AT WHAT COST? They're saving our land but state barely helps

SPECIAL REPORT: Farmers paid just 25 cents per hectare to save our wildlife

THEY live at opposite ends of Queensland and have very different lifestyles but Garlone Moulin and Ian McMaster are connected by a deep passion for Queensland's natural heritage.

Mr McMaster is a retired corporate executive whose home is nestled in one of Australia's most diverse and pristine natural habitats at Mount Mellum.

Ms Moulin runs a vast cattle station at Bowen in North Queensland.

Mr McMaster has set about 10 per cent of his holding to subtropical fruit orchards but the rest of his 100ha is untouched wilderness devoted to preserving a diverse array of flora and fauna.

Garlone Moulin and her husband James Gordon have a cattle property in North Queensland. Ms Moulin's 13,500ha property is a dedicated cattle grazing concern with about 10 per cent of it now a nature reserve.

However, everything the grazier and her family does on the property is designed to ensure the entire property's natural ecosystem is supported.

Both Mr McMaster and Ms Moulin devote significant time and money to their nature refuges, including undertaking the arduous task of surveying wildlife, ensuring the flora and fauna are protected from disasters such as fire and eradicating plant and animal pests.

They pay for most of this work out of their own pockets.

Now they have had enough, with both joining other nature refuge landholders in pushing for a massive boost in funding.

Currently, the Queensland Nature Refuges Program receives just $4 million a year - or less than 25 cents per refuge hectare - from the State Government.

Mr McMaster and Ms Moulin said they could do a lot more if they were provided with the economic means.

Experts say the refuges programs needs an increase of $24 million per year, taking the overall funding commitment to $28.6 million a year.

Neither the ALP or LNP was willing to commit to this figure when contacted by NewsRegional.

"The nature refuge program is a wonderful program but it is underfunded so badly that the things we could be doing are severely limited by the funding," Mr McMaster said.

"We (Mr McMaster and his wife Christine) wanted to protect the property because of its beauty and the great diversity we found in a relatively small area," he said.

"It forms part of a wildlife corridor connecting other protected areas within national parks.

"We are concerned that the pressures of development in the area, if unchecked, could do great damage to the natural environment.

"Protecting our piece of land was one way to contribute to a more sustainable future." Ms Moulin said she and her family were happy to do whatever it took to sustain their nature refuge but in lean times this would be the first area to feel the pinch.

"We are the stewards for this piece of land and so we are committed to ensuring our patch of country survives," she said.

"But if we are financially stretched, something has to give and so we may not be able to do things like build firebreaks to protect sensitive areas.

"If we had more money we would be able to hire someone to survey the land to get a true count of the flora and fauna we have here." - NewsRegional


This statement has been signed by 44 nature refuge landholders representing 68 nature refuges and 2,008,279 hectares of Queensland's protected area estate.

As Nature Refuge landholders, we are concerned that the potential of the Nature Refuge Program is being compromised by a lack of adequate financial or on-the-ground support to Nature Refuge landholders to manage our land and protect some of Queensland's most incredible landscapes.

The Queensland Nature Refuges program is a voluntary conservation program for private landholders who wish to protect the natural and cultural values for future generations by dedicating part or all of their land for conservation. Nature Refuge landholders range from owners of small coastal lifestyle properties to graziers on large pastoral stations, nature conservancies, for-profit corporations and indigenous Traditional Owners.

Over the past decade more than 500 landholders, and the dedicated program officers who have worked to support them in establishing their refuges, have successfully grown the Nature Refuges program into the largest private protected area network in the country by area, covering a total area of more than 4.4 million hectares across the state.

But managing your land as a Nature Refuge requires a significant responsibility both in terms of time and money needed to deal with land management issues like weeds, uncontrolled fires and feral pests. We fear that funding for the program hasn't kept pace with the growth of the program, placing a burden on landholders and impacting the program's ability to protect landscapes. This burden falls heaviest on those landholders in Outback Queensland managing some of the state's largest nature refuges - often with limited access to support.

The consequence of under-investment in the program is that many landholders are not able to access technical and financial support for vital conservation planning, management and monitoring activities on their land. This not only leaves a significant burden on landholders wanting to protect wildlife, but also leads to increased risk of failed or insufficient land management as we struggle to keep up.

A recent analysis of the Nature Refuges program found that over the past five years, the Queensland Government has provided, on average, less than 25 cents per hectare annually to nature refuge landholders to manage their lands for nature, with many landholders receiving no ongoing financial support at all.

In 2017-2018 the Queensland Government's total expenditure on the Nature Refuges Program was approximately $4.6 million. By comparison, the NSW Government is investing $247 million over the next four years to support private landholders to protect and conserve natural values on their land.

The Nature Refuges Program is already a wonderful example of individuals and communities taking significant action at their own cost to care for nature on their land. However, with a little more support, the quality of conservation outcomes could improve immeasurably.

Queensland has a unique opportunity to deliver meaningful, measurable and very cost-effective conservation outcomes through better supporting the voluntary contribution and hard work of Nature Refuge landholders.

We call on you to significantly increase nature refuges funding to improve management and monitoring of existing nature refuges and to encourage more landholders to enter the program.

Barry & Tammy Hughes, North Head Nature Refuge Forsyth, Qld.

