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Building Nature’s Safety Net 2014 : A decade of protected area achievements in Australia

posted on 2014-11-17, 00:00 authored by M F J Taylor, James FitzsimonsJames Fitzsimons, P Sattler
The single most important asset for the conservation of Australia’s unique and globally significant biodiversity is the National Reserve System, a mosaic of over 10,000 discrete protected areas on land on all tenures: government, Indigenous and private,
including on-farm covenants, as well as state, territory and Commonwealth marine parks and reserves.

In this report, we cover major National Reserve System initiatives that have occurred in the period 2002 to the present and highlight issues affecting progress toward agreed national objectives. We define a minimum standard for the National Reserve System to comprehensively, adequately and representatively protect Australia’s ecosystem and species diversity on sea and land. Using government protected area, species and other relevant spatial data, we quantify gaps: those areas needing to move from the current National Reserve System to one which meets this standard. We also provide new estimates of financial investments in protected areas and of the benefits that protected areas secure for society. Protected areas primarily serve to secure Australia’s native plants and animals against extinction, and to promote their recovery.

Protected areas also secure ecosystem services that provide economic benefits for
human communities including water, soil and beneficial species conservation, climate
moderation, social, cultural and health benefits. On land, we estimate these benefits
are worth over $38 billion a year, by applying data collated by the Ecosystem Services
Partnership. A much larger figure is estimated to have been secured by marine
protected areas in the form of moderation of climate and impact of extreme events
by reef and mangrove ecosystems. While these estimates have not been verified by
studies specific to Australia, they are indicative of a very large economic contribution
of protected areas. Visitors to national parks and nature reserves spend over $23.6 billion a year in Australia, generating tax revenue for state and territory governments of $2.36 billion a year. All these economic benefits taken together greatly exceed the aggregate annual protected area expansion and management spending by all Australian governments, estimated to be ~$1.28 billion a year. It is clear that Australian society is benefiting far greater than its governments’ investment into strategic growth and maintenance of the National Reserve System.
Government investment and policy settings play a leading role in strategic growth of the National Reserve System in Australia, and provide a critical stimulus for
non-government investment. Unprecedented expansion of the National Reserve System followed an historic boost in Australian Government funding under Caring for Our Country 2008–2013. This expansion was highly economical for the Australian Government, costing an average of only $44.40 per hectare to buy and protect land forever. State governments have contributed about six times this amount toward the expansion of the National Reserve System, after including in-perpetuity protected area management costs. The growth of Indigenous Protected Areas by the Australian Government has cost ~$26 per hectare on average, including management costs capitalised in-perpetuity, while also delivering Indigenous social and economic outcomes. The aggregate annual investment by all Australian governments has been ~$72.6 million per year on protected area growth and ~$1.21 billion per year on recurrent management costs. For the first time in almost two decades, however, the Australian Government’s National Reserve System Program, comprising a specialist administrative unit and funding allocation, was terminated in late 2012. This program was fundamental in driving significant strategic growth in Australia’s protected area estate. It is highly unlikely that Australia can achieve its long-standing commitments to an ecologically representative National Reserve



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Publication classification

JE3 Research report for an external body - Not for profit; A6 Research report/technical paper

Copyright notice

2014, WWF-Australia

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