Reimbursing the future: an evaluation of motivational, voluntary, price-based, property-right, and regulatory incentives for the conservation of biodiversity
Biodiversity Series, Paper No. 9
M.D. Young, N. Gunningham, J. Elix, J. Lambert, B. Howard, P. Grabosky and E. McCrone
CSIRO Division of Wildlife and Ecology, the Australian Centre for Environmental Law, and Community Solutions
Biodiversity Unit, Department of the Environment, Sport and Territories, 1996
ISBN 0 642 24429 4
Chapter 4: Summary of case studies
To provide context and depth to this report, case studies were undertaken to identify the potential of incentive instruments and mechanisms to promote the conservation of biodiversity. The studies were chosen to complement the community consultations, to cover as wide a range of issues as possible and to cover as many regions as possible. Presented in Appendix 2, they comprise:
- two agricultural case studies – one in the fragmented ecosystems of the WA wheatbelt and one examining the water use issues of the NSW Macquarie Marshes;
- a rangelands case study examining the Mallee region of NSW and the Mulga Lands of South-West Queensland;
- a fisheries case study comparing management of the NSW fisheries under State and Commonwealth jurisdiction; and
- three case studies with a nature based and ecotourism focus – one examining South Australia's Kangaroo Island, one the Wet Tropics of Queensland and one the Top End of Northern Australia.
Each case study provides background information and then proposes a mix of policies to address threats to biodiversity values in the particular region. Data was collected to describe biodiversity status, current resource-use and conservation objectives, threats to biodiversity values, and existing instruments and mechanisms for its conservation. Consideration of these data indicated the potential of incentive instruments and mechanisms, the best mix of incentive instruments and mechanisms, and the effects of nature-based and ecotourism.
This approach was taken to demonstrate the role that incentive instruments and mechanisms will be expected to perform with respect to the wide range of biodiversity values and threats and the resource uses and objectives. Much of the work is speculative in orientation. Nevertheless, it has provided an opportunity to test many of the recommendations found later in this report. The case studies highlighted 144 policy opportunities.
The case studies were selected to obtain an understanding of issues affecting the conservation of biodiversity over as broad a perspective as possible within the timeframe and budget constraints of the project. Although the outcomes are discussed within a context specific to each location, many of the issues and conclusions are applicable to other regions of similar type and situation. For instance many of the circumstances of the WA wheatbelt study are found in other broadacre farming regions where native vegetation exists primarily as small remnants. This chapter summarises each of the case studies that are presented in Appendix 2. It should be considered as a summary of opportunities to improve biodiversity conservation, rather than a source of answers to the specific issues raised.
Each case study, without exception, indicates a need for further action to address ongoing and potential threats to biodiversity values. Each also indicates that many threats, such as those caused by land degradation, competition for water resources and visitation by tourists, are likely to increase. A wide range of yet to be implemented policy opportunities to improve the conservation of biodiversity are presented. The variety in each set of 'optimal policy mixes' offered to address threats indicates the need to target policies to specific issues and to have a basket of measures available to meet the range of problems faced in any one location. There is much community goodwill to be harnessed, and many practical ideas that may be applied at a grassroots level.
A lack of knowledge, about the existence of biodiversity values and how to manage resources in a manner that protects them, is often cited. Where threats to biodiversity and corresponding actions to counteract those threats have been recognised, often impediments to their realisation exist and need to be removed. In the most part, it appears that institutional and social organisational deficiencies present a common barrier to the conservation of biodiversity. There are many opportunities to create greater community and industry willingness to conserve biodiversity through non-interventionist and financially attractive incentives. However, these must be implemented on a base of precautionary standards designed to prevent irreversible declines in biodiversity values.
The complexity of biodiversity and the range of society's objectives for its use and protection deems that no one policy opportunity will offer a general solution. The selection of an optimal policy mix will depend upon criteria such as efficiency, cost-effectiveness, equity, dependability, adaptability, and acceptability. The optimal mix will also depend upon the positive reinforcement possible between the individual incentive instruments and mechanisms.
The Western Australian wheatbelt case study highlights problems associated with fragmented ecosystems and the effects of land degradation on remnant native vegetation. The WA wheatbelt is an area of about 140,000 km² located inland of the Darling Range in the south-west of the State and is used primarily for a system of agriculture that is based on crop production mixed with sheep and cattle grazing. The wheatbelt is an almost entirely human modified environment that consists of cleared paddocks, pastures, salt pans and remnants of native vegetation.92 Remnant vegetation is defined as any patch of native vegetation around which most or all of the original vegetation has been removed.93 The clearing of native vegetation (and subsequent land use) has resulted in the WA wheatbelt degrading in its agricultural potential and nature conservation value.94 Significant losses of agricultural production have occurred because of soil salinisation, waterlogging, and wind and water erosion.95 Conservation of biodiversity and sustainable resource use have in many instances common objectives for remedial action.
4.3.1 Biodiversity status
Clearing for agriculture has resulted in the removal of more than 90% of the native vegetation.96 It is estimated that 93% of the central Avon district has been cleared97 and because certain vegetation associations were regarded as good indicators of potential agricultural productivity they were cleared preferentially. For example, 97% of the York Gum, Wandoo and Salmon Gum woodlands, which had covered about 41,000 km², have been cleared. Native flora and fauna are now confined to remnant patches scattered throughout the wheatbelt.98 This network of Nature Reserves and remnants on private lands provides a poor example of the original vegetation. Some 40% of the remaining native vegetation area is located on private lands. Remnants along roadsides also constitute a significant portion of the vegetation remaining in the wheatbelt.99 The high density of rare and geographically restricted plant species and the presence of rare fauna in agricultural areas emphasises the importance of these remnants for nature conservation.100
A study of 277 plant species recorded from the wheatbelt region showed that some 58 are possibly extinct, 56 are extremely rare and 154 species exist in very small populations.101 About one third of the State's Declared Rare Flora occur within the wheatbelt.102 Of the "1386 populations of the 238 taxa of declared flora in Western Australia in 1989 only 30 per cent of the populations occurred within conservation reserves, while 16 per cent were found only on freehold land."103 These data indicate the importance of remnants as reserves of important species, it also indicates that the cooperation of a wide range of government agencies and private landholders will be required to protect them.
Thirteen species of mammal have disappeared from the wheatbelt area and less than half of those original species are now regarded as common.104
Of the 148 species of landbirds recorded in the WA wheatbelt, two species have gone extinct over the past 80 or so years. At a district level more species have disappeared, the degree of local extinctions depending on the extent of native vegetation loss.105 The results of a community-based bird atlassing scheme106 showed that since 1937, of the 139 non-passerine (non-perching) species recorded from the wheatbelt, 31% have decreased in range and/or abundance and 8% have increased. The passerines are considered to be greater affected with 75% of species decreasing in range and/or abundance, no species showed any increase.
Kitchener et al.107 suggest that most of the surviving mammal species in the wheatbelt are suited to existing within patches of vegetation, such as Nature Reserves. However, they suggest that a minimum area of about 40,000 ha is required to conserve that part of the regional assemblage of mammals likely to persist in the face of human disturbances. Areas as small as 30 ha may have value for conserving specific mammal species and are certainly valuable conservation areas for lower animals and plants. The value of these small areas is likely to be greatly enhanced if they can be closely positioned or have connecting corridors.
4.3.2 Threats to biodiversity values
Previously the greatest threat to biodiversity in the WA wheatbelt was probably the clearing of native vegetation. The primary threats are now from exotic flora and fauna species, diseases, land degradation and inappropriate fire regimes.108 The fragmented nature of remaining areas of native vegetation is in itself a threat as it predisposes the remaining areas to external effects and alters the dynamics of surviving species.
Soil resources have been affected by salinity, erosion, and water-logging as a result of excessive clearing and resultant changes to local water balance. The water quality and wetland and river habitats have been affected by increasing concentrations of salt, nutrients and sediment. Groundwater levels are rising and generally becoming more saline.109 The almost complete loss of natural bodies of freshwater caused by salinisation, has had a significant impact on the region's biota.110
Two primary effects of fragmented ecosystems are the alteration of the microclimate within and surrounding the remnant, and the isolation of each area in the landscape. Effects of these may include higher daytime temperatures, and lower night-time temperatures with an increased chance of frost, increased exposure to wind and modification of water balance as a result of increased run-off and decreased interception.111 Modification of water balance is a cause of widespread dryland salinity, increased soil erosion and sedimentation of river systems.
Time since isolation, the distance between remnants and the connectivity between remnants are important factors in determining the resultant response of species to fragmentation.112 It may take many years for fragmentation to show effects on long lived species, the presence of a species is no guarantee of continued survival. The ability of species to recolonise an area after fire, for instance, is determined by the distance from other native vegetation and the connectivity between areas. In general the smaller the remnant the greater the effect external influences will have.113 Management of smaller remnants is correspondingly more dependent on the management of external influences.
McFarlane et al.,114 suggest that agricultural development has probably irreversibly changed some aspects of the hydrological cycle. Replacement of some of the cleared vegetation is necessary to reverse the degradation process. Rehabilitation of salt affected areas requires revegetation on or near the affected area whilst prevention of further salinisation will require revegetation on recharge areas.115 Revegetation with local native species may serve to address land degradation as well as provide buffers and corridors to remnant native vegetation.
Major differences have been shown to exist between fenced and non-fenced remnants, livestock are considered the principal cause in the decline of environmental quality in unfenced remnants.116 Rehabilitation to encourage regeneration will require fencing to exclude stock and possibly weed control, seedbed preparation and seed addition.117
Fire plays an important role in maintaining natural ecosystems in the south-west of Western Australia, fire management is therefore fundamental to the management of Nature Reserves. Inappropriate fire regimes may have significant biological consequences,118 especially for remnant vegetation that is isolated and without corridors to facilitate recolonisation from unburnt areas. Fire management objectives should be based on the conservation objectives of each remnant.
Several fauna species, particularly medium sized mammals, have become extinct because of predation by foxes and the continued survival of many species is threatened by foxes and cats. Fox baiting is undertaken in some areas to protect conservation reserves.119 Work by Kinnear120 showed that foxes could be controlled with the use of 1080 baiting, and that this method of control led to the recovery of predated species.
As well as competition from agricultural weeds, another issue may be the use of non-local species, such as introduced exotic species (eg tamarisk), and introduced Australian species (eg Tasmanian blue gum), to address land degradation and move into alternative enterprises such as agroforestry. Although some of these species are useful to address land degradation they are of little benefit to biodiversity and have the potential to become problems as weeds themselves.
4.3.3 Resource use
Agricultural production is the dominant land use activity in the WA wheatbelt. It was worth some $1.85 billion (gross value of production) in 1991/92.121 Agriculture and its related industries are the main employers and are the providers of the physical and social infrastructure in much of rural WA. The cost of land degradation has been estimated to be $234 million annually.122
The region has over 639 Nature Reserves ranging in size from 0.5 to 309,000 hectares. Most reserves are small, the median size of remnants designated as Nature Reserves is 114 hectares.123 There are over 300,000 small and scattered remnants on private land covering about 2.6 million hectares.124
Identification of the economic value of remnant vegetation may encourage farmers to consider remnants as a valuable farm resource. A study prepared by ACIL125 for the Western Australian Department of Conservation and Land Management identified a number of 'sustainable remnant vegetation enterprises' being undertaken on WA wheatbelt farms.
4.3.4 Conservation objectives
About 40% of the remaining native vegetation exists as remnants on private lands, along with conservation reserves they are generally in small blocks. Because of their small size, these areas are prone to degrading effects caused by farming practices on the surrounding land. The conservation of biodiversity values in these areas is dependent upon sympathetic farming practices on the adjacent lands, indeed it may require sympathetic practices on a catchment wide basis to protect these areas from the effects of land degradation.
