Biodiversity publications archive

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


A policy framework

General Recommendation 1

That consistent with agreed government policy, Commonwealth and State Governments develop and implement a plan of action to expand the terrestrial and marine protected areas network so that it is comprehensive, adequate and representative of Australia's biodiversity.

Specific Recommendation 1.1

That the target of completing the protected area network by the year 2000 be maintained and that funds be set aside to complete this task.

Specific Recommendation 1.2

That funds be set aside to manage the existing protected area network and that the budget for its expansion include an allocation for adequate management.

General Recommendation 2

That Commonwealth, State and local governments develop an integrated package for the conservation of biodiversity "off-reserves" that makes use of incentive instruments and mechanisms and contains implementation timelines that support and stimulate community-based initiatives.

General Recommendation 3

That in the formulation of Commonwealth, State, regional and local development programs, protection of biodiversity is recognised explicitly as a goal which is as important as economic development.

Opportunities for building institutional capacity

General Recommendation 4

That governments devolve greater responsibility for biodiversity protection to local communities and industries.

General Recommendation 5

That governments at all levels use and adapt existing administrative structures to include explicit consideration of the protection of biodiversity.

General Recommendation 6

That Commonwealth, State and local governments review existing and proposed community-based and regional development programs to ensure that, consistent with the principles of ESD, each makes explicit the need to maintain biodiversity values.

Specific Recommendation 6.1

That, as biodiversity conservation is one of the 3 core objectives agreed for ecologically sustainable development, the Commonwealth Government require explicit consideration of biodiversity implications in all Commonwealth Cabinet proposal papers and that it encourage States to adopt the same practice.

Specific Recommendation 6.2

That governments at all levels encourage staff transfers between government agencies to improve communication and understanding between professionals working in related but different disciplines, and to encourage multi-disciplinary approaches to biodiversity problem solving.

General Recommendation 7

That government agencies at all levels develop biodiversity conservation programs which involve members of the community and industry in initiating, designing and implementing projects.

Specific Recommendation 7.1

That governments at all levels make far greater use of co-management structures as a means to make decisions about resource use.

Specific Recommendation 7.2

That in anticipation of greater devolution of responsibility to industry, peak resource industry bodies develop protocols and structures which encourage members at all levels in their structure to interact with both communities and other industries affected by biodiversity considerations.

Specific Recommendation 7.3

That through the Council of Australian Governments, the Australian Local Government Association and the Municipal Conservation Association, Regional Organisations of Councils (ROCs) be encouraged to include the conservation of regional biodiversity among their priority objectives.

Specific Recommendation 7.4

That governments at all levels reimburse community representatives for the costs of formal participation in consultation processes associated with biodiversity protection.

General Recommendation 8

That both within its own programs and in collaboration with State and local governments, the Commonwealth Government encourage the delineation of bioregional boundaries appropriate to the various aspects of planning within each region.

Specific Recommendation 8.1

That bioregions be used as the basis on which to develop the information necessary to ensure that ecosystem biodiversity is protected.

Specific Recommendation 8.2

That information on the biodiversity within each bioregion be included in all stages of strategic and land-use planning at local level.

General Recommendation 9

That much greater emphasis be given to the role of local government in conserving biodiversity, and this be achieved by making them more accountable for the effects of their decisions on biodiversity.

Specific Recommendation 9.1

That the Commonwealth and State governments specify which areas require special management arrangements and set formal targets for the conservation of biodiversity at the local level.

Specific Recommendation 9.2

That the formulas used to allocate money to local government be reviewed with a view to reimbursing them for some of the costs of conserving biodiversity in their area. The revised formula should take into account:

Specific Recommendation 9.3

That local governments be asked to provide annual biodiversity audits which demonstrate their progress towards protection of biodiversity, and that the data generated be used in the development of the Commonwealth Government Grants Commission funding 'formula'.

General Recommendation 10

That non-government organisations be adequately resourced to enable their greater use as a cost effective means to implement biodiversity conservation programs.

