Nature conservation

Biodiversity Reform

NSW - conservation mechanisms

Conservation mechanisms

There is such a wide variety of conservation mechanisms and programs available, that when comparing their effectiveness in conserving the range of landscapes across the State, we need to consider the following:

  • the date that the mechanism/program commenced; for example, the Wildlife Refuge program in NSW has been in existence for a much longer period of time than the Voluntary Conservation Agreement program or the Property Agreement program
  • accompanying incentives for private land programs; for example, the Voluntary Conservation Agreement program has generally not been accompanied by the financial and other incentives that accompany the Property Agreement program but is important for conserving cultural heritage as well as biodiversity which the Property Agreement program is not
  • the scope of the program; for example, National Parks protect a broad range of natural features but mechanisms such as Karst Conservation Reserves, Aboriginal Areas and Historic Sites have a more specific focus.

 

For these reasons we have described what is achieved in terms of the representation of landscapes in these mechanisms but have not necessarily found it useful to use this information alone to compare the effectiveness of different programs.

The role of National Parks and Nature Reserves

National Parks and Nature Reserves have the highest security (are permanently reserved) and are managed primarily for conservation. (Flora Reserves are also important in this regard although some Flora Reserves may permit mining.)

National Parks and Nature Reserves occur in all of the NSW bioregions. National Parks and Nature Reserves generally protect the largest area of land and the largest range of landscapes in each bioregion. The exceptions are the Darling Riverine Plains and Riverina bioregions, where Wildlife Refuges contain more land and a greater range of landscapes than in the National Park and Nature Reserve system.

In the Channel Country and Mulga Lands bioregions, National Parks and Nature Reserves make a greater contribution in terms of area, while the Wildlife Refuge program contributes to the management of a greater variety of landscapes.

In the NSW Australian Alps, National Parks and Nature Reserves are the major component of the bioregional landscape (90.38 per cent) and are also a large component of the bioregional landscape of the Sydney Basin (35.35 per cent) and the NSW portion of the South East Corner (42.29 per cent). The largest area, approximately 991,386 hectares, falls in the NSW North Coast Bioregion.

The remaining bioregions have less than 30 per cent of their NSW area in National Parks and Nature Reserves, with the majority having less than 5 per cent of their area within this system. The least reserved bioregions are the Riverina (0.32 per cent) and Darling Riverine Plains (0.93 per cent).

Currently the goals for National Parks and Nature Reserves in NSW are to incorporate the full range of landscapes within the bioregions and to ensure as much as possible that sufficient areas of these landscapes are conserved to allow them to function and persist for hundreds of years.

Even in the Australian Alps Bioregion, where the level of reservation is highest, the full range of landscapes is still not included in the conservation mechanisms surveyed.

The role of Wilderness Areas

Wilderness Areas are managed for the protection of an area's "wilderness" qualities. Declared Wilderness Areas provide a high level of protection for landscapes contained by them, but do not increase the total area of landscapes protected by conservation mechanisms. This is because wilderness, in all but one instance, has been declared over existing National Parks (the exception being a Wilderness Protection Agreement/Voluntary Conservation Agreement in the South Eastern Highlands Bioregion).

The role of Flora Reserves

Flora Reserves are managed primarily for flora conservation. In many cases these offer a similar level of security and protection to biodiversity as National Parks and Nature Reserves, although in some cases mining may be permitted in them. Flora Reserves are present in 12 of the 17 NSW bioregions.

The largest area of any of the bioregions occupied by Flora Reserves is in the NSW North Coast where 7,510 hectares or 0.13 per cent of the bioregion is contained by Flora Reserves.

The role of Voluntary Conservation Agreements

Voluntary Conservation Agreements are represented in 10 of the 17 NSW bioregions. These are on private land, are voluntary, and are permanently on the title of the land, and despite their relatively small size (on a bioregional scale) in some bioregions, they contribute to protection of landscapes which are otherwise not included in conservation mechanisms.

The largest area of any of the bioregions occupied by Voluntary Conservation Agreements, by area and by percentage of bioregion, is in the South East Highlands Bioregion, where 2,889 hectares or 0.06 per cent of the bioregion has been protected by landholders.

The role of Property Agreements

Property Agreements occur in 12 of the NSW 17 bioregions. The largest area of any of the bioregions occupied by the conservation zone of Property Agreements is in the South Eastern Highlands Bioregion, where 6,354.29 hectares or 0.13 per cent of the bioregion has been contained by these agreements.