Objectives for biodiversity conservation are therefore closely linked with objectives for sustainable agriculture and policy measures to address biodiversity conservation need to recognise this. Lambeck126 and Wallace and Moore127 provide the following objectives and requirements for biodiversity conservation and sustainable resource use in a fragmented landscape:
- identification and protection of conservation values;
- rehabilitation of existing conservation values;
- re-establishment of lost or inadequate conservation values; and
- land conservation and sustainable agriculture.
4.3.4 Major existing incentives and mechanisms
In May 1995, the WA State Government announced a new policy on clearing and management of native vegetation, to take effect immediately. This policy is important in addressing land degradation issues but also addresses a primary threat to biodiversity loss. The policy framework also provides opportunity to integrate with incentives that address biodiversity conservation issues more specifically. The policy contains a mix of regulation, education, industry development, rebates and grants. Regulations applying to restrict clearing include:
- restriction on land clearing if less than 20% of a property is covered with remnant vegetation or deep rooted perennial vegetation;
- restriction on land clearing if less than 20% of a country shire is covered with remnant vegetation (including Nature Reserves), clearing be allowed where landholders can clearly demonstrate that further clearing will not cause land degradation or threaten native species;
- restriction on land clearing if the property has more than 20% but the shire has less than 20% of area as remnants, clearing will be allowed only when the land holder can demonstrate that the clearing will not threaten important conservation values or cause land degradation.
Financial incentives that provide for education, industry development and, infrastructure and management to protect remnants include:
- increased funding of the Remnant Vegetation Protection Scheme, this scheme provides a 50% subsidy for fencing remnant vegetation, waterways and wetlands;
- additional funding for the State Landcare Program to be used for revegetation activities on farmland, and to encourage regional enterprises which support revegetation activities, for instance, eucalyptus oil manufacture;
- a State revegetation strategy to be developed by a taskforce including the Soil and Land Conservation Council of WA, Department of Agriculture, Department of Conservation and Land Management and other relevant agencies; and
- landholders that receive funding under the scheme enter into a 30 year management agreement to maintain the remnants and have a 'memorandum of understanding' attached to the land title to retain agreed actions with future landholders.
- land with attached 'memorandum of understanding' is registered with the Valuer General and eligible for council rate rebates.
There are many small Nature Reserves in the region that adjoin and are surrounded by land held by private landholders. As well the wheatbelt contains some 42 local government authorities. This means that liaison between State agencies, local government and private landholders is an important function of on-reserve management,128 and correspondingly it will need to be recognised within off-reserve management programs.
4.3.5 Preferred mix of incentives
The extent to which land clearing has occurred for agricultural purposes, results in the remaining remnant areas of biodiversity value being more vulnerable to external threats than internal ones. Policies that achieve satisfactory management of the remnant areas in isolation are still unlikely to be successful. Control of threats is required as a priority at the regional level and then within the area of value itself.
Control of threats across farm boundaries are likely to require improved social institutions to facilitate cooperative and negotiated actions. If tradeable rights are to be a part of negotiated actions then necessary prerequisites will include a sound knowledge of physical processes, recognition of the value of alternative outcomes and objectives, and the acceptance of easements and management agreements. Government will need to reflect the communities objectives in terms of funding of incremental costs and the setting of precautionary standards of resource use.
More than landholder goodwill and cooperation will be required. In many instances, maintenance of biodiversity values requires landholders to bear costs above private benefits. Society as a whole needs to, and needs to seen to be contributing to these incremental costs. However, policies that are designed to provide additional protection of biodiversity values and meet incremental costs should recognise and encourage altruistic behaviour and be careful to avoid stamping on existing positive community spirit.
Conservation of remnant vegetation will require ongoing management to protect against threats such as those posed by feral animals, invasive weeds, soil erosion, and inappropriate fire regimes. Farmers with good intentions often undertake management practices to maintain biodiversity values on their properties, but they may lack information on these values and how best to protect them. Providing information could act as an incentive for biodiversity conservation and help landholders carry out their good intentions more effectively. Landholders and land managers should have access to, or be provided with, reference material to help them identify flora and fauna.
The demand for rural and nature based holiday experiences may provide an opportunity for some farm businesses to take advantage of alternative forms of land use and diversify their income base. The availability of native vegetation areas on the farm can provide an added drawcard to rural based pursuits. Farmstays can also play an important role in providing accommodation adjacent to conservation reserves where other forms of service are unavailable or inappropriate to local development guidelines.
Opportunity exists for Australia to gain economic benefit from its unique and diverse plant species. A concern is that 'others' will be quicker to seize the initiative in the utilisation of this resource. It is recognised that funds are available and work is underway to investigate the potential of native plant species, but it is still important to encourage infant industries utilising native flora plantations or revegetation and to promote potential economic benefits of native vegetation as a sustainable resource.
This study highlights the importance of addressing the conservation of biodiversity as a joint approach with measures to address land degradation and sustainable agriculture issues. This will require a number of strategies to simultaneously address the particular set of threats and social conditions. These strategies are likely to operate through each of the different levels of government and non-government agencies and community groups. A suggested mix of incentives and mechanisms that targets factors such as institutional change, regulation, education, specific threats and community empowerment follows:
- Add criterion based on regional conservation priorities to the existing clearing controls, this may make efficient use of an existing scheme and provide a framework whereby conservation and land degradation funding can be combined to achieve a common goal;
- Develop a program to facilitate tradeable revegetation obligations. Such a scheme may be necessary to accommodate problems associated with externalities and the gap between private and social values;
- Land managers should have access to standardised procedures for assessing the nature conservation values of their remnant vegetation;
- The integration of conservation easements and management agreements with existing clearing controls;
- Management agreements for the control of feral fauna and exotic flora
- Income tax deductions or tax credits for expenditure incurred on activities that assist biodiversity conservation, even if such expenditure is not deemed to increase farm income;
- Co-ordinated State policy on protection of roadside vegetation under the jurisdiction of government agencies;
- Society should contribute, and be seen to contribute, towards incremental costs associated with protection and management of remnant vegetation, control of land degradation and the adoption of farming practices to maintain biodiversity values;
- Private management of public conservation reserves;
- Commonwealth Government or State Government funding of local government rate rebates;
- Awareness training for existing agricultural, farm management, and soil conservation extension officers in biodiversity values and remnant vegetation management requirements. Encourage staff transfers between government agencies;
- To encourage the community to assist with the cost of protecting remnant native vegetation a community education program is required to make society better aware of the value of biodiversity to the community and the threats to these value;
- Environmental camps could be organised to provide facilities for school children (and others) to appreciate the values of biodiversity and the need to provide for its protection.
The effects of activities on private agricultural land frequently extend beyond the farm gate. The dominance of agricultural land use across the landscape and its close integration with areas containing biodiversity values requires the control of external effects and resource use beyond the boundary fence of areas of significant biodiversity value. For example, the protection of remnant vegetation is heavily dependent upon the control of land degradation, especially dryland salinity and the protection of fauna is dependent upon the widespread control of predation by ferals. Each set of threats requires a mix of incentives that provides for more than management of the area containing significant biodiversity values.
The Macquarie Marsh study addresses the competition between the environment, and primarily, irrigated agriculture for a limited water resource. The Macquarie Marshes are an extensive wetland system located on the Macquarie River in central NSW and comprise a natural flooding area that may extend over 100 km long and up to 25 km wide. The majority of the Marsh system, except for the 18,150 ha Macquarie Marshes Nature Reserve, is on private land. The Macquarie Marshes Nature Reserve is the core of the Macquarie Marsh area. It is the area most frequently flooded and contains samples of all the habitat types found in the marshes. The privately held areas also contain significant wetland areas which make a vital contribution to the value of the Marshes.129
The wet area may be reduced to less than 1,000 ha during severe droughts and expands to more than 300,000 ha after major floods.130 It is estimated that 1,280,000 ha flooded in 1955, whereas in 1990 a similar rainfall flooded only 131,000.131 This is indicative of the issues confronting the Macquarie Marshes and other wetlands in Australia, where competition from other water users has reduced the flow to the environment, and the variability of that streamflow. The Macquarie Marshes depend on water from the Macquarie River, not from local rainfall. Competition for a limited supply of water comes essentially from irrigation demands upstream. This has led to conflict over the management of the Macquarie Marshes.132 It is noted that a forthcoming and updated management plan may better address these issues.
4.4.1 Biodiversity status
The Macquarie Marshes are among the largest semi-permanent wetlands in south-eastern Australia. The Macquarie Marshes Nature Reserve is listed under the Convention on Wetlands of International Importance Especially as Waterfowl Habitat, commonly referred to as the Ramsar Convention.133 They are also included on the National Estate Register, the National Trust Register134 and the Directory of Important Wetlands in Australia.135
The Marshes provide habitat for more than 60 species of waterbirds, of which about 42 species breed on the Marshes.136 As well as the waterbirds, approximately 130 other bird species inhabit the Macquarie Marshes along with 15 species of fish, 4 species of turtle, 30 species of lizard, 14 species of snake and 15 amphibian species.137 For some species the Marshes are home to a significant proportion of the total NSW population. During the large floods of 1990 more than 60,000 pairs of Straw-necked, Sacred and Glossy Ibis were observed to be breeding.138 The Glossy Ibis is known to breed in only nine other sites in NSW. The area is also important for nine species of migratory birds which are specified in the Japan-Australia and China-Australia Migratory Bird Treaties. The Marshes are used by 18 bird species which are classified as endangered in NSW.139
Kingsford and Thomas140 recorded a decline in waterbird species numbers and density in the northern marshes between 1983 and 1993. Corresponding surveys in three other sites (Burrendong Dam, Coolmunda Dam and Paroo River Lakes) showed no decline. Johnson141 examined the relationship between flooding and the breeding of eight species of colonially nesting waterbirds between 1986 and 1993. A minimum flood of three to four months is needed before breeding begins, and a flood of a further three to four months is needed for breeding to be successful for all species. All species nested in living, flood-dependent vegetation near main channels or lagoons.
The Marshes contain river red gum, reed and water couch, and the area is a prime example of this vegetation association. Lack of river red gum regeneration is a concern in parts of the Marsh.142 Waterlogging has killed some of these gums but in most cases reduced flooding is the major cause of loss.143 Changes to the water flow regime have altered the growth and distribution of some native plant species. Because the main channel in the North Marsh Reserve now receives a consistent but small flow in times when ordinarily it may have been dry, areas of common reed and cumbungi have increased, whilst in contrast, water couch has decreased. This is a concern because of the importance of water couch for waterbird feeding and for graziers.144 The area of reed has decreased in the South Marsh Reserve, apparently because of reduced water flow.145
4.4.2 Threats to biodiversity values
Lack of water and a changed flooding regime are the greatest threats to vegetation communities of the Marshes.146 Water extraction and flow regulation of the Macquarie River for irrigation have substantially changed and reduced the natural flow regime and inundation patterns of the Macquarie Marshes. An 18 km bypass channel also diverts water from the Macquarie River around the northern part of the Marshes, further reducing the water flow to this area.147 The changes to the timing and duration of flooding have resulted in both a lack of water and in some areas, waterlogging. Other actions associated with altered land use and external effects may also pose significant threats but unless the water supply issues are successfully addressed these other effects may be considered of secondary importance.
Clearing on private lands in the Marshes has been encouraged by a perverse rule that allows irrigation only on improved pasture or cropped areas. Flooding of native pastures is at present not permitted. In order for farmers to utilise their water allocation they are required to clear the land. It is suggested that many do not wish to do so and that flooded Marsh country is very productive for cattle grazing.
Irrigation, run-off from cropped areas upstream and raised water tables may result in increased levels of salts in the water that flows through the Marshes. Saline discharges are a major concern and there are extensive areas of saline seeps in the upper sectors of the Macquarie River catchment. Saline scalds are most common in the drier downstream parts of the catchment.
