The Nature Refuges Program
The Nature Refuges Program is the Queensland Government’s primary voluntary conservation covenanting program. National parks alone cannot maintain the amazing diversity of plants, animals and ecosystems found in Queensland. Landholders can play a vital role in protecting the State’s biodiversity by establishing a nature refuge on their property. A nature refuge is a class of protected area under the Nature Conservation Act 1992.
The Department of Environment and Heritage Protection’s (EHP) priorities for the Nature Refuges Program are delivery of the NatureAssist and Koala Nature Refuges Program incentives schemes programs. Only properties deemed to be of outstanding conservation significance will be considered outside of these programs.
In general, NatureAssist and the Koala Nature Refuges Program target suitable properties and work with the landholders of those properties where there is a mutual interest. To determine whether an area of land may be suitable for targeting as a nature refuge, EHP assesses the land's conservation values against the Nature Refuges Program objectives and conservation priorities. This assessment considers the significance of the potential nature refuge at a property, landscape and strategic level. Possible nature refuges are those that:
- at a property level, contain significant conservation values that are of a sufficient size, condition and placement in the landscape to remain viable in the long-term;
- at a landscape level, increase representation of the state's biodiversity and establish or maintain landscape linkages and corridors;
- at a strategic level, possess exceptional values or circumstances that contribute to improved conservation in Queensland; and/or
- deliver on the objectives of NatureAssist and the Koala Nature Refuges Program.
- What is a nature refuge?
- Nature refuge agreements
- The process
- Is my property suitable for a nature refuge?
- Benefits of a nature refuge
- Incentives and assistance
- Native Title and nature refuges
What is a nature refuge?
A nature refuge is a voluntary agreement between a landholder and the Queensland Government. A nature refuge agreement acknowledges a commitment to protect land with significant conservation value, while allowing compatible and sustainable land uses to continue. Landholders with a nature refuge continue to own and manage their land for enjoyment and/or to generate an income. Each nature refuge is negotiated directly with the landholder through a nature refuge agreement.
Nature refuge agreements
A nature refuge agreement is:
- negotiated between EHP and the landholder, and provides a framework for sustainably managing a nature refuge and protecting its significant values
- tailored to suit the landholder’s management needs
- able to be negotiated with owners of freehold land, leaseholders of State land, government corporations that are separate legal entities from the Queensland Government, local governments, private companies and nature conservancies
- able to be negotiated over the whole or a portion of the property, depending on the conservation values and the landholder’s wishes
- perpetual, registrable on title and binds successive owners or lessees of the land. A nature refuge is the best way landholders can ensure the good land management practices and conservation works they have initiated will be continued when future generations or new owners take over. So, if a property changes hands, responsibility for the nature refuge rests with the new owners or lessees.
EHP primarily works with landholders who have been targeted through its priority programs. An area is generally targeted for a nature refuge based on an assessment by a nature refuge officer that will take into account the condition of the land, current land uses and management practices, and proposed future uses. The nature refuge officer will also determine whether a property is consistent with current conservation priorities of the Nature Refuges Program.
If suitable, the nature refuge officer will explain the process of developing a nature refuge agreement and declaring a nature refuge and will discuss any concerns the landholder may have. If the landholder and EHP wish to proceed, a draft nature refuge agreement is developed in consultation with the landholder.
Each nature refuge agreement is negotiated directly with the landholder and tailored to suit the management needs of the property, the needs of the landholder and the outcomes that the Queensland Government considers important to invest in. Once both parties are satisfied with the contents of the agreement, the landholder and Minister for EHP or their delegate sign the agreement.
Feel free to contact us for more information.
Is my property suitable for a nature refuge?
If your property contains significant conservation values and aligns with the Nature Refuge Program’s priorities (i.e. NatureAssist and the Koala Nature Refuge Program); you may be contacted to seek your interest in voluntarily participating in the Program. Consideration will be given to:
- areas containing, or providing habitat for, threatened species of plants and animals (including areas that contain koala values within nominated South East Queensland local government areas)
- habitats or vegetation types that are threatened, such as endangered and of concern regional ecosystems
- habitats and ecosystems that are poorly represented in existing protected areas
- remnant vegetation
- movement corridors for native animals, especially those linking areas of remnant vegetation or existing reserves and/or
- significant wetlands.
Benefits of a nature refuge
Nature refuges not only reflect the significant values on your land but also your effective management to maintain them over time. In this way, a nature refuge declaration is commending you for your good land management.
The legacy that can be created through the perpetuity of a nature refuge agreement is often attractive to landholders who have invested significant effort in good management, particularly those with a historical or family association with their property.
You do not have to choose between productivity and conservation because a nature refuge agreement can be negotiated to allow for continuing use of the land resulting in both ecological and economic sustainability.
Opportunities to tender for financial assistance to undertake on-ground management activities may be available through NatureAssist.
Incentives and assistance
When a landholder signs a nature refuge agreement they are supported by a network of nature refuge officers located throughout the state. These officers support landholders through one-on-one specialist advice on how to best protect the conservation values on their nature refuge.
Establishing a nature refuge can also provide access to a range of partners, community groups and other programs that provide training and support. This may include access to expertise, volunteers and specialist activities, such as revegetation programs and pest plant control.
EHP coordinates NatureAssist, a statewide financial incentives scheme for landholders interested in establishing or extending a nature refuge. Under NatureAssist, targeted landholders can apply for financial incentives through a competitive tender process to undertake activities to better protect and manage significant conservation values on their property. While tendered activities, such as stock exclusion fencing and artificial watering points, must lead to conservation gains, there is nothing to prohibit these activities simultaneously improving the private enterprise or enhancing property values.
Native Title and nature refuges
EHP recognises and seeks to protect Native Title rights and interests on lands where Native Title exists or may exist. In entering into nature refuge agreements over these lands, it is not the department’s intention to affect Native Title rights and interests.
EHP notifies relevant registered Native Title claimants, holders and/or Native Title Representative Bodies of all proposed nature refuge declarations over these lands.
Where nature refuge agreements are established without the approval of Native Title claimants or holders (e.g. through negotiation of an Indigenous Land Use Agreement), these agreements are not binding on the Native Title claimants or holders, and Native Title rights and interests may be enjoyed to their fullest extent.