Trading Trees for Development

Hardie Holdings is on of New South Wales’ largest land developers, and particularly in the region we live and work in, the Hunter Valley, it is the largest land holder. As such, it was of no surprise to me when the Sydney Morning Herald reported that Hardie Holdings was one of the first developers to embrace the State Government’s new land trading scheme.

This policy has obvious benefits to the government and the developer. The government can invest less time in costly environmental court battles over proposed developments, instead, the land value (from an environmental perspective) will have been declared well in advance, so it will be a simple hectare for hectare of same kind land trading.

The developer runs less risk in choosing land to develop, as the government will not require detailed environmental assessment.

Hardie Holdings is so sure of the scheme, that they have set up a subsidiary company, Eco Traders to act as a biodiversity broker, where landowners would sell their land for conservation, as offset credits for developers, including Hardie Holdings, of course.

There’s always a loser in these arrangements though, and as is often the case, it seems that the environment will be the one to pay. There will be next to no requirement to examine the threatened species on a particular site, or its biodiversity value, and it seems that there will be no public consultation entered into on the environmental front of a development.

Another potential loss for the environment seems to be that the land in the “biobank” as it is being called will not have the level of protection as a national park, and the decision could be reversed in the future if it were deemed to be convenient.

Management and auditing of the scheme would be an interesting task, particularly seeing that some developers have a reputation for ignoring the rules, including those on conservation. Of course the Department of Environment and Conservation spokesman has stated, “anyone would be allowed to enter the biobanking scheme as long as they abide by the tough criteria… that would apply”.

What are your thoughts on the scheme, does it give developers a green light to do anything? Does it remove the environmental watchdogs from the equation?

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UrbanWorkbench represents the intersection between Urban Planning, Design and Civil Engineering. True to its name, the site is intended to act as a workbench, an area where ideas are fleshed out, concepts are discussed and debated, and new technologies are reported on and reviewed.

Mike and Robyn are both Civil Engineers. Mike is the Director of Engineering and Development for the City of Revelstoke, and Robyn works as a consultant in the Urban Land and Municipal Design sectors as a design engineer and project manager. We have an interest in sustainable engineering design within urban areas, having worked on the design of large scale residential housing, road corridor and industrial sites where sustainability has been a driving design criteria. Other experience includes road and subdivision design, golf course subdivision, on-site sewer and stormwater treatment, waste transfer station design, sewer pressure main (rising main) design, and solutions for sustainable total water cycle management strategies.

Mike and Robyn contributed to the Australian Federal Government’s House of Representatives Standing Committee for the Environment, providing a paper on the role of green roof technology in the goal of developing sustainable cities in Australia.

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Currently Mike and Robyn are living in Revelstoke, BC, Canada, in the beautiful interior of BC.

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