Irrigated drainage can contain a range of contaminants including fertilisers, salts and residues of pesticides and herbicides.148 Of primary concern are the pesticides used in the cotton growing areas149 and the effects that these chemicals may have on breeding waterbirds. The Department of Water Resource's (DWR) licence conditions are designed to prohibit the discharge of polluted waters into any river or lake. Generally the discharge of any tailwater is prohibited.150
At present, visitation to the Nature Reserve section of the Marshes does not pose a major threat since it is closely controlled by NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS). Visitation by the general public is not generally encouraged outside open days that are held twice annually, and special education visits for students. Access to the Reserve is via private property over unsealed roads. This also serves to restrict the number of visitors. Tourism potential certainly exists and the possibility of increased visitor numbers is a factor yet to be taken advantage of fully. Tourism may have potential on private lands as well as the Nature Reserve.
Introduced fauna in the Marshes include feral pigs, foxes, rabbits, feral cats, black rats and house mice. Predation by cats and foxes appear responsible for a decline in species and numbers and wild pigs are blamed for some habitat destruction and disturbance of birds.151 Introduced plants include Noogoora and Bathurst Burr and a number of thistle species. Control is an ongoing need as floods disperse seed.152 Control measures include manual removal and spraying with herbicide outside the Reserve. The altered water regime has allowed weed species some competitive advantage in a disturbed environment. Return to a more normal flood regime may favour native plant species and reduce the weed plant populations.
4.4.3 Resource use
Sheep and cattle grazing are the most common enterprises undertaken on the private lands but increasingly, larger areas are being sown as irrigated crops, particularly cotton.153 Over the past two decades land-use within the Macquarie Valley has undergone a change, with cotton rising in prominence to become the major irrigated crop. The area of cotton grown has increased three to four fold, this has provided increased farm income and export dollars for Australia but from a biodiversity conservation and water quality point of view, it has given rise to concern because of the high water and chemical usage on cotton relative to other crops.154
European settlement has resulted in the diversion of water resources from the Macquarie river catchment to supply urban and agricultural uses. This has increased greatly since the construction of the Burrendong and Windamere Dams, especially for the supply of water for irrigation.155 The Macquarie River system is now regulated with nine large dams having a capacity greater than 5,000 ML and five major weirs. In a normal year the Burrendong Dam can provide a regulated flow of about 475,000 ML, this is equivalent to 40% of the average yearly runoff of the Basin.156
The irrigated areas comprise the most significant component of a total demand, the allocation to irrigators is some 89% of the total allocation.157
4.4.4 Conservation objectives
The Macquarie Marshes Nature Reserve Plan of Management and the Water Management Plan for the Macquarie Marshes provide a major component of conservation objectives for the Marshes that are within the Nature Reserve and on private lands. The Water Management Plan is currently under review and a draft revision of that plan was due to be released for public comment at the time of writing.
4.4.5 Major existing incentives and mechanisms
The Macquarie Marshes Nature Reserve is subject to a plan of management in accordance with the provisions of the National Parks and Wildlife Act. This plan recognises that the Reserve is only a small part of the Marshes and that ensuring adequate management, particularly with respect to water allocation, for the whole area of the wetland is an important strategy.158
A Macquarie Marshes Catchment Management Committee was formed to provide a coordinated approach to land and water management. This committee is chaired by an independent member of the public and includes representatives of the local community, local government and State Government departments.159 This committee was instrumental in bringing about the current review of the Water Management Plan.
A volumetric allocation scheme was introduced for regulated streams in the Macquarie Valley in 1981. Under this scheme irrigators are given an annual allocation related to their licensed area. Irrigators can increase the amount of water available to them by acquiring allocations from other irrigators. Transfers can be temporary or permanent.160 The Macquarie Marshes Water Management Plan was instigated in 1986. Some of the rules and definitions applied under that plan are outlined below. However, despite this plan there is much evidence to suggest that the Marshes are still degrading as a result of the regulation of flow into the Marshes.
Among other rules, the Water Management Plan provides a 50,000 ML allocation to the Marshes and sets conditions of land-use that apply to irrigated land in the Marshes. This allocation will not be available in certain circumstances, such as when available water only permits 25% or less of the irrigation allowance to be supplied, except when the wildlife allocation has not been released for the preceding 3 years. A Prohibited Area is nominated within the Water Management Plan within which irrigation is not permitted. The area is delineated to include the area covered by the 1970 flood with an additional margin of 300 metres. Within this area it was decided that applications for irrigation activities would be refused and existing licences reviewed.161 Research since 1986 and observable changes to the Marshes vegetation have highlighted the need to expand the prohibited area. Flooding of unimproved native pastures with allocated irrigation water is at present not permitted. Farmers cannot utilise their water allocation without developing the land to improved pasture or to allow cropping.
4.4.6 Preferred mix of incentives
Control of threats is firstly required at the catchment level and then within the area of the Marshes themselves. Management of threats within the Marshes, and more specifically, Macquarie Marsh Nature Reserve, is secondary without adequate water entering the system from upstream delivery. This case study exemplifies the need for a working understanding of physical processes, resource use, environmental values, and co-operation between government departments. It would appear that flexibility in the definition of the amount of water permissible for irrigation and poor definition of the desired size and quality of Marsh have been sources of past indecision. An important issue is what flows are received, compared to those required to maintain the Marshes to a determined size and quality. One of the problems in addressing this question is determining the actual volume of water that passes through the Marshes under the existing rules. The extent of off-allocation usage is a major factor.
As with the wheatbelt study, control of threats across a catchment and farm boundaries is likely to require improved social institutions to facilitate cooperative and negotiated actions. If tradeable rights are to be a part of negotiated actions then necessary prerequisites will include a sound knowledge of physical processes, recognition of the value of alternative outcomes and objectives, and the acceptance of easements and management agreements. Government will need to reflect community objectives in terms of funding of incremental costs and the setting of precautionary standards of resource use. It must involve the local community in management decisions. Local members of the community have much to offer and their involvement would enhance a sense of ownership and participation.
A suggested mix of incentives and mechanisms that target factors such as institutional change, regulation, education, specific threats and community empowerment follows:
- Determine a precautionary standard level of flow to the environment;
- Reduce off-allocation consumption to enable a precautionary standard of flow to the environment;
- Allow water allocations to be traded for the environment by environmental groups or other interested persons, from existing irrigator allocations, for the maintenance of the Marshes;
- Operate a review period to reassess and adjust the size of the allocations;
- Farmers should be able to donate their allocation to the environment;
- Allow flooding of unimproved native pastures with allocated irrigation water under the rules of the water management plan;
- Adjust water prices to reflect the full cost of supply;
- Involve local community in water management decisions;
- Use easements, rate rebates and management agreements to encourage the retention and revegetation of native vegetation along riparian systems;
- Encourage staff transfers between government agencies to improve the communication and understanding between professionals working in related but different disciplines.
Conservation of biodiversity values within the Macquarie Marshes requires action beyond the Marsh boundary. This study provides an interesting example of the way in which use of a natural resource (water) has resulted in downstream costs (externalities) to other consumers and the environment. The primary social cost is the loss of biodiversity values as a result of reduced water flows to the environment, but other costs such as those caused by reduced water quality are also incurred. A number of strategies are suggested to address what is essentially an issue involving the allocation of property rights. These strategies are likely to operate primarily through State government agencies as they are charged with direct responsibly for most of the issues that arise in this study. However, even in this situation there is still a role for encouraging community response and desirable agricultural practices.
This case study focuses on biodiversity conservation issues in the Mallee region of NSW and the Mulga Lands of south western Queensland. It also addresses issues involving the management of the bilby and the malleefowl. The major land use in these areas is pastoralism. It is an industry that has suffered from declining terms of trade and an ongoing reduction in the rural population and associated social infrastructure. Consequently a major theme of this case study is that efforts to encourage the conservation of biodiversity in the rangelands should recognise the social and economic issues of the pastoral industry. This requires understanding of the capacity of current rangeland users to contribute to the conservation of biodiversity and the benefits that biodiversity conservation via ecotourism may be able to bring to outback communities. It recognised that a Draft National Strategy for Rangeland Management has been produced and that components of this strategy address biodiversity conservation issues.
4.5.1 Biodiversity status
Although biodiversity awareness is increasing in the Western Division of NSW, there is still a lack of knowledge of biodiversity values in most areas.162 Table 4.1 indicates the status of vertebrate fauna in the Western Division of NSW. Interestingly, 14 of the 60 threatened birds in the Western Division are mallee species and in fact only five mallee birds were not listed as threatened.163
Source: Dickman et al., 1993; Sadlier and Pressey, 1994; Smith, et al., 1994.
The Yathong area has value as a site for the reintroduction of the malleefowl. The malleefowl was once abundant throughout much of southern and central Australia, but has declined in range and abundance to the point where the species is now dwindling towards extinction.164 The total number of malleefowl in NSW was estimated in 1985 to be around 745 pairs.165 More recent surveys have noted further decline in numbers. The malleefowl is not only an endangered species, it is an important 'flagship' species.
There is also a lack of detailed knowledge on the level and status of biodiversity in the regions of south west Queensland. Within the Mulga Lands, of 66 regional ecosystems that were defined on the basis of vegetation type, preliminary results indicate that five are endangered or vulnerable. Many others have been highly modified. Rare and threatened fauna of the Mulga Lands are listed in Table 4.2.
|Presumed extinct||Western Quoll||-||-|
|Vulnerable||-||Plains Wanderer, Yellow Chat, Grey Falcon, Major Mitchell Cockatoo||-|
|Rare||-||Painted Honeyeater, Redthroat, Freckled Duck, Grebe, Black-chinned Honeyeater||Collett's snake, Death Adder|
Source: Bruce Wilson, Department of Environment and Heritage, Toowoomba, pers. com.
Mitchell Grass Downs, which cover about 6 per cent of Australia, provide locations that are habitat to a population of bilbies. The bilby, although once widespread across inland Australia, is an endangered species nationally. Populations are still considered to be declining. The south west Queensland population is estimated to be between 600 and 700 animals.
4.5.2 Threats to biodiversity values
The major threatening processes to biodiversity values in the rangelands generally result from the effects of pastoralism and other human induced changes such as: grazing pressure, introduced species, altered fire regimes, and clearance of native vegetation. Overgrazing reduces feed availability, the shelter provided by plant material, and alters plant species composition. Herbivores that contribute to overgrazing in the rangelands include introduced stock (cattle and sheep), feral species (rabbits and goats), as well as native species like kangaroos that have increased in number as a result of the provision of stock watering points. Stock and feral pests with hard hooves can also degrade the exposed topsoil and destroy shallow burrows. These effects are implicated in the decline of native species and in land degradation processes.
