Submission

To: Land and Biodiversity Discussion Paper

Made: June 2007

Policy Question

Sub-question

Response

What are the environmental, social and economic values provided by healthy land and biodiversity?

What values do different land and sea uses have to the community?

There is growing appreciation of natural environments among landholders and scarcity is increasing their value. The rush to live in coastal environments is an indicator of high environmental and social values associated with this environment.
Knowledge of natural systems and native wildlife is increasing because of programs such as the NHT and Envirofund.  Climate change and drought, by impacting on local communities, is raising awareness and appreciation.

How do communities value landscape and seascape as a whole?

Rural communities probably value lightly timbered agricultural landscapes with views more highly than thick bush, partly due to the perceived/real fire threat from National and State Parks and other bush areas.

In the same way they also value permanent wetlands over ephemeral ones, the former having more recreational and tourist uses and the latter more biodiversity uses.

People generally place a high value on access to, or a view of the sea or other water body. 

Closeness to or interaction with water is seen to have a spiritual / calming aspect. 

There are fewer people who value landscapes in terms of their ecological intactness.

What are the different ways biodiversity is valued?

Social:
High value is placed on access to, or a view of, water.  Water has a mood altering effect and offers a chance for reflection. 
Pleasant “natural” surroundings such as bushland or wetlands encourage interaction with the environment by means of physical activity eg. walking, boating, fishing, swimming.  These activities are good for both physical and mental health and social interaction.

Environmental:
People appreciate the experience of a biodiverse environment, either an indigenous or a farmed environment, and they appreciate a range of flora and fauna.
More complex and balanced systems are likely to display considerable biodiversity.
There are benefits to the global environment of a healthy soil which is managed sustainably and can embed large quantities of carbon.
A growing proportion of the community is seeing an imperative in optimising biodiversity vigor for both economic and social sustainability.

Economic:
Land values increase where surroundings are seen to be diverse and pleasant.
Value of ecosystem services provided by a healthy and biodiverse environment such as clean water reaching waterways and biological control of insect pests.
Value of healthy, biodiverse soil allowing for lower artificial inputs to cropping and grazing systems.
Carbon trading / carbon credits add value to land.

How can we define an ecologically sustainable landscape or seascape?

One that has enough vegetation cover so that is not eroding excessively, that sustains a range of native plants and animals and provides a living for rural communities.
One that is increasing its total carbon store (soils and vegetation).

In its simplest form it is one where the ecological processes are functioning well (ecosystem services) and harvest from the system is within the capacity of the system to indefinitely sustain (land capability).

Soil status and condition (perhaps it could be termed health) will be the key indicator. This is in recognition that the soil environment is where ecosystem services are housed. The above-ground ecosystem is just a reflection of what is happening in the below ground ecosystem.

How should we manage rare and threatened species and respond to threatening processes?

The only cost effective way to manage rare and threatened species is to preserve ecosystems and evc’s on a landscape scale. That is, don’t wait until species are rare. Any patch of intact native vegetation is worthy of preservation as it supports a range of species; some that move through and others that are permanent residents. There may be some cases where cost effective intervention can save rare or threatened species (eg a nest box program and multi purpose revegetation works that also assist Red Tailed Black Cockatoos long-term food and breeding requirements).

Currently these remnants are not valued highly enough by the community to adequately protect them.

Research to learn more about behaviour and habitat requirements of rare and threatened species.

Monitor for population trends so action can be taken at first sign of a problem.

Landscape planning to incorporate significant habitat corridors with attendant systems to deal with tenure, rehabilitation, management and funding.

How do we deal with trade-offs between competing environmental, economic and social outcomes?

Place higher values on environmental outcomes by creating markets for preservation and environmental services.

Education of general populace so they can better understand the economic value of a healthy and biodiverse landscape.

Ensure that all economic and social planning cover the “free” (hence un-costed)  externalities.

What impacts will climate change have on these values?

