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Native Vegetation: An Update

5

4. Pay farmers for environmental services (clean water, fresh air, healthy soils). Where we expect farmers to maintain land in a certain way that is above their duty of care, we should pay them to provide those services on behalf of the rest of Australia.

5. Incorporate into the cost of food, fibre and water the hidden subsidies currently borne by the environment, to assist farmers to farm sustainably and profitably in this country. 7

The Group noted that the Council of Australian Governments had the opportunity to make three significant changes immediately: ending broadscale clearing of remnant vegetation; the clarification of water property rights; and purchasing environmental flows for the Murray River.

The Wentworth Group recognised that over the last decade or so, a ‘quiet revolution’ has been taking place in rural Australia. Thousands of farmers want to restore damaged rivers and landscapes, but lack resources, scientific advice and are disempowered by the bureaucratic environment. The Group noted that fundamental to the success of a new model for landscape management was to simplify complex structures, empower the farming community to take control of the problem, and to back them with adequate science and

funding. With this in mind, the Group proposed vegetation in NSW. The Wentworth Model interdependent components:

a radically new for Landscape

way of managing native Conservation has five

  • Strengthening and simplifying native vegetation regulations, ending the broadscale clearing of remnant vegetation and protected regrowth;

  • Setting environmental standards and clarifying responsibilities for native vegetation management which will, over time, create healthy rivers and catchments;

  • Using property management plans to provide investment security, management flexibility and financial support for farmers;

  • Providing significant levels of public funding to farmers to help meet new environmental standards and support on-ground conservation; and

  • Restructuring institutions by improving scientific input into policy setting, improving information systems, and regionalising administration.

Under this plan, the following actions are needed:

  • The State Government sets four environmental standards: water quality; salinity; biodiversity; and soil conservation;

  • Independent water catchment authorities then convert these standards into practical priorities;

  • Farmers are then provided with scientific and financial support to implement these on their properties through property management plans.

The Group suggested the following four statewide environmental standards should be

7

WWF Australia, Blueprint for a Living Continent. A Way Forward from the Wentworth Group of Concerned Scientists. 1 November 2002, at 4.

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