Specific Recommendation 10.1

That government agencies, both State and Commonwealth, ensure that adequate resourcing is provided by way of research support, travel costs, sitting fees and other cost reimbursement, to enable community participation in all aspects of policy development and implementation for the conservation of biodiversity.

Specific Recommendation 10.2

That funding bodies support Aboriginal people who are carrying out biodiversity conservation initiatives, by removing the disincentive of funding only communities but not individuals.

Specific Recommendation 10.3

That ATSIC funding for land management and tourism plans be provided on a 3-5 year basis (rather than annually) and that ecological sustainability criteria be included in those plans.

Specific Recommendation 10.4

That Aboriginal tourism programs funded by ATSIC, DEET and the Department of Tourism be linked with other regional programs in which biodiversity conservation forms a basis, such as the innovative 'Land and Learning' and Galtha Rom multimedia projects used to teach school children in east Arnhem Land.

Developing a range of incentive instruments

General Recommendation 11

That where information is lacking, instruments which increase the extent and relevance of research be used as one of the main mechanisms to enhance dependable, efficient and equitable biodiversity conservation.

Specific Recommendation 11.1

That the terms of reference of the Land and Water Resources Research and Development Corporation and other relevant R&D Corporations be expanded to include biodiversity criteria among those used to allocate research funds.

Specific Recommendation 11.2

That a Biodiversity Research and Development Corporation be established under the auspices of the Commonwealth Environment portfolio to expand the allocation of funds directed to biodiversity research and to work in collaboration with other R&D Corporations.

Specific Recommendation 11.3

That local extension and State agency staff be encouraged to have a greater involvement in bringing end-user views to the setting of research priorities, and as members of research teams.

Specific Recommendation 11.4

That the $500,000 limit on the amount of money necessary to obtain a 150% tax deduction for syndicated research be lowered to $100,000 for research projects on matters related to the protection of biodiversity and approved by the Minister for Environment.

General Recommendation 12

That information on biodiversity be made accessible and relevant at the local level and, wherever possible, delivered by people having credibility with the target audience.

Specific Recommendation 12.1

That the Commonwealth, in association with the states, fund a biodiversity awareness campaign, to include:

Specific Recommendation 12.2

That the existing work of both ERIN and NRIC be extended to provide an information base on ecosystem status at the bioregional and local level, and that it be made compatible with existing state government databases and made available for incorporation as an integral part of the planning process from an early stage.

Specific Recommendation 12.3

That the Commonwealth Government continue to resource the Community Biodiversity Network and other community-based networks seeking to expand public awareness of and participation in biodiversity conservation.

Specific Recommendation 12.4

That State and local governments encourage the creation of local biodiversity monitoring groups, and the participation of other community groups in monitoring activities by employing biodiversity extension officers with a mandate to undertake this work.

Specific Recommendation 12.5

That the Commonwealth government support the long-term employment of biodiversity extension officers by state and local governments on a cost sharing basis.

Specific Recommendation 12.6

That existing research and extension programs be expanded to highlight the economic value of local native species as saleable products, as well as the benefits of remnant vegetation to the farming system.

General Recommendation 13

That award programs which extend community awareness and understanding be expanded to encourage communities to protect, develop and restore biodiversity values.

General Recommendation 14

That governments at all levels establish, sponsor and develop and extend voluntary mechanisms for biodiversity protection, particularly in circumstances where these can be targeted and involve low monitoring costs.

Specific Recommendation 14.1

That governments develop and extend programs which give ongoing encouragement and advice to landholders who are committed to biodiversity conservation, and which make uncommitted landholders aware of the social, environmental and economic benefits which can be obtained from biodiversity conservation.

Specific Recommendation 14.2

That property management plans, used as a prerequisite for some forms of government assistance, be required to include specific actions to prevent the loss of biodiversity values.

Specific Recommendation 14.3

That an accreditation process, which includes biodiversity criteria, be used to reduce the costs for land holders who wish to participate in drought assistance and other programs that affect biodiversity values and generally to provide incentive and encourage to Australia's leading land managers.

