Friday, March 09, 2007

Will the Australian Government PAY for Environmental Stewardship??

Australia Thursday, 8 March 2007

Farmers could soon be paid 100pc of the cost of managing their own land for the environment under a new "stewardship" program which has just been given a tick by the Federal Government.
This week's announcement comes after years of lobbying by the farm sector for government and public recognition that there is a high cost of managing farm land to a high environmental standard for "the public good". It represents a "fundamental shift" in environmental management in Australia, from a regulatory approach to an incentive-based regime.
Federal Minister for Agriculture, Peter McGauran, told this week's ABARE Outlook conference in Canberra that Cabinet has approved the scheme. It is now going through the final budget allocation process before being formally unveiled in May. The NFF is welcoming the announcement, but is cautious, given a similar government endorsement for a stewardship scheme prior to last year's budget. Mr McGauran said it was essentially a "purchase of environmental services". He emphasised this stewardship program was not in the same vein as the European farm payment environment subsidy program. Nor would it be compensation for the productivity losses incurred by farmers due to State-imposed native vegetation or land clearing restrictions. It will be a scheme in addition to existing environmental programs and existing partnerships, such as Landcare, National Heritage Trust funding. Mr McGauran said, "This is the government and the community purchasing these environmental management services. It's not about the farmer deriving the benefit."Farmers would retain freehold title ownership of the land, as long as a contract existed between the government and the farmer for a specific portion of property set aside for conservation. "It's a fairly straight forward, simple payment for property that needs to be conserved but he or she can't afford to, or there are some practices needed on a property which can't be afforded, and the community will pay to do that. "NFF natural resources manager, Vanessa Findlay, said this was not a "lock up and leave it" concept. It would not mean erecting a fence and walking away to leave it to weeds and feral animals to take over. She also explained that while this was for public good, the conservation areas would not become public property, or national park.

SOURCE: Rural Press weekly agricultural papers March 8, updated daily on FarmOnline.

This has monumental implications for many areas of northern Australia, eg wetlands throughout arid Australia on pastoral lands and many other sites potentially involving some joint management objectives and much, much more, especially on larger pastoral properties as well as others, even magpie geese in mangoes [ afterall, magpie goose numbers are in decline, although the photo does not really show that]. The scheme may well provide a real incentive in $$$ for land owners. BUT.......the devil will be in the detail, and how many $$ are going to be available.

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