Australasian Science: Australia's authority on science since 1938

An Agreement Forever?

By Mat Hardy, Sarah Bekessy, Ascelin Gordon & James Fitzsimons

There’s a growing trend in many parts of the world for land owners to enter into conservation covenants and easements. These formal agreements are an increasingly popular strategy for conserving biodiversity on private land but how effective are they? Our analysis of covenants in Australia has revealed there’s much to commend in these agreements but there’s also work needed to ensure their ongoing effectiveness.

The full text of this article can be purchased from Informit.

Conservation covenants are legally binding agreements that place “permanent” restrictions on what activities landholders can undertake on their land. For example they often prevent the clearing of native vegetation. These agreements are registered on the title of the property, obliging the current and future owners to look after their property’s ecological values.

Landowners voluntarily enter into these agreements because it helps them preserve the natural values of the land they love. Governments like these agreements because it helps them meet their obligations to conserve biodiversity.

The first conservation covenant in Australia was a Wildlife Refuge established back in 1951 in NSW. Since then, the number of covenants has grown considerably to around 7500 across Australia, with most of those being established in the past 25 years.

Although security provisions vary between programs, all covenants in Australia are backed by specific, enabling legislation, with release of the covenant usually requiring approval from multiple parties, including the landholder and the relevant government minister. The exception is the Wildlife Refuge program, which is only available in NSW and is unique among Australian covenants for only requiring approval for release from a single party (i.e. the landholder can choose to opt out voluntarily).

From a...

The full text of this article can be purchased from Informit.