Specific Recommendation 14.4

That the eco-tourism industry develop accreditation schemes and voluntary codes of practice which include criteria relating to the conservation of biodiversity and which offer financial advantage to participating operators.

Specific Recommendation 14.5

That the Commonwealth and States jointly develop a roadside vegetation and corridor enhancement program.

General Recommendation 15

That management agreements be used as the prime mechanism for reimbursing people for the cost of site specific works of a non-market nature.

Specific Recommendation 15.1

That management agreements be used as a transitional means to obtain voluntary acceptance of the need to conserve biodiversity but, wherever possible, be phased out once this transition has been achieved.

Specific Recommendation 15.2

That state conservation agencies investigate the use of management agreements with local landholders to undertake specified management actions within public conservation reserves.

Specific Recommendation 15.3

That state conservation agencies investigate the use of management agreements with local landholders to undertake specified management actions on private land adjacent to public conservation reserves.

General Recommendation 16

That conservation covenants be used to underpin management agreements to ensure that the long-term benefits of work implemented under an agreement are realised.

Specific Recommendation 16.1

That, as many of the benefits of biodiversity conservation are long term, all conservation covenants should be in perpetuity.

Specific Recommendation 16.2

That the perverse effects of rating systems on vegetation clearance be reduced by recording the presence of conservation covenants and easements in land valuation data files and indicating on land valuation notices that the valuation has been adjusted to account for this.

Specific Recommendation 16.3

That where land tax or rating systems can not be adjusted to recognise restrictions on use or clearance of native vegetation, land holders be reimbursed for the difference between the assumed and actual land-use potential. This rebate should be in proportion to the difference between the rated value and the actual value of the land. If the restrictions are changed then the value of the rebate should be repaid to government. Wherever possible, rate rebates should only be paid for land protected by a conservation covenant or other similar mechanism.

Specific Recommendation 16.4

That the Commonwealth government fund State conservation-covenant acquisition and management agreement programs on a cost sharing basis.

Specific Recommendation 16.5

That state governments implement and where necessary enact legislation that empowers local governments and non-government organisations to acquire and hold conservation covenants and easements and enter into management agreements. Dealings of this nature should be exempt from stamp duty.

General Recommendation 17

That in the design of licence systems, emphasis be placed on dependability in protecting biodiversity in an efficient and equitable manner.

Specific Recommendation 17.1

That tradeable licence and permit systems be linked to periodically revised bioregional or ecosystem management plans and be designed to maximise the incentive to protect biodiversity.

Specific Recommendation 17.2

That for the purpose of raising acceptance of the use of property-rights systems as a means to protect biodiversity values, the Taxation Commissioner make it unequivocally clear that any new individually-tradeable property rights associated with property held before 20 September 1985 will be exempt from capital gains tax.

Specific Recommendation 17.3

That licences, leases and permits to use biodiverse resources be conditional, and resource security be limited to those who comply with these conditions.

Specific Recommendation 17.4

That the mechanisms being developed for the establishment of water allocations for the environment under the National Water Industry Reforms adequately reflect the need to maintain biodiversity values.

Specific Recommendation 17.5

That additional funding be provided to current research programs to ensure scientific determination of adequate timing and volume of water flows to be delivered to the environment.

Specific Recommendation 17.6

That conservation easements be promoted as a mechanism to enable tourist access to private land and provide incentives to the landholder to maintain biodiversity values.

General Recommendation 18

That all incentive mixes be underpinned by a set of 'safety net' regulations to catch the recalcitrant few not persuaded by positive instruments.

General Recommendation 19

That each level of government set precautionary standards and use precautionary regulations to protect those aspects of biodiversity for which it is accountable.

Specific Recommendation 19.1

That no level of government should undermine the precautionary standard set by another level of government, or a community or industry.

Specific Recommendation 19.2

That the onus and cost of providing the information necessary to assess whether or not precautionary standards are achieved be placed on the party proposing action that may threaten biodiversity values.

Specific Recommendation 19.3

That the Commonwealth introduce Biological Diversity Conservation legislation, using the model developed by the Australian Committee of IUCN as a basis for consultation.

