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Comment on National Biodiversity Offset Guideline Extended

April 13, 2022

Department of Forestry, Fisheries and the Environment

The comment period on the Draft National Biodiversity Offset Guideline has been extended.

The forestry, fisheries and the environment department published the draft guideline in Government Gazette 46088 in March 2022 for comment.

It was drawn up in terms of the National Environmental Management Act.

According to the department, biodiversity offsetting is required “when a proposed activity would have a significant residual negative biodiversity impact after all efforts have been made to avoid and minimize negative impacts on biodiversity and to rehabilitate and/or restore areas disturbed by development”.

The department pointed out in the notice that a Draft Overall Policy on Environmental Offsetting has been drawn up and will be published for comment soon.

The Draft Policy sets out broad principles on environmental offsetting and recommends the development of more detailed sector-specific environmental offsetting guidance.

The Draft Guideline is one of the sector-specific guidelines outlined in the Draft Policy.

It focuses on biodiversity offsets in the environmental authorisation application process; when are biodiversity offsets required; determining biodiversity offset requirements; engaging with conservation authorities and commenting authorities; drafting biodiversity offset conditions for environmental authorisations; Biodiversity Offset Implementation Agreements and the National Biodiversity Offset Register.

In a statement, the department declared that the draft guideline applies to the terrestrial and freshwater realms, but not to offshore marine areas or estuarine ecosystems.

The department added that biodiversity offsetting “commonly involves securing an area (biodiversity offset site) with the same or similar ecological features as an area negatively affected by an activity in perpetuity, and managing the biodiversity offset site for a given period”.

Comment is now invited until 26 May 2022.

In another statement, the department confirmed that the forestry, fisheries and the environment minister, Barbara Creecy, has filed papers in the Gauteng Division of the High Court “seeking leave to appeal certain portions of the judgments handed down on 18 March related to the Highveld priority area”.

According to the minister, the appeal process is not designed to delay the drafting of regulations and the “process will continue independently of any appeal”.