Our Living Outback releases Nature Refuges report

The Investing in People and Nature: Strengthening conservation outcomes on Queensland private land report, released on Thursday 25 October, shines a spotlight on the failings of the Queensland Nature Refuges program and calls for an urgent increase in funding to support landholders to care for their land and deliver large-scale conservation outcomes.

Our new report says Queensland’s Nature Refuges program is failing to deliver to the more than 500 landholders who’ve signed up, leaving many with no financial or on-the-ground assistance to manage 30 percent of Queensland’s protected area network.

Queensland’s Nature Refuges program is a voluntary State Government conservation program for private landholders interested in conserving and restoring natural values on their land. 

The Nature Refuges program has been highly successful with over 500 landholders now managing more than 4.4 million hectares of land for conservation.

Unfortunately, with the growth of the program, funding hasn’t kept up the pace. The system is now stretched to breaking point, letting down landholders and nature.

Long-term underinvestment in the program means that many landholders are not able to access support for vital conservation planning, management and monitoring activities on their land.  

 

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

Landholder Ian McMaster owns the Sunshine Coast’s Mount Mellum Nature Refuge with his wife Christine, and says that there are serious flaws in the way the program is currently delivered.

“We own two properties we’ve converted into nature refuges, but we’ve only felt comfortable doing that because of the support of our local council and their programs – we’ve had limited support from the State Government,” Mr McMaster said.

“I know of people in other council areas who have much less support and bigger properties and management issues – for them the task is much harder.”

Inadequate technical and financial support means there is an increasing cost imposed on landholders seeking to properly manage weeds, fires and feral animals.  This can lead to increased risk of failed or insufficient land management as landholders struggle to keep up. 

Unfortunately, it's not only landholders who are being short-changed by the program.

With the highest number of plant and animal species of any state or territory and an ever-increasing number of species on the brink of extinction, Queensland carries an immense responsibility when it comes to protecting nature.

The Queensland Government has a vision of a world-leading protected area network but we are far from achieving this, with the lowest percentage of land set aside as protected area.

And when it comes to private protected areas, we’ve found that Queensland landholders are being short changed and left to do much of the heavy lifting.

The Government must urgently increase in funding for this program to support landholders to care for their land and deliver large scale conservation outcomes.

The full report can be viewed here.