Biodiversity offsetting and compensation proposals are routinely employed through the resource consenting process to address development-induced indigenous biodiversity losses in Aotearoa/New Zealand. Determining the quantum of demonstrable biodiversity gain required to adequately account for development induced losses is a fundamental component of designing a biodiversity offset. However, trading biodiversity is complex and must account for substantial uncertainties.
The Resource Management Act 1991 places obligations on local authorities to protect and maintain indigenous biodiversity on land in private tenure. However, how this should be done is not explicitly prescribed. Authorities are guided by a variety of means (e.g. ecological guidance and case law), and implement their responsibilities to varying degrees and with inconsistent success. The protection of indigenous biodiversity on private land is a challenging and contentious issue.
Ecological compensation involves measures to create positive conservation outcomes intended to offset the residual impacts of development (e.g. restoration planting, pest control). Rarely, however, have the exchanges arranged been subject to objective assessment. Here we assess 110 cases of ecological compensation involving diverse New Zealand ecosystems on the basis of how they addressed the six key implementation issues identified by McKenney and Kiesecker (2010: Environmental Management 45: 165–176): equivalence, location (i.e.