New Ground | Expert Environmental Consultants in Queensland

Ecological Mitigation Strategies: How to Reduce Environmental Impact in Queensland Developments

In the evolving landscape of Queensland’s development sector, ecological mitigation has emerged as a cornerstone of sustainable development. This blog aims to shed light on the strategies and practices that can help developers reduce their environmental impacts in Queensland, echoing the state’s commitment to ecological stewardship and legal compliance.

The ‘Avoid, Mitigate, Offset’ Approach

The Department of Climate Change, Energy, the Environment and Water (DCCEEW) provides guidance on the ‘avoid, mitigate, offset’ approach as a key environmental management strategy. These steps are broken down into:

1. Avoid – How can the impact be avoided entirely?

2. Mitigation – If the impact is unavoidable, how can the impact be reduced?

3. Offset – Once all impacts have been avoided or mitigated, offsets can help make up for this impact.

This paradigm urges developers to first plan and design projects to avoid environmental harm. After minimising impacts through project design changes, the focus then shifts to mitigation for those impacts that cannot be fully avoided. For the remainder of this blog, we’ll take a closer look at mitigation.

What is Ecological Mitigation?

Mitigation involves measures to decrease the likelihood or severity of unavoidable impacts. This requires assessing both direct and indirect effects of a project and exploring options to minimise them. Often, indirect impacts offer greater opportunities for mitigation. Guidelines or standards related to specific impacts can guide in identifying appropriate mitigation methods.

For instance, during tree clearing where heavy machinery usage is inevitable, mitigating measures can be adopted. Spraying water while using machinery can significantly reduce dust generation, thereby protecting nearby vegetation and wildlife. Additionally, avoiding machinery use during heavy rainfall can mitigate soil erosion risks.

Another aspect of mitigation is ensuring machinery used on-site is clean, especially if previously used in areas with plant diseases like dieback. This prevents the spread of diseases to the new project site.

Beyond the construction phase, mitigating the ongoing impacts of a project is also crucial. For example, with a new access road, even after avoiding significant bushland clearance and ensuring no spread of dust, weeds, or disease during construction, there remains the risk of protected animals being harmed by vehicle traffic. This can be mitigated by implementing lower speed limits, scheduling vehicle movements outside peak wildlife activity times, and installing wildlife crossing structures to ensure animal safety.

Below are some strategies that play a crucial role in ecological mitigation strategies: 

Vegetation Management Plans: These plans focus on preserving and enhancing native vegetation amidst development. They involve detailed assessments of existing vegetation, identification of species requiring protection, and strategies to minimise damage during construction. Post-construction, reintroduction or reinforcement of native species is often prioritised to ensure vegetation sustainability.

Ecological Restoration Plans: Aimed at restoring degraded, damaged, or destroyed ecosystems, ecological restoration plans focus on reinstating original habitat conditions. This typically includes re-establishing native flora, revitalising soil health, and restoring natural water regimes. Such restoration efforts are based on extensive research and are tailored to specific ecosystem needs.

Fauna Management Plans: Protecting wildlife is a critical aspect of environmental mitigation. Fauna management plans encompass measures to safeguard local wildlife during and after construction activities. This includes creating wildlife corridors, implementing exclusion zones, and enhancing habitats for the long-term viability of wildlife populations.

Rehabilitation Management Plans: Rehabilitation focuses on restoring ecological functions in degraded landscapes. Key activities often include soil stabilisation, erosion control, and reintroduction of native species. The goal of rehabilitation is not just to restore an area to its previous state but also to enhance its resilience against future environmental challenges.

For developers and environmental consultants, the implementation of effective ecological mitigation strategies is key. Adopting practices such as those outlined above can make a substantial difference. These measures not only comply with legal mandates but also demonstrate a commitment to sustainable development practices.

After applying mitigation strategies, any residual impact must be scrutinised for its ecological significance. Herein, environmental offsets emerge as a critical tool. These offsets, which may range from creating new habitats to enhancing existing ones, ensure that the development’s ecological footprint is not just neutralised but also provides a net positive impact on the environment. If you would like guidance around project impact avoidance and minimisation  or if you’ve exhausted the ‘avoid’ and ‘mitigate’ approaches for your project, and are in need of an offset solution, the New Ground team  would be happy to help.

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