State: TAS | Hectares: 335 | IUCN Category: IV | Partners: King Family
In Tasmania, a farmer is showing that conserving parts of your land doesn't stop you earning a living from it.
For more than 100 years, Geoff King's family has been running beef cattle on Tasmania's windswept north-west coast. But Geoff had a wake-up call when wildlife biologist Nick Mooney visited one of his three properties - Kings Run, a 335 hectare sea-front block where Geoff grazed his cattle over winter.
"The first thing Nick pointed out - that really struck home - was that Kings Run was on the migratory route of the orange-bellied parrot and that there were only 150 to 200 of them left in the world," Geoff says." The parrot feeds on a number of species along the foreshore. I realised when my cattle came down here, one of the first things they did was go down to the foreshore and eat those plants."
Geoff and his wife Margo were struck by the importance of what they had on their land and started looking at ways to keep the foreshore and its wildlife healthy. They removed cattle from Kings Run and signed a voluntary conservation covenant with the Tasmanian Government, agreeing to look after native habitat along the coastline. The covenant is perpetual, so no matter who owns the land in the future the habitat will always be protected.
"We wanted to find a way of preserving those natural values through time, no matter who owned the land," Geoff says. "The covenant makes sure of that, so it was exactly what we wanted."
The Tasmanian Farmers and Graziers Association helped Geoff develop a conservation management plan for his property, identifying what species were important and how he could protect them while still making an economic return.
These days Geoff and Margo still earn a living from Kings Run - but now it's the foundation for a thriving ecotourism business. Kings Wildlife Tours attracts visitors from all over the world to see the property's spectacular coastline and its nocturnal wildlife, including the famed Tasmanian Devil.
"I host small groups who come to visit and we have 'Devil Restaurant' night-spotting experiences, watching the devils come and feed," Geoff says. "It's all carefully worked out so it's sustainable - we make sure we don't go more than five times a fortnight, so the devils don't get reliant on us feeding them. I didn't have to do or invest anything to move into wildlife tourism - the birds and animals that people want to see are all naturally here and by covenanting the land we're helping things stay that way.
"Our covenant hasn't stopped us making a living from our land - in fact it's helped us. I'm earning a profit from the property in a new sustainable business and there've been some great economic spin-offs for my neighbours in the local shops and B&Bs as well."