Like what you've read?

On Line Opinion is the only Australian site where you get all sides of the story. We don't
charge, but we need your support. Here�s how you can help.

  • Advertise

    We have a monthly audience of 70,000 and advertising packages from $200 a month.

  • Volunteer

    We always need commissioning editors and sub-editors.

  • Contribute

    Got something to say? Submit an essay.

 The National Forum   Donate   Your Account   On Line Opinion   Forum   Blogs   Polling   About   
On Line Opinion logo ON LINE OPINION - Australia's e-journal of social and political debate


On Line Opinion is a not-for-profit publication and relies on the generosity of its sponsors, editors and contributors. If you would like to help, contact us.


RSS 2.0

Land management and asset security

By Ian Donges - posted Saturday, 15 December 2001

Farmers make the day-to-day management decisions for more than 70 per cent of Australia’s land mass and 70 per cent of the water diverted from our rivers and streams. They are the most important stakeholders in good environmental management. They are passionate about protecting our natural resource base in a bid to ensure sustainable agricultural industries for their children and their children’s children.

Environmental protection and biodiversity conservation is the shared responsibility of all Australians. However, Commonwealth and state legislation generally imposes much of the cost of public good conservation directly on farmers.

Farmers’ property rights are often reduced or removed to achieve a community benefit, at no cost to the wider community. Farmers ought not to be expected to foot the bill for public good outcomes that benefit the broader community. Such policies result in poor outcomes for the environment, for the economy and for farming communities.


Just as city businesses are compensated if the government resumes land to put a freeway through their property, farmers should be compensated if their ability to farm their land is compromised by legislation in the public interest.

Farmers are constantly interacting with the natural environment. By contrast, most Australians live in urban environments. And while they may have a strong interest in environmental issues, they do not experience the immediate consequences of variable climate, pests, feral animals, weeds, disease and environmental degradation to the same extent.

Threatened species are rarely located in urban environments. They are generally found outside metropolitan areas, often on farming land. The aim of the Commonwealth’s Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act, recently passed by Federal Government, is to preserve threatened species for the benefit of the entire community – but it does so by imposing onerous regulations and costs on farmers thereby reducing landholders’ ability to manage their farm without compensation. This heavy-handed approach results in poor outcomes for the environment, for the economy and for farming communities.

A better approach would be to share equitably the costs of conservation and environmental outcomes between landholders and the general public. Incentives could be given to farmers with significant environmental features on their land to manage them for the benefit of the community, so that the community contributes to the costs imposed on farmers of so doing.

If regulations that reduce or remove farmers’ ability to manage their land autonomously are imposed on farmers by the general community to achieve environmental objectives, then the general community should be willing to compensate farmers for any erosion in their ability to generate income from their land.

Developing and introducing new methods of managing land to preserve biodiversity can be costly, and the Commonwealth Government’s commitment to research and development, plus compensation for adjustment costs, has a valuable role to play.


Farmers are also suffering because the Environmental Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act (EPBC Act) is not consistent with state land management and conservation regimes. The on-ground impact of the Commonwealth legislation, on top of state interventions, has not been thought through thoroughly and is causing farm management problems.

The EPBC Act has a number of major deficiencies. A landowner can be managing the land fully in accordance with state legislation but be in breach of the Commonwealth Act. The onus is on the landowner to be aware of the implications of the EPBC Act. Neither local nor state government authorities have any obligation to advise landowners of the implications of the EPBC Act and Commonwealth bureaucrats do not have an understanding of local issues to give appropriate advice.

There is no provision for effective consultation with landowners. The implication is that the Commonwealth has a complete understanding of the preferred approach to land and water management to achieve environmental and social objectives in every part of the country, whereas in reality this knowledge is more likely to reside within the local community.

  1. Pages:
  2. Page 1
  3. 2
  4. 3
  5. All

Discuss in our Forums

See what other readers are saying about this article!

Click here to read & post comments.

Share this:
reddit this reddit thisbookmark with Del.icio.usdigg thisseed newsvineSeed NewsvineStumbleUpon StumbleUponsubmit to propellerkwoff it

About the Author

Ian Donges is President of the National Farmers’ Federation.

Related Links
Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry
Department of the Environment and Heritage
Environmental Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act
National Farmers' Federation
Photo of Ian Donges
Article Tools
Comment Comments
Print Printable version
Subscribe Subscribe
Email Email a friend

About Us Search Discuss Feedback Legals Privacy