How will we deal with the impacts of climate change on catchments and coastal ecosystems?

In south east Australia we have already noted the impact of climate change on biodiversity values as grazing industries are being replaced by cropping in response to climate and economic pressures. An example is the severe impact on remaining native grasslands in Western Victoria.

Perhaps we should be a bit more flexible about species funded in revegetation works. We should concentrate on waterways that link naturally and provide safe corridors, wetlands and links with remnant veg on Crown and private land. Remember that waterways have inherently more biodiversity than ecosystems away from waterways.
 
By
1. retaining land in well vegetated condition ie. not overgrazed and managed with perennial deep-rooted pastures, cropping systems which encourage stubble retention, or trees and shrubs, to ensure there is some ground cover all year round
and
2. ensuring waterways are protected from grazing and erosion by fencing and revegetation,
damage from excessive wind and intense rainfall events will be minimised, and there will be a buffering capacity to reduce damage from long dry periods and extreme weather events.

It will be necessary to have a land management system which has the flexibility to deal with inexorable change. It will require innovative and positive thinking and will need to cover property and tenure boundaries as much as land uses and management techniques.

How will we deal with increasing fire risks, and the effects this will have on biodiversity?

Encourage diversity in farm landscapes Well placed windbreaks can slow or stop fires. 
Use of strategic grazing to reduce fuel loads in patches in conserved low lying areas to stop fires if they start.
Have an EMS plan for farms that has a fire plan as part of the integrated farm plan. It should not rely on external firebreaks on Crown land such as ploughing roadsides
Rather than trying to put up barriers to fire, the approach perhaps is to take it as a given and look for advantageous ways of harnessing it.

 

How can we manage the impact of increased drought, floods and temperature rises on native species and introduced domestic animals and plants as well as pest species?

An effective way to reduce drought impact on broadacre farms is to change the mix of cropping and grazing enterprises (preferably incorporating high value clearwood farm forestry).

Again flexibility of approach to increase the range of options is an integral part of the answer. True risk management approaches have to be deployed in terms of alternative strategies with trip points on these to determine the time to move from one strategy to the next.

What short and long term approaches are needed to ensure we develop a holistic response to the impacts of climate change?

Monitor success and failure of all previous works, adapt and adopt new techniques / systems / species.   Evaluate and learn!

Consider new fire prevention strategies/actions and monitor success.

Water availability and quality are critical
Long-term strategies for security of supply – collection and storage of run off; access to bore water.
Current arrangements for allocation of water are not sustainable. 
Whole system needs to be reviewed to ensure each catchment can survive as a sustainable entity with the water it can reasonably access.
Allowance for domestic, agricultural and industrial water usage allocated only AFTER allowance is made for environmental flow – ie environment has priority over all other uses.

Proper integration of the land management approaches. Uncoordinated individual action will not work.

What are the other threats and opportunities?

What opportunities and challenges are presented by demographic changes in regional and rural areas?

Challenges to family farms with unfair MIS bluegum investments.

We need to make rural living attractive for all age groups. Currently there are many baby boomers who have no succession pathway as the younger generation are not interested in a lifestyle with low disposable income and hard work in unpredictable weather and markets.

Opportunities exist with patient capital input from Super Funds.

Opportunity for “lifestyle oriented” population increase in rural areas.  Self employed or tele-commuting workers or retirees who prefer a rural environment rather than the city.
Challenge to manage this potential population increase of tree changers and sea changers sustainably.

The principles of covenanting could be extended to new (and existing) land managers to be used to balance (and enunciate) the concepts of; duty of care; cost sharing; and property rights.

How do we meet the demands of an increasing population within the ecologically sustainable boundaries of our land and water resources?

Basically, both rural and urban people need to become more efficient in the way resources are used.  If the real cost of providing food and energy resources were reflected in prices paid, there would be automatic adjustment.

