting nests, either via covenant, landholder agreement or management plan;
- undertaking a research project/program;
- contributing resources to a raptor refuge centre and
- contributing to other activities that reduce eagle mortalities more broadly.
A proponent may offer to meet offset requirements by providing financial compensation. In determining an appropriate amount, consideration should be given to:
- The cost of securing equivalent nest covenants (including incentives for landholders) and the cost of associated management and surveys;
- the current population status of the species;
- the location or landscape context of impact;
- other regulatory conditions (e.g. offset requirements and costs imposed by permits issued by the Commonwealth government or other regulators); and/or
- precedents (i.e. previously approved financial offsets).
A central offset fund is an important mechanism for managing offset money for ongoing eagle related conservation activities. A fund to consolidate offset money enables funding of targeted priority areas to contribute towards the enhancement of the eagle species through scientifically robust programs and/or research.
Wind farms are required to contribute a dollar amount (per mortality) to a fund for the purpose of delivering agreed project/programs that have been identified as delivering priority outcomes for eagle species.
A central fund allows for:
- Larger scale projects to be delivered due to a bigger pool of funds available;
- a co-ordinated approach for broad species objectives to be achieved; and
- a consistent, transparent approach to offsets with research outcomes benefiting all stakeholders.
Management of the distribution of indirect offsets will be governed in accordance with the
Threatened Species Protection Act 1995.
Indirect offsets are required to be underpinned by scientific principles, objectivity, professional rigour and the best available information to ensure the funds are used to the best effect to protect the threatened eagle species.