Historically, Australia's rangelands were subject to frequent burning by Aboriginals, this produced a mosaic of different aged patches of vegetation. This has changed as European pastoralists reduced the use of fire as a management tool. Altered fire regimes in the mallee, which is highly flammable, are known to have had a severe impact on populations of malleefowl.166 The build up of so called "woody weeds" highlights the relationship between grazing and altered fire regimes, and illustrates the need for various control measures, including fire itself. The suppression of natural fire regimes is thought to contribute to the woody weed problem. As such, controlled use of fire can be an effective tool for managing woody weeds.167
Introduced predators are also considered to be a major cause of decline in mammal species across the rangelands. The extinction of many critical weight range marsupials and rodents (35-5500g) since European settlement seems to support this, as these species are particularly susceptible to introduced predators. Foxes and feral cats remain abundant and it is clear that foxes, at least, play a major role in the extinction of both remnant and re-introduced populations.168
Current commercial utilisation of species is somewhat limited and is not considered to be a direct threat to biodiversity. Commercial apiculture in mallee reserves (and possibly mulga reserves), may have adverse effects on native flower visiting fauna because introduced honeybees take up to 90 per cent of available nectar.169 Similarly, commercial harvesting of broombush in remnant mallee areas is perceived to reduce mature habitat refuge for several vertebrate species.170
4.5.3 Resource use and conservation objectives
The Western Division of NSW is used predominantly for grazing of sheep and some cattle on the native vegetation of pastoral leases. Pastures constitute 87.6 per cent of the Division's land area, while croplands and other forms of intensive land use occupy only 1.3 per cent of the land area.171 The Division has six National Parks and 10 Nature Reserves together comprising 2.6 per cent of the land area of the region.172 There is also one Aboriginal area (11,325 ha) that functions as a reserve for nature conservation. Up to 97.5 per cent of the Division's land area is leased by the Western Lands Commission. The Mallee region is a multi-use resource, and as such the conservation objectives for the region should take into account current resource uses as far as possible. The main objective is to conserve endangered species such as the malleefowl by reducing the impact of threatening processes.
As in the Mallee region, the primary land use in south west Queensland is rangeland pastoralism. Although extensive clearing or pasture improvement is not necessarily undertaken, grazing pressure nevertheless affects the condition of the region. In the Mulga Lands the most significant component of land degradation is total herbivore grazing pressure.173 Throughout the semi-arid woodlands there has been a major shift in the composition of understorey vegetation, from dominance by perennial grasses to dominance by native shrubs. Grazing pressure results from sheep, cattle, kangaroos and feral goats. A conservation objective, therefore, should be to integrate efforts to conserve biodiversity with pastoral activity.
Pastoralism is still the predominate activity currently undertaken on Australia's rangelands. Consequently, the importance of working with rangelands users to promote biodiversity conservation should be emphasised. As the main users of the rangelands, pastoralists are in a strong position to provide informed stewardship of biodiversity values. The difficulties faced by pastoralists in making a living off the rangelands must be addressed if pastoralists are to be in a position to conserve biodiversity and sustainably manage Australia's rangelands. Broadening the economic base of pastoral activities has been suggested and ecotourism represents one opportunity. According to some reports, tourism now ranks substantially higher than pastoralism as an income earner in the rangelands.174
4.5.4 Major existing incentives and mechanisms
In NSW, a State-wide conservation strategy has been prepared for the management of the Malleefowl.175 The strategy includes the creation of a 'Malleefowl Conservation Zone' within the northern mallee block on Yathong Nature Reserve. Efforts to conserve malleefowl within this zone include: prevention of fire; goat, fox, and rabbit control; a captive breeding program; and monitoring and assessment. The Yathong Malleefowl Recovery Program operates as part of this strategy.176 An interesting aspect of the program is the Fox Control Program. Neighbouring landholders are provided with fox baits by NSW NPWS and liaise closely with extension officers from the Cobar regional office.
In a sense this represents a direct payment to landholders by way of a grant in-kind, as baits are provided free of charge. The aim is to create a buffer zone of low fox density surrounding the core conservation area. All reports suggest neighbours are happy to participate in the program as they are benefiting by way of increased lambing rates; one neighbour is running free-range chickens for the first time in many years.177
A draft national recovery plan exists for the bilby,178 and a more recent rescue plan has also been drafted for the bilby in Queensland.179 Much of both plans is concerned with filling the information gaps that exist in relation to the bilby, its habitat, and threats to it. Two approaches to conserving bilbies are advocated in the Queensland rescue plan: the acquisition of land to be designated as National Park, and the management of populations through conservation agreements with landholders, including the introduction of Nature Refuges (conservation easements).
4.5.5 Preferred mix of incentives
The preferred mix of incentives and mechanisms is targeted to involve and utilise the expertise, goodwill and resources of existing users of the rangeland as far as possible. To encourage resource users of rangelands to protect biodiversity values the following mix is suggested:
- Provision of information is seen as a necessary prerequisite to change attitudes and management practices. Knowledge of the existence of biodiversity values, the effects of grazing on these values, and how best to protect them may in itself provide some incentive for biodiversity conservation.
- Clearing controls are considered to be an important basis of all measures to protect biodiversity. However, without any recompense their imposition is unlikely to instil a strong biodiversity management ethic in land mangers. Incentive instruments that complement clearing controls are recommended.
- Management agreements, with compensation for incremental costs, provide an opportunity to encourage changes to land use and a means of directing ongoing biodiversity conservation work. Positive management requirements could include fire management and the control of feral animals and invasive exotic plants.
- Conservation easements and covenants provide a flexible means of controlling land use over areas to gain on-going stewardship from land managers. They could be best operated jointly with management agreements. Easement may enable specific areas of high conservation value to be targeted for protection and management.
- Biodiversity conservation undertakings could be linked to preferential lease renewal. Management plans that give consideration to biodiversity values could be made a prerequisite for receipt of concessional government assistance.
- The allowance of income tax deductions for expenditure incurred in conserving biodiversity is suggested.
- Leases could be provided for purposes other than pastoral, and should not necessarily require the maintenance of infrastructure for pastoral production.
- Access to alternative sources of income will enable a shift from land use that is detrimental to biodiversity. Ecotourism could play a part, as would opportunities for employment in protected area management and the control of feral animals.
- Non-government conservation organisations can play a strong role in focussing attention on endangered species and raising resources for their protection. Assistance given to these organisation may provide for community based action, support on a dollar for dollar type basis may provide good leverage from government funding.
The two rangeland areas that comprise this case study are only part of the rangelands that comprises the majority of the Australian continent, however many of the issues raised here are applicable to that area. A major issue, with respect to the conservation of biodiversity, is the ability of existing land/leaseholders to derive income from alternative activities where pastoralism conflicts with conservation objectives. Measures to address biodiversity conservation in the rangelands need also to consider socio-economic issues.
The NSW fisheries case study was chosen because of the strong move towards the greater use of incentives by both the NSW Government and the Commonwealth Governments, the complex administrative arrangements already in place, because it involved the explicit harvest of an attribute of biodiversity, and the considerable threats to biodiversity from pollution between Wollongong and Newcastle coupled with the large amount of coastal development along much of the coast. Perhaps the most interesting aspect is the jurisdictional complexity of the region.
Generally the management of all waters within three nautical miles of the coast is defined as State responsibility. The rest of the area, out to 200 nautical miles from the coastal headlands, is under the jurisdiction of the Commonwealth Government. But this situation is unworkable so, under a formal Offshore Constitutional Settlement, responsibilities have been redefined so that NSW has responsibility for all recreational fishing out to 200 nautical miles and for the majority of types of fishing in the northern half of the State out to a line approximately 80 nautical miles from the coast. In recognition of the problems that these arrangements pose for fisheries management, the existing suite of Off-shore Constitutional Arrangements is being renegotiated.
4.6.1 Biodiversity status and threats
By world standards, NSW fisheries are largely low in productivity and deep water in character. It is the inshore, coastal and estuarine environments where threats appear to be more acute, but this may only be because we know more about these areas. Around 90% of the marine groups found in this area are endemic to the region. A key consideration is the status of the State's estuaries, which are very important as nursery areas for many fish species and other marine organisms. Examples of such species include school prawns, yellowfin bream, luderick and sea mullet. The water that flows from estuaries also influences the surrounding marine environment. Key problems include dieback of seagrass, and the loss of coastal saltmarshes and mangroves through land fill and reclamation. In the last few decades the Clarence River has lost 60% of its seagrass beds. Declaration of some of these areas as marine protected areas helps to reduce impacts on biodiversity but does not stop the flow of pollutants onto them. Many estuaries have significant pollution problems.
One of the fundamental causes of decline in biodiversity values throughout the marine and coastal regions of NSW is human population increase which is resulting in increasing pressure on all aspects of the environment in this area. The resultant landscape development and modification has led to the first class of threats examined in the case study:
- direct habitat loss (eg. infilling of salt marshes); and
- habitat modification (eg. siltation of estuaries, pollution and disturbance of the sea, the sea floor and estuary bottom).
These losses, in turn, threaten ecosystem, species and genetic diversity. Of the above issues, arguably pollution poses the most serious threats to biodiversity. A considerable but unknown quantity of silt flows from rural areas. Urban centres discharge large amounts of sewage, full treatment of much of this sewage is rare. Another main source is storm water run-off which is primarily a function of the proportion of impervious area in the catchment.
A second class of threats – direct species use – arises from attempts to exploit natural populations of marine animals – fish, molluscs, crayfish, etc. Each year, well over 100 species of fish are caught within the study area and sold by commercial fishers into NSW markets. Recreational fishing pressure, especially in the inner northern half of the region, is high. Estuaries are prized for the recreational and tourism opportunities they offer. Stocks of a number of fish species exploited by the commercial industry alone and also those exploited by both the commercial and recreational sectors are in decline. In response a range of new more output-orientated systems are being introduced. Using individually-tradeable property-right mechanisms, like quotas and fishery shares, they seek to reduce the fishing effort until the stock recovers.
The third class of threat, gene pool decline, comes from the direct effects of an introduced species on other species. One example of this is the introduction of the Pacific oyster. Deliberately introduced into other parts of Australia it was transferred accidentally to New South Wales where it is dislodging the Sydney rock oyster in a manner that may lead to a substantial decline in the genetic diversity of the local rock oysters and/or significant modification of their genetic structure. The flow-on effects of this on the State's near coastal ecosystems are unknown.
Finally, an underlying cause of many of the above problems needs to be mentioned. All the marine ecosystems in the area are closely interconnected and poorly understood. Most management involves trial and error, whilst many problems can be identified, data on most of the State's marine resources are patchy and, in most cases, inadequate for fine-scale management.
4.6.2 Preferred mix of incentives
The most striking observation that arises from the fisheries case study is that many of the threats to marine biodiversity arise from the land-based activity. Moreover, to an outsider looking in, fisheries managers are insufficiently involved in the control of land-sourced pollution and habitat loss. Development of the institutional structures necessary to facilitate this, however, presents a major challenge. But involvement is a prerequisite for progress. If this administrative barrier could be overcome then there would be considerable opportunity for ecological improvement especially in estuarine biodiversity values. The case study suggests co-management of land-based threats to the marine environment as the most administratively feasible means to make land managers sufficiently aware of the impacts their decisions have on marine biodiversity. The case study goes on to suggest that the incentive instruments likely to be most effective in reducing non-point sources of marine pollution, like silt and agricultural chemicals. Conservation covenants can be used to protect remnant vegetation which filters run-off and reduces disturbance. At present, discussions about conservation covenants tend to focus on the issue of how well represented an area of native vegetation is and down play their role in reducing threats at other locations. This case study highlights the point that they also offer an environmentally-effective means to reduce a cause of threats to biodiversity.
The spatial interdependence of biodiversity highlights the interdependence of species and the critical role of ecosystem functions and processes. Fishing, however, tends to be managed by species and forms of harvesting rather than by fishery ecosystem. From a biodiversity perspective, such a species/catch method approach appears to be illogical. As a result, maintenance of marine habitats and the ecological systems that feed them are rarely central to the commercial fishing policy agenda. The challenge is to find ways to add an ecosystem perspective to the management framework which recognises that some fish cross many ecosystem and administrative boundaries. If ecosystem orientations can be built into the framework, then the overall prospects for biodiversity conservation will be greater. New institutional approaches, such as the use of co-management mechanisms which include people concerned about biodiversity, are suggested as the most administratively feasible means of overcoming that barrier. The increased use of co-management arrangements would enhance community acceptance of management decisions.
