Dr Pamela Parker, Australian Landscape Trust
Mr G Fitzhardinge
prepared for the 2006 Australian State of the Environment Committee, 2006
Large Australian conservation organisations came to prominence in the 1980s by their active support of environmental and conservation policy to be adopted by government. They learned to use the media and other communications to bring issues before the public, and they learned to be effective in their use of the process. Membership size is important in these organisations as a correlate of the depth of support for their positions. Membership, along with individualised ‘culture’, operating style and, to some extent, specialisation in the issues addressed, distinguish these organisations from one another. Dialogue between the organisation’s leadership and its membership is a significant tool for influencing policy and meeting the operating costs of the organisation. The membership, in turn, shapes the conservation organisation’s activities. It can address the issues that are endorsed by its membership and thereby retain its membership. Major shifts are difficult at best. It is less expensive to retain an existing member than to recruit a replacement member. Thus the interests and priorities of the organisation are shaped by its membership and, if the organisation has gauged these correctly, the organisation remains relevant to its membership and funded. These realities reduce the scope of negotiations that can be pursued. Apart from the size of the membership, there are other important performance measures such as visibility, leadership, influence, exposure and milestones set by making a difference.
The memberships drawn to these organisations are largely from urban centres where people are particularly interested in protected areas, wildlife, natural resources, aesthetic treasures of nature including ‘wilderness’, ecosystem services including clean air and water, biodiversity and iconic parts of Australia. Major gains have been made in creating tools to restrain incompatible developments, building the conservation estate and recognising the plight of species in trouble.
Urban dwellers are detached physically from the natural landscape lying outside protected areas, yet they have expectations about how these areas would be used to produce food, how the visual landscape should appear and how natural resources should be husbanded. They came to these values without understanding that another element of the Australian population, the diminishing rural sector, was an essential partner in delivering the conditions necessary to sustain their vision. The formal conservation estate will always be too small to meet the goals for conservation sought by the urban population.
Australia is not special in having this urban–rural dichotomy. It is much in evidence throughout the world as we, as a species, become increasingly urbanised (Crane and Kinzig 2005). Thus urban people seek environmental and other services provided by rural people but without a corresponding mechanism to provide or transfer resources from the population centres to pay for services that must be rendered by those on rural lands (Beeton et al. in prep). Creating a framework that benefits both urban and rural Australia is a high priority so that demands for nature by urban populations and the stewardship of nature by rural populations can be achieved.
Links to another web site
Links to data in the DRS
Opens a pop-up window