Changing the delivery of environmental stewardship in Australia
Dr Pamela Parker, Australian Landscape Trust
Mr G Fitzhardinge
prepared for the 2006 Australian State of the Environment Committee, 2006
The second-generation organisations arose from the energy created in the ascendency of Landcare, new Australian government programs that help public or private conservation goals, and land acquisition for conservation through covenanting and purchase for the national conservation estate. In some ways, this next generation of organisations extended the reach of the earlier organisations from policy to application of policy on the ground. These later organisations focused on accomplishing tasks on the ground and on delivering tangible examples of policy. The later organisations may or may not have members and memberships, but certainly have donors and active management of their activities through the influences of their trustees. These organisations strive to meet donor expectations and accountability in attainment of performance milestones.
Their cultures are similar to those in the business community with whom they engage. This business community was generally unable to come aboard the membership-driven, policy-oriented conservation organisations of the first generation, often because of the sense of conflict between business and the rhetoric of the campaigns to influence policy that were often uncomfortable for business.
Examples of this second generation of organisations are the Australian Bush Heritage Fund, Australian Wildlife Conservancy and Australian Landscape Trust. All purchase land that may be kept or passed on to other conservation entities. All endeavour to maintain the biodiversity and natural assets of the land. All engage surrounding rural communities to a greater or lesser extent to achieve conservation outcomes.
Funding for the activities of these and many other environmental organisations comes from a range of sources including government, corporate investment, philanthropy and individuals. No specific data are available, but a substantial proportion of operating income for these organisations comes from low-income earners who pledge money regularly. High net wealth donors are drawn to support visible outcomes such as acquisitions of land. Once acquired, the mundane responsibilities of funding operations take over. The struggle to attract investment for these activities is much more of a challenge than land-purchasing campaigns.
There are also specialist organisations with or without memberships that achieve conservation work and/or research in the field. These entities recruit their members to help with carrying out established work under a well-defined mission. Earthwatch expanded research opportunities for both scientists and members of the community. Recent Earthwatch activities have encompassed conservation objectives as well. Trust for Nature, a Victorian statutory body with a hybrid culture of government and private sector components, spread its activities through land acquisition, land management, covenanting, resale of land with conservation values but with restrictions on titles, and other activities directed towards the pursuit of conservation goals.
Birds Australia, the Australian Koala Foundation and many other taxon-dedicated organisations, many of them local in their interests, have dedicated constituencies and contribute to conservation, research, education and policy related to wildlife. Birds Australia, as well as its long tradition of research and monitoring, has produced documentation for priorities in avian conservation, among other valuable contributions. In recent years, Birds Australia has experimented successfully with land acquisition, land management and conservation programs that rely on volunteered services.