Ewamian Aboriginal Corporation, Talaroo Nature Refuge Mount Surprise, Qld
Ian & Christine McMaster, Mt Mellum Nature Refuge Beerwah, Qld
Marilyn Shrapnel, Gerygone Gully Nature Refuge Mooloolah, Qld
Cheryl Bean, Gil'la Nature Refuge Traveston, Qld
Rick Humphries, Possum Lane Nature Refuge Stanthorpe, Qld
Fiorella Paola Cassoni, Bimblebox Nature Refuge Alpha, Qld
Trish Kelly
Dilladerri Nature Refuge Balmoral Ridge, Qld
Wilga Park, Nature Refuge Texas, Qld
Whilalloo Nature Refuge Texas, Qld
Andrew Pegler, The 1959 Nature Refuge Yaraka, Qld
Jayn Hobba, Tumbledown Nature Refuge Stanthorpe, Qld
Carol Booth, Tim Low & Terry Reis, Egernia Nature Refuge Stanthorpe, Qld
Alastair McDonald - McDonald Holdings
Mount Windsor Nature Refuge Barcoo, Qld
Rutland Plains Nature Refuge Carpentaria, Qld
Ballara Nature Refuge Cloncurry, Qld
Gary Plant, Kurrajong Place Nature Refuge Stanthorpe, Qld
Stephen & Lilith Martin, Garanyali Nature Refuge Maleny, Qld
Sigrid Heise-Pavlov, The Iggies Nature Refuge Atherton Tablelands, Qld
Robert & Anna Zigterman, Dirran Creek Nature Refuge Atherton Tablelands, Qld
David & Brenda Parsons, Nyalar Mirungan-ah Nature Refuge Maryvale, Qld
Wal & Heather Mayr, Blue Fig Creek Nature Refuge Gold Coast Hinterland, Qld
Rob & Lyn French Gilberton, Nature Refuge Einasleigh QLD
Richard Proudfoot, Rainforest Ridge Nature Refuge Sunshine Coast Hinterland, Qld
John & Barbara Murton, Resolute Nature Refuge Nanango, QLD
Carly and Mark Sugars, Mt Molangul Nature Refuge Dalga, Qld
Elaine Bradley & Steve Burgess, Wurraglen Nature Refuge Dagun, Qld
Joshua and Ryan Hull Hillview Nature Refuge Stanthorpe, Qld
Barbara Maslen, Wild Wings & Swampy Things Nature Refuge Daintree, Qld
Dawn Couchman & Patrick Ledwith, Haven Nature Refuge Cooran, Qld
South Endeavour Trust
Kings Plains-Alkoomie Nature Refuge Cooktown, Qld
South Endeavour Nature Refuge Cooktown, Qld
Caloola Nature Refuge Cooktown, Qld
Lemuroid Leap Nature Refuge Atherton Tablelands, Qld
Dirrans End Nature Refuge Atherton Tablelands, Qld
Cloudland Nature Refuge Atherton Tablelands, Qld
Cassowary Crossing Nature Refuge Atherton Tablelands, Qld
Misty Mountain Nature Refuge Atherton Tablelands, Qld
Freemans Forest Nature Refuge Atherton Tablelands, Qld
Rainforest Rescue
Baralba Corridor Nature Refuge Cow Bay, Qld
Rainforest Rescue Nature Refuge Daintree, Qld
Kulki Anga Nature Refuge Cape Tribulation, Qld
Milky Pine Nature Refuge Daintree, Qld
Queensland Trust for Nature
Avoid Island Nature Refuge Avoid Island, Qld
Ant Plant East Nature Refuge Tully, Qld
Cassowary Connection Nature Refuge Mission Beach, Qld
Bush Heritage Australia
Carnarvon Station Nature Refuge Mount Moffat, Qld
Cravens Peak Nature Refuge Toko, Qld
Currumbin Valley Nature Refuge Coolangatta, Qld
Edgbaston Nature Refuge Aramac, Qld
Ethabuka Nature Refuge Bedourie, Qld
Goonderoo Nature Refuge Springsure, Qld
Pullen Pullen Nature Refuge Diamantina Lakes, Qld
Reedy Creek Nature Refuge Agnes Water, Qld
Yourka Nature Refuge Ravenshoe, Qld
Joe Schick & Anne-Marie Dineen, Oakview Wildlife Nature Refuge Kilkivan, Qld
Nicole Jackson & Phillip Gordge, The Sanctuary Nature Refuge Eukey, Qld
Anna Fearnley, Carabeen Nature Refuge Killarney, Qld
Garlone Moulin & Jamie Gordon, Mount Pleasant Nature Refuge Collinsville, Qld
Aurelia and Ovidiu Noran, Dahmongah Nature Refuge Mount Mee, Qld
Meryl Simpson, Feathertail Nature Refuge Brookfield, Qld
Noel Dovecot, Dovecot Nature Refuge Mount Morgan, Qld
Tim Bee, Horseshoe Bay Nature Refuge Magnetic Island, Qld
Elizabeth & Benjamin Reeves, Hypsi Forest Nature Refuge Tarzali, Qld
Mt Quincan Crater Retreat, Mount Quincan Nature Refuge Yungaburra, Qld
Lisa Torrens, Harper Creek Guala Nature Refuge Connondale, Qld
Numala CTS, Numala Community Nature Refuge Tamborine Mountain, Qld
Australian Wildlife Conservancy
Bowra Wildlife Sanctuary Nature Refuge Cunnamulla, Qld
Brooklyn Nature Refuge Mount Carbine, Qld
Mount Zero-Taravale Nature Refuge Paluma, Qld
Piccaninny Plains Nature Refuge Archer River, Qld
Keith & Nancy Dolbel Ballara Park Nature Refuge Chinchilla, Qld