Specific Recommendation 19.4

That the Commonwealth and state governments amend existing legislation to ensure that development proposals consider the impacts on endangered and vulnerable species and ecological communities, and that cumulative impacts of development on other aspects of biodiversity within a region are also considered as part of comprehensive environmental impact assessment.

Specific Recommendation 19.5

That endangered and vulnerable species, endangered ecological communities and threatening processes within the marine environment be added to the schedules of the Endangered Species Protection Act 1992.

General Recommendation 20

That 'any person' be allowed to appeal against contestable decisions made under biodiversity conservation legislation.

Opportunities to finance biodiversity conservation

General Recommendation 21

That in the interests of biodiversity conservation Commonwealth, State and local governments make greater efforts to apply the Polluter-Pays and User-Pays Principle.

Specific Recommendation 21.1

That some of the money collected through pollution charges be allocated to biodiversity conservation.

Specific Recommendation 21.2

That water prices be adjusted to reflect the full cost of supply.

General Recommendation 22

That wherever necessary, industry and community contributions to the costs of protecting biodiversity be supplemented by those supplied from government sources.

General Recommendation 23

That levies and charges be used so that identifiable direct beneficiaries of biodiversity conservation recognise the full costs of supplying services to them.

Specific Recommendation 23.1

That levies and charges be used as the main means to recover the cost of providing access to nature based and ecotourism.

Specific Recommendation 23.2

That entrance fees to public National Parks and Nature Reserves should at least reflect the cost of supplying visitor facilities and infrastructure but the cost of supplying non-use benefits should not be levied against visitor fees.

Specific Recommendation 23.3

That a Roadside Vegetation and Corridor enhancement program, be developed by State and Commonwealth governments and be financed through a levy on funds directed to road and other infrastructure development and maintenance.

General Recommendation 24

That perverse incentives be removed or mitigated as a precursor to the introduction of a range of positive incentive mechanisms.

Specific Recommendation 24.1

That publicly-funded assistance programs – such as those used for drought assistance, rural adjustment and production support for sugar – use cross-compliance mechanisms to ensure that these programs do not have perverse effects on biodiversity conservation.

Specific Recommendation 24.2

That the existing opportunity for land holders to claim a 20% rebate on expenditure on prevention of land degradation be restricted to that identified in an approved management plan which also considers opportunities to protect biodiversity and the means to reduce threats to biodiversity values.

Specific Recommendation 24.3

That when vegetation is cleared using a farmer's own equipment and labour, these 'land development' costs be depreciated in a manner similar to other capital developments and not written-off in the year that expenditure occurs.

Specific Recommendation 24.4

That the list of eligible land care expenditure be expanded to include the cost of habitat rehabilitation and tree planting off-farm so farmers are encouraged to contribute to the cost of controlling threats like dryland salinity and its upland source.

General Recommendation 25

That revenue raised for the purpose of financing biodiversity conservation be placed in conservation funds managed by the community or industry that raised that money.

Specific Recommendation 25.1

That revenue raised through the use of charges and levies as a means to pay for pollution control and prevention costs be allocated to that purpose in a transparent manner.

Specific Recommendation 25.2

That revenue raised through charges and levies on industry for the purpose of biodiversity conservation be allocated to that purpose in a transparent manner.

General Recommendation 26

That taxation incentives be recognised as the most cost-effective means of encouraging altruistic investments in biodiversity conservation by the private sector, especially when implemented in association with non-government organisations.

Specific Recommendation 26.1

That the 20% rebate for the cost of work on buildings and structures recorded on a prescribed heritage list and approved by the Minister for Communication and the Arts be extended to include work approved by the Minister for the Environment on the rehabilitation or protection of areas identified as being of significance for biodiversity conservation.

Specific Recommendation 26.2

That donations of land to approved environmental organisations and for the purpose of extending Australia's conservation network be deductible from assessable income irrespective of the date when the land was purchased.

Specific Recommendation 26.3

That the Income Tax Assessment Act 1936 be amended to include donations of conservation covenants or easements to the Nation of Australia or an organisation listed on the Register of Environmental Organisations.