Farming, conservation and Aboriginal groups join forces to call for greater funding for conservation on private land

In the lead up to the Queensland election, farming, natural resource management, conservation and Aboriginal organisations have joined forces to call on the Queensland Government to increase assistance to farmers, pastoralists and other landholders who undertake practical conservation on their land.

The sixteen organisations, which include AgForce and the Queensland Farmers’ Federation, NRM Regions Queensland, Landcare, Queensland Trust for Nature, South Endeavour Trust and Rainforest Rescue, have written to the Premier, Opposition Leader and all MPs seeking $24 million per year in new funding for the successful Queensland Nature Refuges Program.

While Queensland has the largest private protected area network in Australia, with over 500 landholders managing a total of 4.5 million hectares for conservation, the organisations are concerned that current funding levels are inadequate to assist landholders to take the practical action necessary to effectively manage and preserve these areas.

Steve Lacey, CEO of Queensland Trust for Nature :
With over 85 per cent of Queensland privately owned, investing in landowners who have committed to conservation is essential for preserving our state’s natural heritage and bringing species, like the Koala and the Night Parrot, back from the brink of extinction.”

“Queenslanders should be proud that, through the Nature Refuge Program, we have the largest private protected area network in Australia, but we need the government to invest further to ensure landholders have the resources to effectively manage and preserve these areas.”

Mike Guerin, CEO of Agforce
“Farmers are incredibly proud of and conscientious in their role as stewards of the lands they farm.”

“Many producers are actively engaged in managing wildlife habitat on their land, through activities such as weed control, feral animal control and replanting native trees, and have embraced the Nature Refuge Program as a way of further improving environmental outcomes.”

“This work benefits all Queenslanders, however landholders currently receive less than 25 cents per hectare for their efforts, which we believe compromises the potential of the program.”

“An increase in funding will lead to important on-the-ground conservation outcomes and could become an important source of income diversification for producers managing the impact of drought and commodity price fluctuations.”

Ian Heiner, CEO of NRM Regions Queensland :
“With 955 species threatened with extinction in our state, investing in private protected areas presents an exciting opportunity to achieve much-needed conservation outcomes in partnership with landholders, for the benefit of all Queenslanders".

“This is a win-win solution and that is why there is such broad support for increased funding from landholders, farming and pastoral bodies, natural resource management, aboriginal and conservation organisations."

We are calling on all parties to commit to increase funding for private land conservation by $24 million per year as part of their 2020 election platform.”

The Nature Refuges Program is a voluntary program for landholders that wish to dedicate land for conservation by entering into a conservation agreement with the Queensland Government. These agreements are negotiated with the landholder and tailored to suit the landholder’s needs. To date, more than 500 landholders have chosen to participate in the program, committing to manage a total of 4.5 million hectares of land for conservation. These private protected areas conserve important environmental values while permitting sustainable and productive use of the land.

Current funding is only $4.6 million per year and most of this funding is committed to program delivery, with less than 25 cents per hectare flowing to Nature Refuge landholders. Limited financial and practical support for farmers and other landholders who have these agreements is compromising the potential of the program.

A recent independent review has recommended that to revitalise the program, funding for the establishment and management of private protected areas in Queensland should be increased by $24 million per year, with annual increments to reflect future expansion of the network.

The stakeholders:
Ag Force - The peak body representing Queensland beef, sheep and wool, and grain producers. A unifying voice for Queensland's broadacre producers since 1999, our purpose is to advance sustainable agribusiness. 

NRM Regions Queensland - The NRMRQ, or Regional Groups Collective as it was originally, was formed in 2002 to improve the state-wide delivery of regional NRM outcomes in partnership with industry, community and government, and to act as a representative body for NRM in Queensland by providing a single, strong voice for its members.

Qld Water and Land Carers - (QWaLC) is the peak body for natural resource management (NRM) volunteers. QWaLC’s roles include representation, advocacy, promotion, networking and insurance administration. QWaLC’s board includes representatives from each of Queensland’s regions. Our membership consists of 380 groups and 30,000 individuals.

Queensland Trust for Nature - (QTFN) is a conservation-focused, independent, not-for-profit organisation. We work with landholders as well as educators, business and government to develop and demonstrate scalable environmental projects on private land.