A related issue is the linkage between general resource management and biodiversity. Across the board, there is a need for legislative change to make it easier for local government, State Government, co-management bodies and the Commonwealth Government to make much greater use of property-right arrangements, like tradeable emission permits based on the volume emitted and, in the case of storm water, on the areas that contribute to run-off. Implementation of these arrangements would will be most economically efficient if attention to compensation, registration, mortgage and enforcement requirements and the development of enabling legislation could speed structural adjustment. Economic efficiency can be made ecologically dependable by embodying the ecological targets set and the regulatory conditions that attach to the permits in management plans which include full consideration of biodiversity values.
Finally, in many cases, the price signals given to resource users do not provide incentive for biodiversity conservation. For example, despite the fact that much fishery management is small scale and its greatest deficiency is knowledge, the research tax incentives available to big industry for research are not available to the fishing industry because the thresholds exclude small-scale research. If changed to support small scale research, fishers would have an incentive to participate in this process, would own the conclusions and incorporate them in their management plans. The motivational dimension of offering fishers the chance to get involved in this activity should not be under-estimated. Management decisions inspired by such research are likely to be more politically acceptable.
There is also a need to finance the conservation of marine diversity. The most equitable and efficient means to do this is to introduce a set of levies and charges that make those who use and cause threats to marine biodiversity contribute more to the costs of controlling and preventing threats. More formally, the incentives identified in this case study are:
- from an institutional perspective:
- the inclusion of recreational representatives on commercial fishery management committees; and
- the development of co-management frameworks that, where appropriate include recreational and biodiversity conservation representatives;
- from a regulatory perspective:
- the greater use of marine protected areas as a precautionary means to isolate many threats to biodiversity within a multiple use environment.
- from a property-rights perspective:
- the introduction of greater resource security and fuller specification of fishing rights so that those involved have an incentive to consider the long-term implications of their actions;
- Introduction of special capital gains tax exemptions during the restructuring period when rights are first made tradeable;
- the introduction of tradeable development and emission rights for both point and non-point sources in areas where pollution loads are high and pressures for the destruction of recruitment areas is considerable; and
- use of conservation easements and covenants as a means to improve water quality by reducing run-off from agricultural and urban lands;
- from a pricing perspective:
- introduction of volumetric charging for waste and sewage so that those who produce waste have an incentive to reduce it; and
- introduction of recreational licences to produce some of the revenue necessary to protect biodiversity.
Many of the threats to marine biodiversity arise from the land, yet fisheries managers are not sufficiently involved in the management of onshore threats. Development of the management structures to facilitate greater involvement of fishery managers presents a major challenge. But involvement in the process does seem a pre-requisite for action that includes consideration of impacts of land based activity on estuarine and marine environments. Discussions about conservation covenants, for example, tend to focus on the issue of how well represented an area of native vegetation is in a land-based protected area network. The role of such areas in protecting marine biodiversity from pollution is rarely part of the agenda.
The spatial dimensions of biodiversity considered in this case study highlight the interdependence of species and the critical role of ecosystem functions and processes. Fishing, however, tends to be managed by form of human activity rather than fishery ecosystem. The risk for this approach is that the maintenance of marine habitats and the ecological systems that feed them are never central to the agenda. If stronger ecosystem orientations can be built into the framework, then the overall prospects for biodiversity conservation will be greater. Moreover, the level of harvest that can be sustained may be greater. The underlying message that pervades this case study is the notion that biodiversity conservation requires action across the full spectrum of economic, institutional and policy opportunities. The preferred mix is very much a mix that involves many instruments – each targeted at different threats and fine tuned by carefully designed consultative mechanisms.
This case study of the potential for incentives to promote conservation of biodiversity specifically addresses the potential for nature based and ecotourism (NBE) to act as an incentive for biodiversity conservation. Kangaroo Island is Australia's third largest island and is situated 13 kilometres from the south-eastern coast of South Australia and about 120 kilometres south-west of Adelaide. Sheep grazing for wool and meat are the dominant agricultural activities, conservation and associated activities are also important with almost 30 per cent of the island within National Parks, Wilderness Protection Areas and Conservation Parks. These natural attractions are resulting in tourism becoming a predominant Kangaroo Island activity. This is being promoted by the South Australian Government which sees the island as one of the major South Australian tourist destinations. Based on current targets tourist numbers will reach and probably exceed 180,000 per annum in five years time.
4.7.1 Biodiversity status
Kangaroo Island has a number of endemic species of flora and fauna and special features that contribute important biodiversity values and provide attractions for tourists. Other notable points of interest include the freedom from foxes and rabbits, and the absence of aboriginal habitation for about the last 2000 years, the latter having resulted in a different fire regime from that on the mainland. There are a number of threatened species of flora and fauna. The Glossy Black Cockatoo is the most critically endangered vertebrate on the island and has attracted a deal of interest and community response for its protection.
Native fauna represent one of the main attractions for visitors to Kangaroo Island, the Australian Sea-Lions and the New Zealand Fur-Seals especially. The colony of Australian Sea-lions at Seal Bay on the southern coast of the island is one of the island's major tourist attractions. This species is considered to be rare under the National Parks and Wildlife Act, 1972-81. Almost two-thirds of the world population occur in South Australia, with the Seal Bay population being significant. Seal Bay is the only breeding site on Kangaroo Island and it is one of only two or three breeding sites of the seal in South Australia.180
Other attractions include: the Southern Right Whale which visits the southern coast between June and October, Fairy Penguins which can be seen after sunset along the rocks near the Penneshaw and Kingscote jetties as they return from fishing, and the Tamar Wallaby which are still abundant on Kangaroo Island. Kangaroo Island is also the only part of South Australia where the Glossy Black Cockatoo occurs regularly. The total island population consisting of about 150 birds, of which most are males,181 is restricted to Casuarina woodland. Native species that have been introduced, such as the Platypus, Koala and the Cape Barren Goose are also of interest to visitors.
4.7.2 Threats to biodiversity values
Ecotourism and nature based tourism pose a number of potential threats to the Island's biodiversity values. Current tourist numbers already pose threats and these will be exacerbated as the number of visitors increase. There are already a number of tourist sites which receive concentrated tourist numbers in peak season. These sites are Seal Bay, a number of sites in Flinders Chase National Park and Kelly Hill Caves. To address these pressures at these sites National Parks has introduced a number of policies and developed infrastructure to meet current and projected tourist demand. As numbers increase further these may require review. Also, visitor pressures are exerted on areas not managed under the parks system, these areas will require a different set of policies to manage them appropriately.
Human visitation to sensitive sites has the potential to adversely affect biodiversity. People and vehicle (4WD on beaches especially) movement along the coast can disturb breeding sites of birds and seal pups. A number of coastal species are threatened on the island. These include the Hooded Plover, which lays its eggs on the beach and on sand dunes. There are only about 150 birds on the island.182 Some vegetation is also susceptible to damage by the trampling of stock and people, particularly in some fragile coastal ecosystems. The number of road kills would also be expected to increase with increases in road traffic.
Accidental fires, as a result of camping and burning on farm lands, may be a serious threat to the Black Glossy Cockatoo as its habitat is adversely affected by extreme fire events. The Cockatoo feeds on the seeds of the Drooping Sheoak and nests in Sugar Gum hollows.183 One of the most important long-term influences on the Drooping Sheoak is the frequency of fire. An increase in fire frequency resulting from increased tourism (stray BBQ's) may detrimentally influence the viability of Sheoak stands.
Roadside vegetation clearing is still taking place as the road network is upgraded to cater, in part, for the pressure of increased tourist numbers. Recently legal action was taken by Kangaroo Island Eco-Action against the District Council of Kingscote over their treatment of roadside vegetation. An area of endangered plant species was disturbed during roadwork even though the Council was aware of their presence. The court action is still proceeding.
Dogs and cats have been responsible for a number of penguin deaths along the foreshore at Kingscote. Dogs that attack penguins in urban areas are usually destroyed. These animals may belong to either visitors or locals, but as tourist numbers increase, there is increased likelihood of this type of disturbance. Domestic cats have very likely had an influence on numbers and distribution of the smaller native animals. It is possible that the southern brown bandicoot and the Kangaroo Island endemic marsupial mouse may be at risk from predation by feral cats.
4.7.3 Ecotourism, resource-use and conservation objectives
Kangaroo Island permanent residents number about 4,000, the main service centres are Kingscote, American River and Penneshaw. Accommodation for tourists is concentrated in these areas, which are all located on the eastern side of the island. Tourists visiting the western end of the island generally return to accommodation at the eastern end. Many island roads are unsealed. There are a small number of ecotourism operations on the island. These are modest operations that cater for tourists seeking a highly interpreted, nature based experience. The market is generally aimed at the top end international market and at tourists who want visits of more than one day.
During 1993 120,000 people visited Kangaroo Island, of these approximately one third of visits were day trips, while two thirds stayed one night or more.184 Up to 100,000 people visit Seal Bay each year with peak levels occurring in December and January. Of these, almost half are on the island as day visitors. During January 1995 there were 18,000 visitors to Seal Bay. It is anticipated by the South Australian Tourist Commission that visitor numbers will reach 180,000 by the year 2000. It is possible that numbers might be as high as 270,000 if marketing and development of the island is effective.
Visitor patterns changed substantially with the introduction of car ferries, and more recently with the introduction of the Super Flyte Ferry (Fast Ferry) transporting passengers only. This ferry, which transports visitors directly to the island from Glenelg, is capable of transporting 500 people a day. It has the capacity to impact on the type of tourism attracted to the island, and on the island community itself. This impact concerns Island residents.
The South Australian Tourism Commission aims to promote Kangaroo Island as a pre-eminent international eco-tourism destination. Tourism Kangaroo Island is responsible for the development, marketing and management of the tourist industry on the island. It has developed the Kangaroo Island Tourism Development Policy, which works towards the development and marketing of an 'ecologically sustainable tourism model.' This encourages a nature based industry, with a low environmental impact and high quality experience. Visitors are encouraged to spend longer than just a day . High delivery transport appears to be in conflict with the tourist model put forward in the Kangaroo Island Tourism Development Policy and the Sustainable Development Strategy for Kangaroo Island.
4.7.4 Existing incentive instruments and mechanisms
Management of the Seal Bay sea lion colony has been undertaken by the National Parks and Wildlife Service since 1972. In 1977, a Management Plan was developed by the National Parks and Wildlife Service to minimise the effects of visitors on the sea-lions, particularly during the breeding season.185 Prior to this, access and facilities were largely the responsibility of Kingscote District Council. During that period, "ad hoc development of the area resulted in considerable erosion of the cliff and sand dune systems, with people inadvertently clambering through significant pup refuge areas".186
To control numbers and protect the animals on the beach, guided tours by rangers and trained tour operators were introduced in 1987 and entry was restricted to those tourists with a guide.187 The National Parks and Wildlife Service has a policy of no more than 100 visitors on the beach at any time. Access to the main beach is by guided tour only; guided tours are of 45 minutes duration and cater for private groups and bus tours of up to 30 people. Some bus operators are trained by National Parks and are permitted to provide the required supervision of their own groups. The coastal areas adjacent to the main beach are Prohibited Areas. Revenue from ticket sales has enabled the improvement of infrastructure at Seal Bay, including a visitors reception centre and boardwalk to the beach.
At peak times it has been necessary to regulate the traffic flow between the picnic area and the beach. The management plan recommended the relocation of roads and carparks, alteration of walking access routes and the provision of observation areas. In addition, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources has proposed a number of new strategies at Seal Bay to cope with increasing visitor numbers in the short term. These include: a new boardwalk to facilitate alternative tours, a tourist shuttle service from the Bales Beach carpark in the peak season to alleviate congestion in the Seal Bay carpark, and a booking system for tour operators.
