Biodiversity Offsetting for OceanaGold – long-term planning for biodiversity gains

Our work with OceanaGold is helping to set benchmarks in environmental management through biodiversity offsetting.

In Aotearoa, the practice of offsetting the impacts of projects on biodiversity has evolved over the past decade. Initially driven by industry but now by regional and district councils – land authorities realise that, if well planned and implemented, it can be an effective tool to protect or even enhance important biodiversity.

Biodiversity offsetting is used as part of an effects management hierarchy when impacts of activities cannot be avoided or reduced, or habitat restored following the activity. Natural values (habitat and native species) can be enhanced elsewhere to counter-balance unavoidable losses at the activity site, and, if done well, can result in biodiversity gains.

OceanaGold employed Ahikā to carry out an environmental impact assessment to accompany their resource consent application to expand their mine at Macraes Flat, within a dry grassland farming community.

While some of the project impacts can effectively be avoided or reduced, and values restored, offsetting of impacts on native plant communities is needed to protect the area’s important biodiversity.

OceanaGold embraced the concept that positive gains in biodiversity are possible offsite, and drove the community consultation component of the programme.

Ahikā is trialling the creation and management of rare habitats. The work requires very careful planning and implementation, working in a challenging landscape rehabilitating naturally ephemeral wetlands on dry farms around Middlemarch, and other native plant communities near Macraes, North Otago.

Monitoring to ensure we meet our goals is critical and will be over the long-term, so there’s a genuine commitment there from our client.

The methodology we developed will help to establish the highest standards in habitat restoration for subsequent biodiversity offsetting programmes.