Queensland Conservation Council - is the state’s peak non-government environment group. We are a non-profit incorporated association with no political affiliations. Our mission is to protect the environment, wildlife and landscapes, conserve our precious natural resources and make Queensland businesses and communities more sustainable.

Queensland Farmers’ Federation (QFF) - is a federation that represents the interests of peak state and national agriculture industry organisations, which in turn collectively represent more than 13,000 primary producers across the state. 

Australian Wildlife Conservancy - is the largest private owner of land for conservation in Australia, protecting endangered wildlife across more than 6.5 million hectares in iconic regions such as the Kimberley, Cape York, Kati Thanda-Lake Eyre and the Top End. Recognising that ‘business as usual’ for conservation in Australia will mean additional extinctions, AWC is developing and implementing a new model for conservation.

Bush Heritage Australia - An independent not-for-profit that buys and manages land, and also partners with Aboriginal people, to conserve our magnificent landscapes and our irreplaceable native species forever.

The Pew Charitable Trusts - uses evidence-based, nonpartisan analysis to solve today's challenges. The Outback to Oceans Program works in Australia with Indigenous communities, scientists, conservation organizations, industry, and government agencies to conserve the country’s natural landscapes and marine habitats. These efforts include advocating for inclusion of new areas in the National Reserve System; funding conservation management activities and creating sanctuaries for marine life.

Ewamian Aboriginal Corporation Ewamian Peoples Country is located in Queensland's Gulf of Carpentaria savannah lands in the upper Gilbert and Einasleigh River catchments and takes in the townships of Georgetown, Forsyth, Einasleigh and Mount Surprise. It primarily lies within the Etheridge Shire Local Government Area (LGA). Ewamian Aboriginal Corporation (EAC) was established in 1994 to undertake activities to support the lodgement of an initial Native Title Claim and was incorporated through the Office of the Registrar of Indigenous Corporations (ORIC) under the Corporations (Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander) (CATSI) Act 2006.

Yintjingga-Aboriginal-Corporation The Yintjingga Aboriginal Corporation (YAC) is managed by Lama Lama Traditional Owners living in Coen and Port Stewart, Cape York, Australia. Our work includes: The protection and promotion of our tradition and culture;Natural and Cultural Resource Management activities across our Land and Sea Estate; The facilitation of projects to develop of a healthy, thriving and sustainable community;The management of Assets and Infrastructure; Providing opportunities for young people to maintain culture and involvement in our community; Enhancing the vocational skills and employment prospects of our people and the development of partnerships to enable a strong future. Our work is cemented in the Vision and Values of the Lama Lama people.

MDH Pty Ltd Macdonald Holdings has four branded beef products which come from our herd of 175,000 head of cattle that are born and bred on our expansive northern Australian cattle stations. We are proud of our operation which encompasses producing quality beef from paddock to plate. The flagship brands of "Alexander" and "Wallumba" were launched in 2009, and today the McDonald family produce their much desired brands for both the domestic and export markets.

South Endeavour Trust was established in 2007 as an independent, not for profit, charitable trust with the sole purpose of contributing to nature conservation in Australia. South Endeavour currently owns and manages ten conservation reserves. Focused on three areas of great conservation need, each of which has extraordinarily diverse biodiversity values. These are: Northeastern New South Wales; the endangered rainforests of the Atherton Tablelands; and the intersection of the Wet Tropics and Cape York bioregions in Far North Queensland.

Rainforest Rescue - is a not-for-profit organisation that has been protecting and restoring rainforests in Australia and internationally since March 1999 by providing opportunities for individuals and businesses to Protect Rainforests Forever. Our projects re-establish rainforests through planting, maintenance and restoration programs, as well as purchasing and protecting high conservation value rainforest and preserving its biodiversity.

Australian Land Conservation Alliance - Recognising that private land conservation efforts in Australia appear fragmented across states and lack synergy, a key driver behind ALCA’s formation was to bring together key participants in private land conservation in order to develop a consistency of approach, and promote, explain and execute conservation programs on private lands.

Landcare Australia Pty Ltd - The keystones of Landcare are that it is community owned and driven, it encourages integrated management of environmental assets with productive farmland, and it promotes a more sustainable approach to private land management.