An island park pass has been developed by the managers of the National and Conservation Parks to facilitate funding for park facility infrastructure and interpretation. Major developments in the parks are limited to high visitation areas, in particular Cape Borda, Cape du Couedic, Remarkable Rocks, the Rocky River Headquarters area and Seal Bay. Developments such as viewing platforms and footpaths are important in mitigating disturbance and damage to the sites and associated flora and fauna. Infrastructure is especially important in controlling the disturbance and allowing safe viewing at the seal colonies.
4.7.5 Preferred mix of incentives
The effects of ecotourism and nature based tourism on Kangaroo Island's biodiversity are likely to be best addressed by a mix of strategies. This study highlights a number of strategies that operate at different levels of government and with a different mix of incentive and regulation. A mix of mechanisms are suggested below, to target factors such as institutional change, regulation, education, specific threats and community empowerment.
The community are in general agreement that the most suitable form of tourism for the island is low impact nature based tourism with longer staying tourists providing money across a broad spectrum of the local community. However, they feel that difficulties arise with this approach when decisions at a State level override those at a local level. A priority is the development of one island management authority with the amalgamation of the two existing councils. This should facilitate the development of island wide biodiversity guidelines and policies and provide a stronger focal group with a responsibility to liaise with other levels of government. Combining resources into one authority should also strengthen the administrative and management capacity.
The availability and distribution of information is considered to be an important factor in developing and reinforcing social attitudes. Baseline information is required to assist decision making. Building instruments and mechanisms onto existing structures such as Landcare could be an effective way of conserving biodiversity on the island. Information should also be available to tourists, tour operators, farmers and the council on the importance of biodiversity conservation. Often people are not aware of the consequences of their actions on the biodiversity values in an area.
Some of the funds required for programs could be funded with the introduction of an environmental levy for visitors arriving on the island. A levy could be made part of the cost of an airfare or ferry fare. Such a levy could also be used as an incentive to encourage longer stays. This would operate by charging a single fee, regardless of the length of stay, or by reducing a daily rate over the visit.
Visitor numbers could be controlled with a ceiling on total visitor pressure at any one time period. This may not necessarily be required for the island as a whole in the immediate future but may be applicable for certain popular sites of interest that are threatened by this visitor pressure. Other options include, first in first served, either by attendance or by advanced booking, a ballot or lottery approach and the use of price. On the grounds of social equity the use of price as a method of exclusion should be avoided. Mechanisms that include regulation or control include:
- regulation and zoning of off-reserve areas to control activities, such as camping, fires and off-road vehicle use, will be necessary in some areas as tourist numbers increase;
- a feral cat eradication program that might also include restrictions on visitors bringing cats to the island; a requirement for all cats to be desexed and registered; a cat curfew; and a subsidised issue of cat traps to the local community;
- possible restrictions on numbers to sensitive sites in peak tourist season; and
- legislation to bind all parties to environmental impact assessments and/or management plans for developments to ensure biodiversity factors are considered before any activity begins. This may also be tied with performance bonds.
Mechanisms that include community empowerment and self regulation include:
- accreditation and licensing of tour operators on the island. Codes of Conduct might be adopted which include criteria and standards of Best Practice for all aspects of tour operation to encourage appropriate interaction between operators, clients and the environment. Commercial operators will be granted licences to operate within the parks. These rights may be offered to private bidders to raise funding for biodiversity conservation;
- enhancement of existing community grant schemes by adding a biodiversity component. Landcare groups are very active on the island. Participation by visitors in environmental island programs should be encouraged; and
- enhancement of existing community schemes to extend these groups by providing additional funding and expert advice to conserve biodiversity.
Kangaroo Island has potential to be used as a pilot study to determine the carrying capacity and population of the island. An overall management structure for the island could be developed to promote the integration of economic opportunities with environmental needs.
Kangaroo Island has some very important areas with high biodiversity value. These areas are prime destinations for nature based tourism and ecotourism. Tourism is being encouraged by the local community and the State government as an important island industry and tourist numbers are projected to increase substantially over the next ten years. Measures will need to be taken to monitor and control the impact of this visitation. An interesting issue exists with some divergence in the type of tourism the Islanders view as best for their community and that which appears to be developing. The community feels a need to regain some control over their future, this will be exaggerated as tourist numbers increase and the impact grows. Being an island offers a special opportunity to define objectives and exert tighter control than may be possible from a mainland region. This indicates Kangaroo Island as an interesting site for a pilot study that considers the carrying capacity, cultural objectives and limits to environmental use. An excellent opportunity exists for developing a management plan to promote the integration of economic opportunities within the boundaries of environmental limits.
This case study of the potential for incentives to promote conservation of biodiversity specifically addresses the potential for nature based and ecotourism (NBE) to act as an incentive for biodiversity conservation. The area considered is the Wet Tropics World Heritage Area (WHA) and surrounding terrestrial region in North Queensland. The Wet Tropics WHA covers approximately 9000 square kilometres and runs in a discontinuous band from north of Townsville almost to Cooktown. Most of the remaining tropical rainforest of this region is included in the Wet Tropics WHA, along with areas of adjacent wet sclerophyll forest and other vegetation assemblages.188
NBE can be defined as visits which focus on nature appreciation, and the infrastructure (park facilities, tours, accommodation, roads etc) which support these visits. NBE can be potentially both of assistance to, and a threat to, biodiversity conservation. The activity can be a threat where visitation of a sensitive area in an uncontrolled manner, results in trampling of vegetation, disturbance of wildlife or extraction of flora or fauna, or involves extensive clearing and pollution. On the other hand, NBE can be carefully sited, utilise site hardening and visitor control, and be based on carefully designed accommodation and infrastructure that minimises clearing and employs practices to minimise impacts of people. There will inevitably be some environmental impacts associated with even well planned and managed NBE in natural areas. However, with care and appropriate limits, these can be managed to be consistent with biodiversity conservation.
NBE can be a positive force for biodiversity conservation on public reserves and private lands when it provides: an income-producing land use on private lands, funds for management of public lands, a rationale for placing extra land in conservation reserves, or a vehicle to increase the appreciation and support of biodiversity values amongst visitors and the local community. NBE also may provide a beneficial role by educating the community about nature and providing some motivation for attitudinal change.
Two questions arise when considering the potential for NBE to provide a means of financing biodiversity conservation. For private lands, the questions is 'Can NBE provide a superior financial return and substitute for other land uses, or does it provide just an additional pressure to clear land?' The ability for NBE to provide an alternative will vary across sites in the region with varying demand for NBE facilities and varying suitability of particular land parcels for different uses. In areas such as north of the Daintree River where the tourism volume is high, substitution of NBE for grazing and horticulture is occurring. For public lands, the question is 'Can NBE deliver the financial means to undertake management to neutralise the impacts of tourism on biodiversity, or even to fund more extensive works for biodiversity conservation?' In the Wet Tropics WHA to date, collected visitor fees have fallen short of the direct costs of management for tourism.
4.8.1 Biodiversity status and threats
The greatest threat to biodiversity conservation in the Wet Tropics region is probably clearing of native vegetation on private land. Agriculture, urban development and tourism which is not nature-based (eg golf courses), all require clearing of native vegetation whereas, by definition all forms of NBE, including accommodation establishments, rely on retaining natural vegetation to the greatest extent possible. Where NBE can provide a viable return on private land and an alternative to other land uses, clearing may be minimised. One unresolved issue however is the extent to which NBE contributes to general pressures on the natural environment of the region from population and services supported by NBE (its 'footprint'). These effects are likely to be removed from the NBE activity itself and difficult to identify.
Surrounding the Wet Tropics WHA, much of the land has been cleared for agriculture and urban uses (including tourism infrastructure). The region includes the cities of Cairns and Townsville plus numerous smaller urban settlements. Some areas of native vegetation remain, and some of these are important in the context of conservation of biodiversity in the region. Much of the remaining native vegetation outside the Wet Tropics WHA is in private ownership and currently this remains under threat from clearing. Potential exists for areas of cleared land that link existing areas of natural vegetation to contribute to biodiversity conservation if revegetated.
The Wet Tropics WHA is of outstanding biodiversity status. The area was inscribed onto the World Heritage List in 1988 in recognition of its international significance. The area is one of about twelve WHAs to meet all four natural heritage criteria for inclusion on the World Heritage List. The Wet Tropics is the only location for over 500 species of plants and 30 species of animals (plus unknown numbers of invertebrates) that are regarded as rare, vulnerable or endangered.189
Clearing constitutes the greatest direct threat to ecosystem diversity in the Wet Tropics region. It has been estimated that 30% to 50% of the vegetation extant at the time of European settlement of North Queensland has been cleared. Extensive clearing on the coastal lowlands has left only 20% of original vegetation, much in fragmented remnants.190 The other significant area of clearing was the Atherton Tablelands and the remaining rainforest is in small isolated patches. The majority of rainforest in the Wet Tropics region is protected in the Wet Tropics WHA. Conservation of rare and threatened species cannot be guaranteed however simply by reservation of the Wet Tropics WHA, for a number of reasons:
- more mobile species such as bats and birds range between the reserved area and areas under greater threat of habitat clearing and modification;
- important populations of some species lie outside the reserved area;
- threatening processes including feral animals, exotic plants, disease and fire can cross reserve boundaries and the biological invaders are already established in the reserved area;
- some of the remnant areas of reserved forest are small fragments of the original vegetation cover and gene pools may not be sufficient for long term species viability;
- activities (including tourism) continue within the Wet Tropics WHA which may exacerbate threats to species and populations; and
- frog species are declining within the Wet Tropics WHA with no obvious cause.
4.8.2 Nature based and ecotourism
Tourism is a major economic activity in the Wet Tropics region. In 1992, tourism contributed 25% of both Gross Regional Product and employment in the Far North Queensland region.191 This region, centred on Cairns, has seen significant growth in tourist numbers and infrastructure over the last decade. Projections to the year 2001 are for a doubling in visitor nights over the 1992 level.192
The Wet Tropics WHA is the location of 4.77 million visits to different sites for tourism and recreation per year.193 Around 50 companies offer regular tours, mainly day trips, to sites in the Wet Tropics WHA. People are also able to visit the Wet Tropics WHA as independent travellers by private car or hire car. This group of visitors includes local North Queensland people plus tourists visiting the region.
There is virtually no commercial accommodation within the Wet Tropics WHA. Camping is allowed, but a number of camping areas are actually adjacent to but outside the WHA. The vast majority of visitors are accommodated outside the WHA, mostly in Cairns. Some accommodation establishments are located close to the Wet Tropics WHA, in the Daintree, Mission Beach and Atherton Tablelands areas. A number of these are promoted as 'ecotourism' facilities.
4.8.3 Existing regulations, incentive instruments and mixes
Within the Wet Tropics WHA, the regulatory environment is directed specifically towards the conservation of natural heritage values and thus towards biodiversity conservation. Strong regulatory measures include the prohibition of activities such as including clearing of vegetation without permission, and the taking fauna. Within the boundaries of the WHA, lands have retained their pre-existing tenure.
The State Forests and Timber Reserves continue to be managed under the Forestry Act 1959 by the Queensland Department of Primary Industries Forest Service. As logging is prohibited in the Wet Tropics WHA, the focus of management is on multiple use, including recreation and tourism. The National Parks are managed by the Queensland Department of Environment and Heritage under the Nature Conservation Act 1992. There are 14 local authorities including two Aboriginal community councils with part of their area in the Wet Tropics WHA.
The Wet Tropics World Heritage Protection and Management Act 1993, a piece of Queensland legislation, establishes the objectives for the WHA and mechanisms to achieve them. Under the Act, the overall management of the Wet Tropics WHA is the responsibility of the Wet Tropics Management Authority. The Authority provides a structure for the coordination of all parties with an interest in the WHA. The Act allows for the participation in management by Aboriginal people 'particularly concerned with the land' through joint management agreements. No such agreements have been drawn up yet.
