Investment in management of the land environment includes financial and in-kind commitments by all levels of government, private landowners and businesses, nongovernment organisations, Indigenous Australians and communities. Each of these is considerable, and some—particularly the commitment of time by individuals, groups and communities—are difficult to quantify.
Estimates of volunteered and private time and resources are indicative rather than complete. For example, nearly 4000 individual volunteers contributed time worth more than $2 million to activities in partnership with Tasmania’s Parks and Wildlife Service in 2009–10.104 The level of private expenditure is exemplified by that reported for weed, pest, and land and soil management by agricultural businesses of $3 billion and three million person-days in 2006-07.105
Australian governments’ NRM expenditure includes that on public lands, such as national parks, state forests and lands under local government control, as well as on NRM in the sense discussed in Section 4.1. Whole-of-government environment expenditure is not routinely reported in most jurisdictions. It was last reported for the Australian Government for 2006-07, when it was around $4 billion.106
Australian Government expenditure on the land environment is mostly delivered through the government’s flagship environment program, Caring for our Country, which has a budget of $2.25 billion over five years from 2008-09 to 2012-13 (an annual average of $450 million). The Australian Government also proposes to commit a further $1.7 billion to NRM investments over five to six years from 2012 (an annual average of $286 million) under its Clean Energy Future plan.14
NRM expenditure at the state and territory level includes that on the management of public lands under various tenures, as well as expenditure on policy development and implementation. For example, in 2009–10, Victoria’s Department of Sustainability and Environment spent $133 million on management of public land (including coastal and marine environments), $180 million on management of forests and parks, $276 million on bushfire management (including risk reduction, fire fighting, and recovery), $47 million on biodiversity programs, $107 million on natural resource-related research and $76 million on environmental policy and climate change.107
Expenditure by regional NRM bodies derives principally from Australian and state or territory government funding, and so is included in those totals. Similarly, much of the land environment-related expenditure by local governments derives from the higher levels of government. Australian local governments spent $2.6 billion on environmental management and $1.9 billion on NRM in 2002-03, the most recent year for which data are available.108
Although these investments are substantial, they appear to be less on a per-hectare basis (of agricultural land) than in Europe or the United States,109 and are generally regarded as inadequate to meet Australia’s environmental management needs. For example, the investment estimated in 2000 as necessary to address the then national NRM targets was $65 billion over the following decade.110 Sparks et al.111 reported a present-value cost of $854 million over 30 years to protect (only) the 30 most highly valued biodiversity assets in south-west Western Australia from salinity, and Roberts et al.112 estimate the cost of meeting targets for reducing nutrient inputs from agricultural land into the Gippsland Lakes at around $1 billion over 25 years.
Investment in research and development for management of the land environment is also likely to be insufficient in relation to expected needs. The level of investment in rural research and development, including that on production systems and environmental management, was recently reviewed by the Productivity Commission.113 The commission estimated a total annual expenditure on rural research and development of $1.5 billion, 48% of which was Australian Government funding, 28% from state and territory governments, and 24% from the private sector.113 The commission noted the widespread view that state and territory governments were progressively withdrawing from rural research and development investments, although it could not substantiate this for all jurisdictions. It also noted that the level of private sector investment is low by international standards, although variable across sectors. The commission recommended the establishment of a publicly funded, public good-oriented research and development entity—Rural Research Australia—with an annual budget of $50 million. This entity would replace and expand the role of Land & Water Australia, which was disbanded by the Australian Government in 2009.