Biodiversity credit scheme hoped to stop ‘box-ticking’ tree planting and bolster ‘restoration economy’

Headshot of Cally Dupe
Cally DupeCountryman
Nativ Carbon director David Lullfitz at the Plantrite Nursery at Bullsbrook.
Camera IconNativ Carbon director David Lullfitz at the Plantrite Nursery at Bullsbrook. Credit: Cally Dupe/Countryman

A WA-based nursery owner powering through reforestation projects in the Wheatbelt has praised the Federal Government’s new biodiversity credits scheme for its potential to create jobs and promote diverse tree plantings.

David Lullfitz, whose Bullsbrook-based business Plantrite offers native plants for large-scale revegetation projects, said placing a market value on biodiversity would lead to better tree-planting efforts rather than allowing companies to just “tick a box”.

He said the scheme would create incentive for big business to invest in and value biodiversity – encouraging multispecies planting projects as opposed to “box-ticking” by planting two or three types of trees that fail to replicate the natural environment.

“This will bring more credibility to the plantings happening throughout WA in particular,” he said.

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“We believe it will incentivise the planting of a larger range of plant species which will foster biodiversity.

Nativ Carbon director David Lullfitz.
Camera IconNativ Carbon director David Lullfitz. Credit: James Campbell/James Campbell

“We are pleased to see the potential job creation in this newly-valued sector are being recognised by the government and political leadership.”

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese announced the scheme in August, saying it would work much like the existing carbon credits scheme and be the start of a “nationwide restoration” of the national environment.

Under the scheme, farmers and private landholders would receive biodiversity certificates or credits for planting mixed native species as well as managing existing vegetation.

They would also be rewarded with credits for improving soil and reducing erosion.

Companies that have to offset environmental impacts could be potential buyers in the biodiversity credits market.

It would also reward the creation of connectivity between different habitats, providing corridors for survival for threatened species.

A third generation native plant nurseryman, Mr Lullfitz said tree-planting projects had a chequered history in WA but he believed biodiversity was key to “doing them properly”.

“A credible project aims to bring about biodiversity, it is not just about tree planting,” he said.

“Everyone is trying to offset emissions… there will be corporations that do it really quickly and just want to get it done, to get three types of trees in a paddock to tick a box.

“But I think the demand will come from shareholders, who say: ‘show me how you did it’ and what value the business added to the region, to the bush, and to the local community.”

The Plantrite Nursery.
Camera IconThe Plantrite Nursery. Credit: Nativ Carbon/Nativ Carbon

Mr Lullfitz’s co-owned business, Nativ Carbon, just wrapped up one of WA’s biggest tree planting projects for Woodside with 1.2 million seedlings planted across 2000ha near Watheroo and Moora.

Mr Lullfitz said some farmers would be sceptical of the carbon and biodiversity schemes, but said for many it would simply “give them another option” for marginal farmland.

“There have been all these get-rich investment schemes in the past, pitched as a way to make heaps of money and quite often they fall over or don’t come off,” Mr Lullfitz said.

“But the world has changed and the restorative economy is here to stay.

“For farmers that have non-productive farmland… this gives them another option.

“Not only are they selling carbon offsets as a way to generate income, but there are biodiversity offsets and the credibility behind those projects.”

The Nativ Carbon nursery at Bullsbrook.
Camera IconThe Nativ Carbon nursery at Bullsbrook. Credit: James Campbell / Nativ Carbon/James Campbell / Nativ Carbon

Former Agriculture Minister David Littleproud started developing a similar biodiversity credits scheme, available only to farmers, when the Coalition was in government but the Labor scheme has been expanded to include First Nations people and conservation groups.

The biodiversity credits scheme comes after the Federal State of the Environment report in July revealed that more than 7.7m hectares of land was cleared between 2000 and 2017.

The markets for both the biodiversity and carbon credits will operate in parallel, be underpinned by legislation and regulated by the Clean Energy Regulator.

The National Farmers Federation has welcomed the move, with president Fiona Simson saying farmers managed more than half of the nation’s landmass.

The Australian Land Conservation Alliance estimates more than $1b a year is needed to restore and prevent further landscape degradation.

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