A planigale mouse from North Queensland.
A planigale mouse from North Queensland.

Farmers paid just 25 cents per hectare to save our wildlife

WHAT COST OUR FUTURE? They are saving our land but the government barely helps

PAID a paltry 25 cents per hectare to protect Queensland's natural habitats, 500-plus outraged farmers and landholders are begging the government for desperately needed funding.

The Queensland Nature Refuges Program - which tasks owners with voluntarily caring for sensitive areas on their land - receives just $4.6 million a year in state funding.

There are more than two million hectares of nature refuges in Queensland, with the state support amounting to less than 25 cents a hectare.

In comparison, NSW has set aside $246.6 million over four years and a further $70 million a year in perpetuity for its program.

 

A 2018 map of the Queensland’s nature refuges and other protected areas.
A 2018 map of the Queensland’s nature refuges and other protected areas.

 

Farmers, other landholders and industry, environment and indigenous organisations fear Queensland's nature refuge program will fizzle out because landholders can no longer carry the financial and physical burden.

The refuges provide safe havens for some of the state's most vulnerable animals, insects and plants including the night parrot, the bulloak jewel butterfly, the bare-rumped sheathtail bat, the Gympie broad-tailed gecko, the bridled nailtail wallaby and the dusky hopping mouse.

There are 955 species threatened with extinction from the tip of North Queensland to Cairns, Townsville, Mackay, Rockhampton, Gladstone, Emerald, Bundaberg, South Burnett, Fraser Coast, Gympie, the Sunshine Coast, the Gold Coast, across to Toowoomba, Warwick, Dalby and the Surat region and in metro areas including Ipswich and greater Brisbane.

 

Quick fact sheet on the state’s private protected areas.
Quick fact sheet on the state’s private protected areas.

 

Backed by a coalition of 16 organisations representing agriculture, natural resources, conservationists and indigenous Queenslanders, the landholders have sent an open letter to every State MP calling for them to pledge a minimum $24.6 million a year in the lead-up to the election.

"The consequence of under-investment in the program is that many landholders are not able to access technical and financial support for vital conservation planning, management and monitoring activities on their land," the letter says.

"This not only leaves a significant burden on landholders wanting to protect wildlife, but also leads to increased risk of failed or insufficient land management as we struggle to keep up."

The push for an increase in funding is backed by 16 organisations including AgForce, the Queensland Farmers' Federation, Landcare, the Queensland Trust for Nature, South Endeavour Trust and Rainforest Rescue.

"Investing in landowners who have committed to conservation is essential for preserving our state's natural heritage and bringing species back from the brink of extinction," Queensland Trust for Nature CEO Steve Lacey said.

"We need the government to invest further to ensure landholders have the resources to effectively manage and preserve these areas."

Agforce CEO Mike Guerin said it was unfair for owners to carry the burden of keeping the state's natural assets thriving.

"This work benefits all Queenslanders, however landholders currently receive less than 25 cents per hectare for their efforts, which we believe compromises the potential of the program," Mr Guerin said.

"An increase in funding will lead to important on-the-ground conservation outcomes and could become an important source of income diversification for producers managing the impact of drought and commodity price fluctuations."

Natural Resource Management Regions Queensland CEO Ian Heiner said having a $28.6 million a year commitment from all sides of politics was a win-win for Queenslanders and the environment.

"That is why there is such broad support for increased funding from landholders, farming and pastoral bodies, natural resource management, Aboriginal and conservation organisations," Mr Heiner said.

"We are calling on all parties to commit to increase funding for private land conservation by $24 million per year as part of their 2020 election platform."

NewsRegional asked the LNP and the ALP whether they would boost the nature refuge funding, but each declined to make a commitment.

"The Palaszczuk Government is committed to expanding the protected area system, including the Nature Refuge Program, by working with landholders to help protect and conserve our natural and cultural values," Minister for Environment Leeanne Enoch said.

Opposition environment spokesman David Crisafulli did not commit the LNP to the funding increase, instead saying the ALP had failed to respond to an Auditor General's "scathing assessment of Queensland's protection of threatened species".

"The government has done nothing," he said.

"The LNP will always back landholders to sustainably manage our environment and will be making detailed policy announcements in the months ahead." - NewsRegional



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