Private landholders, passionate and knowledgeable about their land, are playing an ever more important role in building the National Reserve System.
Whilst national parks and reserves are the backbone of the National Reserve System network, many vulnerable plants, animals and critical habitats exist only on private land that is not for sale. Increasingly farmers and graziers are finding an alternative route to conservation, by voluntarily placing perpetual covenants over parts of their working properties. In this way, they know that they are helping to protect valuable habitat and leaving the land better off for future generations.
Over the last decade or so, more than 2,000 farmers and graziers have placed conservation covenants on parts of their working properties. South Australia leads the way, with more than 1,400 covenanted properties. In Tasmania, there are more than 500 individual covenants, with over 100 negotiated as part of the innovative Protected Areas on Private Land Program. Complementing the gazetted public reserves system, an extraordinary network of committed and experienced landholders, are addressing critical gaps in the National Reserve System on their land.
Landholders have received government support, which can include relief from rates and taxes, equipment and expert advice. Local partners help draw up management plans which take into account both the need to manage for conservation with the fundamental requirement to maintain a viable working property.
These farmers are finding it possible to look after the environment and run a profitable business at the same time. Many farmers are finding new markets and a 'green' profit premium by badging their products as environmentally sustainable.
Adding private land to the National Reserve System
Private landholders retain ownership of their properties, but enter into a voluntary conservation agreement.
Depending on the arrangements in each of the states various organisations from the state conservation agency, Natural Resource Management Groups, Catchment Management Authorities, farming organisations and other local environment organisations will help you draw up a management plan for your property. They will also advise you on appropriate government funding.
Conservation covenants for farmers
A conservation covenant is a voluntary agreement between a landholder and the state or territory to conserve the natural environment on the property. It becomes a legally binding commitment tied to the title of the land in perpetuity. Future owners, therefore, are also bound to the conservation management commitment.
Ownership and management of land rests with the landholder who agrees to meet international standards in conservation management. Read more about conservation covenants.
The security of a protected area brought into the National Reserve System is fundamental and requires areas to be 'managed by legal or other effective means' for the long term. The contract will be a public document often involving the state or territory conservation agency. The standards for security are contained in the Standards for inclusion in the National Reserve System (PDF - 43 KB)
All Australian governments are recognising the importance and value of engaging farmers and graziers and their expertise to help achieve regional, state and national conservation objectives through conservation covenants. In doing so there are an increasing number of funding programs to support landholders to manage the conservation values on their land. Read more about these programs below in the state covenanting program websites.
State covenanting program websites
- Ned's Corner case study
- Kings Run case study
- Tasmania's Protected Areas on Private Land Program case study
- Contacts for state and territories