If we all farmed sustainably then the demands of the population should fall in behind. That is, urban expectations of lifestyle and consumption habits need to change. The recent analysis of newly constructed houses is a good example. We are building 5 star disasters using excessive amounts of embedded energy and then ongoing excessive energy consumption to live in palaces. This is not sustainable especially if we pay prices reflecting real costs. In terms of eating meat ...consumers need to pay more to reflect the full cost of producing meat (10 times energy cf growing crops).

The cost-price-squeeze is much more dominant for ecoservice commodities than for agricultural commodities. Until economic pricing can cover all externalities we are not going to make it.

Dwellings need to be smaller and more energy efficient.  Development of homes with shared resources eg. shared gardens, swimming pools, heating, driveways.

Water use efficiency built in to all domestic and business premises including farms.

Farm crops and pasture to use species and cultivation methods which increase water use efficiency.  Maximise research and extension efforts to assist with this.

Ornamental plantings to use indigenous or other species with low water requirements.

 

How do we best manage our landscapes in a competitive global market?

Need more planning control on landuse.change..Current arrangements are letting the horse bolt in terms of protecting water resources and communities eg blue gums and crops such as canola which have a high water use.

Promotion of a “clean, green, sustainable image will appeal to overseas markets.  This image should be the reality, not just promotional spin.

What opportunities do water trading and a possible carbon trading market present?

Water and carbon trading put a value on natural resources which can then be reflected in price.

Carbon trading provides limited opportunities for mixed native vegetation windbreak situations (high transaction costs cf carbon sink and potential rewards). We need to measure soil carbon and improve farming techniques and trade the increased carbon on broad acreages. This (measuring carbon) doesn’t have to be rocket science!

Water trading will allow restoration of riparian areas and hopefully floodplains on a large scale and irrigation land degraded by salinity.

What impacts might these have on biodiversity?

Reducing stocking rates and reduced reliance on artificial fertilizers, increasing cropping component and retaining stubbles, with an increased awareness and practice of biological farming will have a positive impact on biodiversity.

Retiring salt affected land has some biodiversity benefits in terms of vegetation and associated lifeforms where a range of salt tolerant plants volunteer.

Protective legislation is required to prevent negative environmental impacts such as clearing native vegetation to get higher carbon sequestration and trading environmental flows out of a catchment.

 

How do we deal with broader landscape threats including salinity, pests, weeds, and soil acidity in a time of climate change?

Dryland salinity will not be a significant landscape threat with climate change although fixing the already ruined wetlands will be a legacy that will be difficult to deal with.

Soil acidity problems disappear if farmers are making an adequate living as they can then afford to purchase and spread lime.

Continue enforcing pest plant and animal (ppa) issues under CALP Act will solve most ppa issues.

What are the main issues in managing the impact of land use on river and estuarine health, aquifers, coastal water quality and the reliability of water for consumption?

Controlling landuse via planning overlays etc.

More realistic assessments of ground and surface water resources and then adequate allowance for the environment...do not over allocate water rights...be conservative.

Importance of healthy soil, pasture and crops with a good cover of vegetation to reduce silting and other contamination of waterways.

Stringent control and severe penalties for accidental or deliberate contamination of waterways.

What are the main issues affecting the long-term ecological sustainability of coastal, estuarine and marine areas?

Overpopulation is a major driving factor resulting in overpopulation of “desirable” residential areas.

Issues with high quality farming land and natural vegetation and waterways being destroyed by urban development

In event of rising sea levels, low lying areas may be threatened with inundation.

 

What approaches are required to protect biodiversity and ecosystems in the face of increasing urban and peri-urban development pressure?

This is a real “sleeper” in the sustainability bed.  Development for human and industrial habitation has a tendency to “turn-off” ecosystems. The amount of ecosystems potentially turned off in the past 100 years is quite frightening.
It is not about coping and facilitating. It is more about rethinking.

Not-withstanding this however:
Stringent planning regulations are required to reduce potential for pollution of soil and waterways.