The role of Wildlife Refuges

Apart from National Parks and Nature Reserves, Wildlife Refuges are the only conservation mechanisms to operate across all NSW bioregions. Wildlife Refuges occupy a larger proportion of the South Eastern Highlands Bioregion than either Voluntary Conservation Agreement or Property Agreement programs. A total of 68,776.84 hectares or 1.41 per cent of the South Eastern Highlands Bioregion is contained by Wildlife Refuges.

The Wildlife Refuge program achieves the greatest proportion of bioregional conservation in the Simpson Strzelecki Bioregion, with 128,778.63 hectares or 6.08 per cent of its area, and the Channel Country Bioregion, with 74,518.13 hectares or 5.21 per cent of its area.

The role of Regional Parks

The only bioregion containing Regional Parks is the Sydney Basin Bioregion where they occupy 4,675 hectares or 0.13 per cent of the bioregion. In this bioregion, Regional Parks expand on the conservation of landscapes that are also included in the system of National Parks and Nature Reserves, and contribute as much area as these to the protection of some landscapes that are under-represented in the bioregion.

The role of Crown Reserves

Crown Reserves operate across 6 of the bioregions, all in the east of the State. In all cases, Crown Reserves expand the area of landscapes that are also included in the system of National Parks and Nature Reserves. Crown Reserves achieve the greatest proportion of bioregion conservation in the NSW North Coast Bioregion, where they occupy 21,862 hectares or 0.38 per cent of the bioregion.

The role of Historic Sites

Historic Sites are present in almost half of the NSW bioregions. They are generally small areas set aside to conserve historic heritage. They generally contribute to the conservation of landscapes also represented in the system of National Parks and Nature Reserves.

The role of Karst Conservation Reserves

Karst Conservation Reserves are found only in the NSW South Western Slopes and South Eastern Highlands Bioregions. They target very specific landscape features and are small areas which slightly expand the areas of landscapes also conserved in the system of National Parks and Nature Reserves.

The role of Aboriginal Areas

Aboriginal Areas occur in only 4 of the bioregions: Channel County, North Coast, Simpson-Strzelecki Dunefields and Sydney Basin. The largest area protected by this mechanism is in the Channel Country, with 9,387.15 hectares or 0.66 per cent of the bioregional area included.

Representativeness of conservation mechanisms

In general, conservation mechanisms tend to focus on the same landscapes. The additions to the range of landscapes represented in National Parks and Nature Reserves, in decreasing order, are as follows:

  • in 15 of the bioregions, the Wildlife Refuge Program has increased the range of landscapes represented (while also overlapping with National Parks and Nature Reserves in other bioregions)
  • in 10 of the bioregions, Property Agreements have increased the range of landscapes represented in National Parks and Nature Reserves
  • in 6 of the bioregions, Flora Reserves have increased the range of landscapes conserved
  • in 4 of the bioregions, Voluntary Conservation Agreements have increased the range of landscapes conserved.

 

There has always been overlap between the types of landscapes conserved by Crown Reserves, National Parks and Nature Reserves in each bioregion. Property Agreements and Wildlife Refuges also conserve similar landscapes in each bioregion.

Effectiveness of conservation mechanisms

In most cases, the landscapes have not reached even a conservative level (20 per cent of their bioregional area) of representation in any of the conservation mechanisms let alone within the system of National Parks and Nature Reserves. To this extent, the overlaps in types of landscapes protected outside of the reserve system are potentially important complementary contributions to achieving long-term conservation of landscapes.

Nevertheless, there is still considerable scope for further representation of landscapes already included in the conservation mechanisms surveyed. Wider targeting not only of the National Parks and Nature Reserves but other off-park conservation programs will help to achieve this.

There are still many landscapes in NSW that are not protected by any of the available conservation mechanisms. All bioregions contain some landscapes that are not protected. Only in the Australian Alps Bioregion is the full range of landscapes almost achieving some representation, but even in this bioregion, where a large percentage of its area is reserved, there are still some landscapes that are not protected.

State forests are described in the bioregional summaries of conservation status in the bioregion overviews to provide a comparative picture of land management (Ecologically Sustainable Forest Management or ESFM). In addition, Flora Reserves are identified as the formal reserve component of the estate.

Other conservation mechanisms that occur on the SFNSW estate (including informal reserves and protection by prescription) have not been individually identified at the landscape scale because of the complex interplay of conservation mechanisms and resource management.

Page last updated: 18 April 2016