Native Vegetation: An Update
the absence of markets for many environmental services;
ignorance of the benefits of environmental services; and
differences in risk preferences and concern for future generations.18
The Commission identified four broad types of impacts on farming practices of native vegetation regulations:
• • •
preventing expansion of agricultural activities; preventing changes in land use – eg from grazing to cropping; inhibiting routine management of vegetation regrowth and clearing of woodland thickening to maintain areas in production; and inhibiting management of weeds and vermin. 19
Using the Moree Plains Shire as a case study, the Commission estimated landholders’ returns if they were not constrained by clearing restrictions. Estimates suggested that prohibitions on broadscale clearing could reduce the present value of net returns (2003 dollars) to land, capital and management over a 40 year period by $27 - $84 million, depending on the productivity of the newly cleared land.
The Commission suggested three ways to reduce adverse impacts of native vegetation regulation:
Improve the existing regulatory regime. Fundamental reform is needed for several reasons:
Regulation of native vegetation is inflexible, prescriptive and ‘input’ rather than ‘outcome’ focused;
Regulation of clearing is a partial measure – it does nothing to ensure ongoing management of native vegetation or its regeneration;
Jurisdictional regulation by design or accident has muddied the issue of landholder and community responsibility.
Promote private conservation;
Clarify landholder and community responsibilities;
The Commission considered it reasonable to expect landholders in the aggregate to bear the costs of actions that directly contribute to sustainable resource use, and hence the long term viability of their operations;
The wider public should bear the costs of actions to promote public-good environmental services – such as biodiversity, threatened species preservation and greenhouse gas abatement – and which are likely to impinge significantly on the capacity of landholders to utilize their land for production.
Productivity Commission, Impacts of Native Vegetation and Biodiversity Regulation. Productivity Commission Inquiry Report No 29, 8 April 2004, at 19.
Productivity Commission, Impacts of Native Vegetation and Biodiversity Regulation. Productivity Commission Inquiry Report No 29, 8 April 2004, at xxx.