Planning controls should have as main aim the improvement or at least maintenance of the natural environment.

Planning decisions must not be influenced by personal or corporate greed or corruption.

Local and well informed input essential to ensure planning is practical.

What are the roles and responsibilities of individuals, community, business and government and how can we maximise the effectiveness of our joint effort?

What are the limitations of current policy settings for the management of land, marine systems and biodiversity?  What has worked well?

Some of the regulatory systems are under resourced or impractical eg native vegetation framework.

Where should government direct its effort on behalf of the community?

Much greater research funding should be available for work on biological and organic farming, and conventional plant breeding using modern plant breeding techniques.
Much less emphasis should be placed on expensive and unnecessary research and development of crops genetically modified for herbicide tolerance and other traits which are being well developed by conventional methods. 

 

How can government best manage the public land estate for all the values it provides to the community?

The ecosystem services values of public land are not currently recognised.

How can we ensure that management of Victoria’s national parks and reserves maintains their biodiversity and ecological integrity?

Proper valuation of and payment for services provided by public land.

 

 

How can government best prioritise investment in its management of public land?

In terms of climate change and need for linkages more priority should be given to holistic management of crown land licences on waterways to improve environmental linkages at the landscape level. (eg licence conditions should be reviewed to reduce the impact of stock damage and monitoring of licences be adequately funded).

 

What is the best way that public and private land managers can work together to manage across the landscape?

EMS encouraged for all farms

Business and governments also need to  do environmental planning

How do we best incorporate indigenous knowledge and aspirations of indigenous people into land management decisions?

Overcome suspicion and fears of white landholders.
Encourage interaction between landholders and indigenous communities.

 

How can the community
support a move towards more sustainable land use?

Promotion and marketing of sustainably produced food and fibre.

 

What should be the Government’s research investment priorities for land and biodiversity?

More emphasis on whole of landscape protection across both private and public land.

 

How can we better use information and knowledge from a range of sources including indigenous knowledge, scientific information and local knowledge?

Look at systems as a whole, not just narrow individual aspects.  Make research and knowledge more accessible.

What mechanisms should government be using to encourage sustainable use of land and water resources?

Market based incentives  in addition to traditional tax concessions / rates rebates/ grant funding – used as incentives.

Education

Accurate labelling

How can Government best support voluntary change?

Natural resources education in schools.  Better access to information.

How can Government use market-based instruments in sustainable land and biodiversity management?

Programs such as Bush Broker to provide mandatory offsets.

 

What land management standards does the community expect of private landholders and government?

Protection of natural and man-made assets.

What is the role of regulation to manage sustainable landscape and protect biodiversity?

There is a place for regulation but it must be enforced.  If enforcement is too expensive or impractical it will fail to achieve objectives of protecting biodiversity.

 

How is the statutory planning system best used at the state and local government level for determining appropriate land use?

Planning overlays should reflect land capability and catchment impacts.

How can we improve our monitoring systems?

Making the information more coordinated and available.  Use remote sensing techniques.

 

Are the current institutional arrangements working and how could they be improved to deliver sustainable land, water and biodiversity outcomes?

Do we have the right mix of organisations?

Need big and small picture ie Federal, State and local catchment focussed agencies/organisations to balance policy with practical outcomes.

Have the integrated catchment management and Landcare models been effective or are better alternatives available?

Catchment and landcare models are essential to develop and implement local and practical solutions to NRM issues. Local Government probably needs financial assistance in rural under resourced areas to enable it to carry out its planning activities properly (eg monitoring offset requirements with development of centre pivot irrigation)

Have current institutional arrangements, including the approach for directing investment through Catchment Management Authorities been effective?  Can CMAs be improved?

Transaction costs may seem high but this is the price of local ownership and strengthening of regional capacity.

What should the next iteration of Regional Catchment Strategies deal with?

Impacts of climate change on catchment soil, water and vegetation resources.  Better integration with statutory planning.

 

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