In the lead up to the Queensland election, nature refuge landholders representing over two million hectares of private protected land are calling on Queensland MPs to increase investment in the underfunded Nature Refuges Program by $24 million per year.

The Nature Refuge Landholder Statement was sent to all Queensland parliamentarians this week by 56 landholders. Together, these landholders have committed to permanently protect more than 2 million hectares of wildlife habitat on their land.

Andrew Pegler owns the “1959 Nature Refuge” with his wife Mary Killeen, 220 km south of Longreach, and says that there are big challenges for landholders in the way the nature refuge program is currently funded and delivered.

"To protect nature, we need to actively work on it. Landholders need to be supported with appropriate funding to do ongoing jobs like weeding- it’s not a job you just do once. To help out the native plants and animals you’ve got to keep coming back and tackle the new pest invasions.”

"Initiatives like nature refuges should be adopted more widely. I believe it is the responsibility of all landholders to look after the land for future generations" Mr Pegler said.

Regenerated Area “Navarra” 2016 after winter rain. Photo credit: Andrew Pegler
Regenerated Area “Navarra” 2016 after winter rain. Photo credit: Andrew Pegler 

The Queensland Nature Refuges program is a voluntary conservation program for private landholders who wish to protect natural and cultural values for future generations by dedicating part or all of their land for conservation.

Over the past five years, nature refuge landholders have received, on average, less than 25 cents per hectare of protected land. Expert analysis commissioned by the Our Living Outback alliance recommended that funding for the program be increased by $24 million per year, to better support landholders to protect and actively manage conservation values on their land.

“By funding work to look after the land - like fencing, weeding and fire management - the Queensland Government can support improving habitat for wildlife while providing much needed jobs in regional areas,” said Riley Rocco, spokesperson for Our Living Outback.

“We believe that funding for the program hasn’t kept up with its growth and this puts the program's aims at risk.

“It places an increasing burden on landholders and impacts the program’s ability to protect landscapes and deal with management issues.

“With more than 85 per cent of land in Queensland privately owned or managed, landholders have a vital role to play in protecting the state’s native wildlife and sustaining thriving rural landscapes. Many of these nature refuges offer key protection to species facing extinction,” Rocco said.

Garlone Moulin and her husband James Gordon run a cattle property in North Queensland. Ms Moulin's 13,500ha property is primarily used for cattle grazing and about 10 percent of it is now a nature refuge.

Garlon Moulin and Jamie Gordon, Mt Pleasant Nature Refuge Photo credit:Sheridan Calcott Garlon Moulin and Jaimie Gordon, Mt Pleasant Nature Refuge Photo credit: Sheridan Calcott

“My family is happy to do whatever it takes to sustain our nature refuge but in lean times staying on top of jobs like weeding becomes quite a struggle. We could do a lot more if we were provided with the economic means and we would probably be more inclined to dedicate more of our property to being a nature refuge” said Ms Moulin.

“We, along with 55 other nature refuge holders have this week sent our open letter to all Queensland MPs asking for a realistic boost in financial and logistical support for the Nature Refuges Program” said Ms Moulin.

Additional Notes

  • Nature refuges in the QLD WET TROPICS: 88 NRs, 61,224 hectares.
  • Nature refuges in WESTERN QLD: 39 NRs, 1,101,854 ha (Traeger and Warrego) 
  • Nature refuges in the GOLD COAST/SCENIC RIM: 23 NRs, 2,285 hectares.
  • Nature refuges in the SUNSHINE COAST AND HINTERLAND: 64 NRs, 4,336 hectares. 
  • The Our Living Outback Alliance commissioned Protected Area Solutions to conduct a review of the nature refuges program. Their findings formed the basis of the Investing in People and Nature: Strengthening conservation outcomes on Queensland private land report (2018).  The report finds the Nature Refuges Program in Queensland needs an increase of $24 million per year, taking the overall funding commitment to $28.6 million a year. 
  • Nature refuges can be found on lifestyle properties in the coastal hinterland, as part of the state's largest pastoral holdings, on Aboriginal land managed by Aboriginal organisations, and as a prized feature of nature tourism enterprises. 
  • Increased investment into the Nature Refuge Program would address threats such as weeds, ferals and destructive wildfire and provide important employment opportunities in land management and private tourism enterprises. Strengthening support for landholders and the Nature Refuges Program is a cost-effective strategy for expanding Queensland’s protected area estate.