Management of tourism and recreation in the Wet Tropics WHA utilises a number of strategies. At the broadest level, it is expected that the Wet Tropics Management Plan will delineate the areas in which tourism is permitted and is not permitted. The Plan will be complemented by more detailed Area Management Plans. Currently draft plans have been prepared for a number of areas within the Wet Tropics WHA but are on hold pending the Wet Tropics Management Plan.
Commercial tour operators are obliged under both the Forestry Act and the Nature Conservation Act to hold a permit to conduct commercial tours on Crown Land (except gazetted roads). The land management agencies use the permit system to require operators comply with standard conditions of operation and to set special conditions at certain sites or for certain types of operation.
Private visitors do not require a permit to visit most areas, except those specifically not managed for public visitation. Permits are required for camping. There are no limits placed on the number of private visitors allowed at any site, though limits are proposed by QDPI-FS at a number of sites.194 The provision of signs and interpretive displays are an important component of visitor management.
The Daintree Rescue Package (DRP) is a program of incentives specifically aimed at the conservation of biodiversity and the development of ecologically sustainable tourism in the area north of the Daintree River. The Daintree Rescue Package was formulated to address the potential for clearing of private land and to put the growing tourism industry on a sustainable basis. A significant proportion of the forested area north of the Daintree is in private ownership and was not included in the Wet Tropics WHA, although heritage values in the uncleared areas would generally support World Heritage Listing.195
The DRP is in the early steps of implementation, the measures that relate to private land holders are entirely voluntary. There has been great interest in the buy back scheme but as of May 1995, only one transaction had been completed, 118 land holders have expressed interest in negotiating a Conservation Management Agreement (CMA). The DRP emphasises community support with the delivery of information via an extension program that employs a Cassowary Conservation Officer and a Rainforest Officer. The tourism infrastructure program aims to minimise impacts by providing adequate facilities and encouraging community support with the provision of recreation facilities for locals only.
The primary regulatory control over activities on private lands is though Local Authority planning schemes and regulations. Details of the planning schemes of each Local Authority are different, but in all cases the major tool for control over land use is zoning, accompanied by regulations. The attitudes and approaches of the Local Authorities towards clearing of land differs. At least one Local Authority has the ability to prevent vegetation clearing on private lands. Some Local Authorities are attempting to promote biodiversity conservation through incentive mechanisms. Encouragement of tourism as a land use providing for economic development and conservation is included in some of these approaches (see more detail later). Proactive conservation measures, including tree planting schemes, are practiced in a number of the Local Authority areas.
4.8.4 Preferred mix of incentives
The preferred mix of incentives for the Wet Tropics region should take account of the national and international significance of the biodiversity values in the region. Having a strong regulatory safety-net that underpins other policy opportunities is recommended. This is largely provided by the Wet Tropics WHA. Mechanisms exist to prevent clearing on private land if necessary.
Another priority is the generation of information, including vegetation and fauna audits and species recovery plans to determine what actions are most necessary to achieve biodiversity conservation. This information can be used to design a cost-effective approach to biodiversity conservation. The collection of policy opportunities designed to minimise clearing of private lands is based on the assumption that all native vegetation clearing is a threat to biodiversity. This premise could be better informed with the type of information recommended above.
Opportunities for NBE to provide viable land use alternatives and the attractiveness of the schemes to individual land holders are likely to be variable. The uptake and effectiveness of these options for preventing clearing and encouraging stewardship of land is also likely to be variable. It seems that where high priority for biodiversity conservation has been identified, as in the Daintree, targeted public funding (voluntary buy back, CMAs based on financial or material payments) will be the most effective means of ensuring the outcome desired. The various options described for Conservation Management Agreements are all worth pursuing. Those that do not rely on public funding (tradeable vegetation rights, increased development rights) could be a useful adjunct to publicly funded schemes. Provision of information to land holders via extension may be a cost-effective means of encouraging effective stewardship of private lands under native vegetation.
On public lands, such as those within the Wet Tropics WHA, the regulatory safety net is extended from reservation of lands to planning and setting limits on use. Within these limits, tradeable permits may provide security of access for tour operators and hence an incentive for stewardship of the area. A major benefit claimed from tradeable permits is economic efficiency but this can be only indirectly linked with incentives for biodiversity conservation. Funding of the management necessary to allow tourism to occur with minimal impact is essential for biodiversity conservation. Levying fees on visitors will contribute to funding and free up public funds for other aspects of biodiversity conservation. It is recommended that comprehensive visitor fees be introduced.
The financing of biodiversity conservation is an important issue both from the point of adequacy and equity. The international and national significance of the biodiversity of the Wet Tropics region calls for a significant amount of funding to be provided by the widely dispersed beneficiaries, not just the local community. Some funding is needed to be for actions that will benefit future generations. There is still an argument for the local community to fund actions that deliver economic benefits to the community, especially through NBE.
The argument for Commonwealth Government and State Government stewardship has been recognised in the Wet Tropics region through funding by the Commonwealth Government and the Queensland Government for management of the Wet Tropics WHA and the Daintree Rescue Package. This funding represents a significant injection of resources, but they are intended to be of limited duration. The initial funding for the Wet Tropics WHA included a large component for capital works and the annual appropriation is likely to reduce from next year. It may be necessary to find alternative sources of funds for management in the future and the NBE sector is a likely target.
All of the CMA options described provide tangible economic incentives for biodiversity conservation. Some require outside funding, either from the local community or higher levels of government. A greater ability to engage in NBE is one option provided by several of the incentive mechanisms described. This may be effective in reducing vegetation clearing in some, but not all, cases. The search for cost-effective means of promoting biodiversity conservation is important, measures such as research, extension and encouraging community involvement are a valuable part of any program for biodiversity conservation.
The Wet Tropics region is indisputably an internationally and nationally important area having high biodiversity value. A major contribution to biodiversity conservation is the regulatory safety-net provided by the declaration of the Wet Tropics WHA. The challenge for management of the WHA is to allow the benefits which flow to the community and to visitors from NBE to continue, and grow, in a manner consistent with biodiversity conservation. There is potential to better harness NBE for biodiversity conservation by levying fees on visitors to pay for management.
The major threat to biodiversity conservation outside the Wet Tropics WHA has been identified as clearing of native vegetation on private land. The Daintree area has been identified as particularly important for biodiversity conservation and Commonwealth Government and Queensland Government funds are being made available for a program to reduce the potential for clearing. Other areas of private land within the region are also important for biodiversity conservation. Several mechanisms designed to provide effective incentives to private land holders to minimise clearing have been suggested where outside funds are likely to be limited. Opportunities to engage in NBE are amongst the potential incentives, but NBE has been assessed as unlikely to provide a viable alternative in all cases. NBE itself can potentially threaten biodiversity values but with good design and operation, can be compatible with biodiversity conservation.
The Top End and Kimberley Region of Australia are located in the northern part of the Northern Territory and of Western Australia respectively. This case study presents an analysis of opportunities to use incentives for the conservation of biodiversity, from a nature-based and ecotourism (NBE) perspective in these areas. Since most of the land in this vast region of Australia is either Aboriginal land or Pastoral leases, the case study focuses on tourism and associated threats to biodiversity in these areas. Historically, nature conservation and biodiversity issues have not received a great deal of attention from the pastoral sector. While attitudes are changing, genuine concern for, and understanding of, biodiversity conservation is not a priority of most pastoralists.
In addition to this, increasing pressure from competing interests of, the rapidly developing tourism industry, Aboriginal interests, and conservation interests have developed a conflict situation which needs to be resolved within a regional framework. Such a process was initiated in 1990 with the release for public comment of the Kimberley Region Plan Study Report: A Strategy for Growth and Conservation. Since then, relationships between the vying interests have if anything, deteriorated, and no progress toward conflict resolution, let alone strategic regional planning, has been made. Part of the solution is a full appreciation of the problems and issues facing pastoralists and Aboriginal people today.
4.9.1 Biodiversity status
The Top End and Kimberley region of the wet/dry tropics of northern Australia are characterised by a distinct wet season with mean rainfall of 600-1600 mm over four to seven months, followed by a dry season during which almost no rain falls. The ecology and biodiversity of the wet/dry tropics is markedly different from the humid tropics and adds to the tourism appeal of Australia as a country of diverse environments.
Fragmentation of faunal elements has been a major cause of speciation. For instance, endemism of freshwater fishes, frogs and lizards is high in the Top End and particularly so in the Kimberley region which harbours significant ecological refuges.196 These fascinating areas often harbour large numbers of endemic species, or species or ecosystems which do not occur in the broad sweep of the surrounding environment. Not surprisingly, these are the areas that nature-loving humans seek out and focus on while travelling, particularly in the Kimberley.
Because of its refuges, Morton, et al.,197 have identified most of the Kimberley as being a focus for biological diversity. Many species are regionally endemic and relict populations occur in the sheltered gorges of the beautiful Bungle Bungle massif, the starkly spectacular Oscar and Napier Ranges and probably also the limestone massif in the central Kimberley region. In addition, wetland sites of significance occur in the King Leopold Ranges, Camballin Floodplain of the Fitzroy River, within the Bungle Bungles, at Roebuck Bay, Eighty Mile Beach, Mandora Salt marsh and Tunnel Creek. Specific refugia include the Bungle Bungles, Camballin Floodplain, Roebuck Plains, the Mandora salt marsh, Windjana Gorge, Geikie Gorge, Tunnel Creek and the Edgar Ranges. Most of these areas are also hotspots for tourism.
In terms of vegetation, the coastal saline and freshwater wetlands are the most recently formed and the simplest in terms of biological diversity. For tourism, they offer expansive floodplains traversed by broad, sinuous rivers, and a variety of attractive and navigable waterways and billabongs. In scenic contrast, the widespread eucalypt-dominated communities of the well-drained lowlands are more complex and contain a diverse assemblage of species of mixed origin. The sandstone, often forming spectacular escarpments and cliffs, supports a flora which has features in common with other sandstone floras of Australia and contains relic elements.
The coastal floodplains of the major rivers of the Top End have abundant and easy to observe, wildlife. These coastal floodplains retain the most extensive freshwater swampland in Australia, providing breeding areas, habitat and refuge for important wildlife populations, especially fish, insects, waterbirds and estuarine crocodiles. Structural diversity of habitats beneath the surface of the water is greatest in the deeper channels and billabongs of the flood-plains. Richness of fresh water fishes is highest on these floodplains. The seasonally flooded wetlands, while structurally the simplest habitats, also support a much greater total biomass of terrestrial vertebrates than do the open forests (up to 65 species of waterbirds congregate in millions).
The floodplains of the Mary and Adelaide Rivers sustain an extraordinary abundance of birds, especially waterbirds, of which 65 species have been recorded. The highest known density of breeding of Magpie Geese, occurs in the Adelaide River wetlands. The largest egret rookery of the Northern Territory is located on the coast at Chambers Bay stretching eastwards into the Mary River Conservation Reserve. The White-breasted Sea Eagle, has its highest known breeding concentration in the NT on the Mary River. In addition, a monsoon rainforest patch at Fogg Dam on the Adelaide River has the largest known population of the Rainbow Pitta.
Both the Mary and Adelaide Rivers harbour large populations of Estuarine Crocodiles and support many fish species including Barramundi, Saratoga, Salmon Catfish, and Chequered Rainbowfish. A number of populations of the Primitive Archerfish, are also found in the Adelaide River wetlands.
