Investing in Nature Refuges

Nature refuges are a form of private protected area. They're a voluntary agreement between the Queensland Government and a private landholder, designed to protect the natural values of private land. Under a nature refuge agreement, the landholder commits to protecting the significant conservation values of their land, but compatible and sustainable use of the land is able to continue.

The landholder can access modest funding for agreed conservation projects, such as fencing off sensitive areas from stock, management of feral animals and weeds or to install water infrastructure. The Nature Refuges Program is a highly-successful program and the fastest growing part of Queensland’s protected area network. Over the past decade, more than 500 Queensland landholders have chosen to dedicate part of their land for conservation, covering a total area of more than four million hectares.

Among those are large pastoral stations, which account for more than 70 percent of Queensland’s private protected lands. Three of the largest nature refuges are on stations— Holroyd, Bulloo Downs, and Rutland Plains—and protect more than 728,000 hectares of tropical savanna, woodlands and native grasslands.

However, funding hasn’t kept pace with the rapid growth rate of the program, and there is now not enough funding to provide support for landholders to manage their lands or to encourage new landholders to enter the program.

The limited investment in recent years presents a threat to the program’s sustainability and future growth. Increased investment in this successful program is vital to support landholders to care for their land, and expanding Queensland’s protected areas.

Ask our politicians to back our Outback and invest in Nature Refuges

The Nature Refuges program has been a big success for the people who live in, and manage, Outback Queensland. It helps permanently protect the natural values of our land but also allows property owners to continue to graze and earn a living from it.

Third-generation property owners Barry and Tammy Hughes run North Head station in North Queensland. Their property is 75,800 hectares - 18,573 hectares of which is a declared nature refuge.

Barry explains why the program is so important. 

"For us, getting the nature refuge on our property has been a big achievement.

But as you can imagine, important work like managing weeds, feral animals or simply maintaining fences to keep stock away from sensitive areas is a huge and costly job on an Outback nature refuge.

After signing up to the program, Tammy and I were initially able to access some modest funding that helped us improve management at North Head.

We constructed fencing and managed ecologically-sensitive areas of the property, and we installed new watering points to keep both cattle and feral animals away from the natural springs and waterholes.

However, since that first round, there’s been no more funding made available - leaving us limited in what we can achieve for conservation."

Over the past five years, the Queensland Government has provided, on average, only 25 cents per hectare to nature refuge landholders to manage their lands, with many landholders receiving no ongoing financial support at all.

Landholders in Outback regions need support. They need boots on the ground in local areas -- people who can provide advice and help achieve conservation and land management goals. They also need financial support to help with the huge job of managing vast areas for conservation."

With over 500 landholders managing 4.4 million hectares, there’s no doubt the Nature Refuges program has huge potential! But landholders like Barry and Tammy can’t be left to do all the work.

Will you add your name to call on the Government to better support nature refuge landholders to care for their land?



Sign the Nature Refuges Petition

    Dear Meaghan Scanlon, Steven Miles, Deb Frecklington, David Janetzki and Sam O'Connor,

    I support landholders who are working to support the environment, which is why I believe the Nature Refuges program is such a great thing - particularly in Outback Queensland.

    The program has allowed hundreds of landholders from across the state to show their commitment to protecting our state’s natural assets, growing the program into Australia’s largest private protected area network at 4.4 million hectares.

    However, many of those landholders are getting little support to manage their properties for conservation. In fact, over the past five years, the Queensland Government has provided, on average, only 25 cents per hectare to nature refuge landholders to manage their lands, with many landholders receiving no ongoing financial support at all.

    More funding is needed in order to better support existing landholders to manage their lands and encourage new ones to get involved.

    The health of our Outback is currently under threat. Feral animals and noxious weeds are spreading rapidly, while destructive fires threaten property and nature. We need to see more investment in programs that support both people and nature to manage those threats and sustain nature.

    I call on you to support greater investment into our Nature Refuges program to support landholders to care for their land and protect wildlife and the landscapes of Outback Queensland.

    Yours faithfully,
    [Your name will be automatically added]

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