Community acceptance of marine biodiversity offsets in Australia: results from national surveys

In Australia policy exists at both Commonwealth and State levels to govern how environmental offsets can be used to provide an avenue for development to proceed while protecting the environment. This policy is largely driven by scientific considerations about what actions can achieve no net loss in environmental condition. A relatively under-researched question is the degree to which the public accepts the use of offsets, and what elements of the policy design may improve or reduce community acceptance.

report presents the results of two national surveys of the general public, aimed at gauging acceptance of offsets in the marine environment. It does so using a hypothetical development in the north of WA, that requires an offset for it to proceed.

A clear outcome from the study is that respondents prefer to see offsets being implemented close to the location where the impact occurred, and that concern is highest if the offset is based overseas, even though there may be good ecological and economic reasons for that occurring. There is also some evidence of an endowment effect: those who live in WA are particularly sensitive to the offset being moved out of the state, suggesting they want to see local offsets to compensate for local damage.

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