4.9.2 Tourism, resource use and conservation objectives
For leisure seekers, the lure of the outdoor lifestyle, unspoilt environment and wide open spaces has placed tourism second only to mining as the major income earner for the NorthernTerritory.198 In 1992/3 there were approximately 917,000 visitors to the Northern Territory, with interstate visitors making up 45% of the total. Fifty seven percent of tourists to the NT travel to the Top End. Most people come for holidays or recreation with only a small proportion visiting families or relatives, or visiting for the purpose of business. Visitor expenditure totalled $558 million. By 1998/9 total expenditure is projected to reach $796 million with projected visitor numbers of 1.25 million. The NT tourism industry is characterised by small, under-capitalised enterprises which lack critical mass.199 There are 122 different operators in the Top End offering 357 different tours.200 Virtually all of this product is dependent on the natural environment and Aboriginal culture, with about half providing specific 'ecological' experiences.
Pastoralism is the Kimberley Region's traditional industry and over 50% of the area is still held under pastoral lease. Less than 5% of the Kimberley region is protected and managed as National Parks and Nature Reserves. Visitor numbers to the Kimberley have doubled from 120,000 to 250,000 in nine years to 1990. This statistic does not account for the thousands who travel independently or in safari style tours, fly light planes, or cruise the coast, for which there are no quantifiable data.201 In 1990 there were 40 NBE tour operators based in either Western Australia or interstate, featuring the Kimberley's natural wonders.202
The Northern Territory Tourism Development Masterplan203 (1994) is a five year masterplan which was developed cooperatively by six government departments, including those relating to tourism, conservation, the Office of Aboriginal Development and the Museum and Art Galleries of the Northern Territory. The Masterplan unequivocally recognises natural values as fundamental to tourism and this dependence is reflected throughout it. The plan recognises the intrinsic values of wilderness and wildlife, the need for conservation and land management, that the industry must be sustainable, and that the Territory has a natural advantage in nature-based tourism. It recognises that the need for coordinated and creative planning is paramount with one of the most important issues being to expand the network of parks in order to broaden nature-based tourism opportunities.
4.9.3 Threats to biodiversity values
Most tourism in the Kimberley is currently unmanaged, and since the most used areas are usually on waterholes and biologically significant refuge areas across the region, tourism has the potential to become a significant threat to biodiversity values at these focal points. The range of impacts and potential impacts includes the over-collecting of firewood, water pollution from campers, faecal contamination of sites, litter accumulation, track erosion, vegetation destruction, and other damage.
In the Kimberley Region, land degradation caused by overgrazing is a problem for biodiversity conservation, particularly for the Ord River basin of the eastern Kimberley. This degradation is largely the result of past management practices.204 Altered fire regimes have been implicated in the extinction of small mammals in the arid and semi-arid region of Australia. The situation may not be as severe in the wet/dry tropics although fire can destroy monsoon forest pockets with significant biodiversity and tourism values, and is known to change the species composition in the eucalypt forests and woodlands of the Top End.
Given the unusual situation, particularly in the Top End, that the current threat to biodiversity is relatively low,205 perhaps one of the greatest threats to the region's biodiversity is the current lack of knowledge about it. For instance, in the ten years from 1983, twenty new mammals, reptiles and amphibians have been described and 350 new plants identified.206 A biological survey of the Purnululu National Park (Bungle Bungles) and adjacent areas in 1992,207 for example, produced 12 species of plant new to the Kimberley, and the undescribed reptile species of gecko, a skink and a turtle. Without knowledge of the extent and distribution of species, habitats and ecosystems of the Kimberley and Top End there is no guarantee that plans for the development of so called 'ecologically sustainable tourism' will achieve this objective.
While the Wet-Dry tropics have not yet been so much affected by European settlement as southern and eastern Australia, there are, nevertheless, a number of conservation and management issues which do pose problems at a landscape scale. The introduction of domesticated mammals that have gone feral, comprises one of the most dramatic human impacts on the ecosystems of the Top End and Kimberley region.208 Horse, donkey, pig, camel, and water buffalo all cause management problems in various parts of the region. Exotic weeds are also major problems, especially in the Top End where Mimosa pigra, in particular, spreads quickly to form impenetrable thickets, literally choking the country, and displacing native vegetation. It destroys nesting sites for waterbirds including the Magpie Goose. While clearing has not been significant in the monsoon forests, the introduction of water buffalo, pig and domestic cattle has been devastating; the forest structure has been opened, allowing desiccation and incursion of catastrophic late dry season fires.
Saltwater intrusion into freshwater wetlands, aided by past high populations of water buffalo, inappropriate fire regimes, and lack of a coordinated fire management strategy, and feral animals, particularly cats and pigs, are also threats. The two wetland concept plans also recognise that they are based on incomplete knowledge of the area and that as knowledge increases, adjustments for both planning and management will be required.
4.9.4 NBE and biodiversity on Aboriginal land
Aboriginal people make up more than 20% of the population of the Northern Territory and own or claim about half the total area of the Territory. A National Aboriginal Tour Operators Forum (NATOF) was held in May 1995, with funding support from ATSIC as part of the Draft Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission Tourism Strategy Pilot Projects. The following information was obtained from an early draft of the Proceedings of the NATOF.
Aboriginal tourism has been actively promoted in the Northern Territory for at least the last eight years and some of the first Aboriginal tourism enterprises in Australia were started in the Territory.209 The Northern Territory Tourism Development Masterplan210 also recognised that Aboriginal people have a major stake in tourism but that there are significant barriers to their involvement. These barriers are not outlined in the plan which does, however, propose solutions including the development of training strategies, brokerage of joint venture arrangements, and provision of support and advice.211
At the Forum it was recognised that the main impetus for Aboriginal tourism growth over the past several years has been the extensive national and international tourism marketing campaigns run largely by the Australian Tourist Commission. These campaigns have highlighted Aboriginal culture in marketing the brand-name 'Australia', overseas. It is largely because of this that Aboriginal tourism now has international world appeal. While the marketing effort often misrepresents Aboriginal culture212 in many respects the exposure has catalysed a growing awareness among Aboriginal people themselves of the potential of tourism opportunities. In particular, the potential of tourism opportunities to address unemployment in Aboriginal communities was recognised in the Forum as a rising hope.
The Forum also identified the fact that Aboriginal tourism is fraught with problems. In particular it was recognised that the very nature of the demands of tourism, and the expertise required, is often a barrier to Aboriginal involvement. Other barriers identified in the Forum included 'the inherent racism' of some agents and tour operators and barriers relating to key funding agencies such as inappropriate guidelines, lack of knowledge of Aboriginal tourism and culture, and lack of coordination between the funding agencies. Key needs of Aboriginal tourism operators identified in the Forum include:
- finance that is linked to 3-5 year plans rather than annually (ATSIC currently funds one year projects);
- support for people who are already operating (ATSIC currently funds only community projects and specifically does not fund sole operators even if they have proven potential for success);
- appropriate education and training;
- assistance with product development which has a regional focus; good information flows between departments;
- and sensitivity to cultural and social needs.
The award-winning Manyallaluk tourism enterprise is a part of a community development project which is located within Jawoyn land south of Katherine, though the Manyallaluk community comprises at least four different groups of people who are not traditional owners of the region. Through CDEP funding, the community has initiated many programs including: a general works program; buffalo, landscape, women's and tourism programs. The tourism program has evolved to become the biggest program, and the one around which the community is galvanised.
Murray Dennis, Manyallaluk's manager, believes the success of Manyallaluk is reflected in general social stability, some of the healthiest Aboriginal children in an Aboriginal community anywhere, education, a local store and a huge sense of pride, the value of which is inestimable.213 Apart from the funding received from ATSIC, part of the reason for Manyallaluk's success is clearly Mr Dennis' driving force. It is no secret that, amongst Aboriginal communities, significant initiatives are often driven by individuals. If that person leaves, or leaves too soon to fully train others, then the momentum and initiative often fails.
Mr Dennis attributes the success of Manyallaluk to the fact that the community programs are very practical – very 'hands on' – and, most importantly, to the fact that the community is run like a business. For example the Aboriginal people who build the community's houses are paid on a contractual basis and the community creche is run by salaried Aboriginal women.
The barriers to Manyallaluk's initiatives reflect the barriers presented in the Aboriginal Tour Operator's Forum and result from inflexibility of Government funding agency guidelines and the related lack of education.214 For instance Manyallaluk has been unable to receive funding for training because it does not meet Government agency guideline requirements, which require a minimum number of people learning in a classroom situation.
Nevertheless, without the funding from ATSIC and other agencies, the Manyallaluk success story would not have come about at all. Indeed it is doubtful whether any Aboriginal tourism operation would be viable without subsidies of one sort or another. The same is true for non-Aboriginal small, nature-based and ecotourism operations where subsidisation comes from other enterprises or a spouse may take on a full-time job which subsides their partner who runs a small tourism operation. Given this, it is curious that small, nature-based tour operators, who are often the focus of efforts to extract resources for biodiversity conservation, are precisely those who cannot afford it. Subsidies may be seen as one significant incentive for running a tourism operation. It is to be hoped that in time such activities will become financially independent and viable as the scale of operation expands.
4.9.5 Preferred policy mix
This case study investigated the use of incentives for the protection of biodiversity in the context of nature-based and ecotourism, from three different perspectives: the dedication and management of conservation reserves; pastoral activity on private and public lands; and traditional land management on Aboriginal land. One objective is to maximise the level of biodiversity protection at minimum cost to government. The most cost-effective incentives are those aimed at helping users of the natural environment to realise that proper management and protection of natural ecosystems can have significant commercial and social benefits. The economic benefits of NBE can supplement those from traditional activities, and may often exceed them. Educational programs and extension services are an effective means of achieving this objective.
Pastoral lessees have an important role in managing tourism. In the Kimberley their role is fundamental to the development of appropriate access and infrastructure throughout the region. A suite of integrated incentives could be developed which encourages good management practices throughout the Kimberley and which can be tied to biodiversity conservation issues.
Some incentives can be demonstrated to have mutual benefits for land managers, the NBE industry, and at the same time protecting biodiversity. For example, land rate concessions or reductions in lease payments can be given for agreed land management practices. Easements can be agreed to between government and landowners to allow rights of access by tourism operators.
Performance bonds are an effective means of ensuring that the resources are available to rectify environmental damage, should it be caused by land users. A direct incentive can be introduced by awarding performance credits and lowering the amount of guaranteed finance, on the basis of demonstrated best practice.
Other incentives can yield mutual gains to government, tourism operators and land managers. Adoption of the user pays principle for National Parks is one such mechanism, in the form of entry fees, commercial permits and payment for management services and infrastructure. Part of the revenue can be appropriated for programs in environmental and biodiversity protection. While the dedication of areas specifically as National Parks can be expected to support a prosperous NBE industry, a long-term view may have to be taken to appropriate the full benefits. Stronger efforts should thus be made to strengthen incentives for off-reserve biodiversity conservation.
Where private interests have user rights on public land, for example for tourism or pastoral activity, revenue-sharing arrangements can be a positive incentive, particularly when linked to management plans and offsets for habitat improvement. Performance bonds, while not directly protecting the environment, can be designed to achieve continual improvement in land management practices.
Other incentives may involve some financial loss by governments – such as rate concessions for the maintenance of natural habitats on private lands, reduced lease payments in exchange for prescribed habitat management practices, and direct grants for land improvement programs.
There may be a case for initial subsidisation of certain kinds of activities, such as tourism or wildlife management based on Aboriginal culture, provided there are spinoffs by way of demonstration effects to encourage biodiversity conservation on a wider scale.
The problems of land management in the Top End and Kimberley deal with diffuse, landscape-scale influences acting on a largely intact system, rather than on fragments of a modified landscape. As a result, tourism and biodiversity values in this region are high. The ecological differences are accompanied by differences in culture and land use. For instance, a significant proportion of land comprises Aboriginal land, and landscape-scale management occurs on pastoral lands. Some incentives which may be applicable to closely settled farmlands of eastern Australia may have little relevance here and in other 'outback' areas of Australia.
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