The ACT government is retrospectively claiming work in territory nature reserves as biodiversity offsets so that it can plough ahead with new urban developments, say two senior ANU academics.
In a piece in Tuesday's Canberra Times, Dr Philip Gibbons, from the Fenner School of Environment Society, and Professor Jochen Zeil, convener of the Friends of Mount Majura, say conserving biodiversity in the territory has become dependent on its destruction.
The academics write that the ACT government is breaching environmental policies that require urban developments which impact on threatened species to be offset elsewhere.
Dr Gibbons said the rules meant there should be no net loss to biodiversity in the ACT when new developments were approved.
This meant any work claimed as an offset had to be additional to any activities that were already taking place to preserve Canberra's natural environment.
''One of the principles is that biodiversity offsets must be additional to anything that would have happened anyway,'' Dr Gibbons said.
''What the ACT government is doing is it's announced for suburbs in north Canberra areas biodiversity offsets that have already been put aside in nature reserves.
''It's really in contravention of one of the principles of the whole policy: the principle of additionality.''
Dr Gibbons said activities in existing reserves had been claimed as biodiversity offsets for the suburbs of Throsby and Kenny, as well as parts of north Watson.
He said it in effect meant that the work of conservation volunteers was being ''retrospectively used to subsidise urban development''.
It also created a situation where work in natural reserves became dependent on environmental destruction in other parts of the territory.
''Some of the volunteer conservation community in Canberra is pretty angry about this,'' he said.
''The expansion of our reserves will only continue to happen if we continue to destroy biodiversity.
''That's a pretty perverse link to create.''
Comment was sought from the ACT government.