Management initiatives and investments


Biodiversity funding

NRM funding provides key measures that include many practical elements of protecting and sustainably managing biodiversity. For the past 30 years, the Australian Government—through the National Landcare Programme (established in 1992, revised in 2014), the Natural Heritage Trust (established in 1997) and Caring for our Country (established in 2008)—has provided community-based funding for improving land management practices and delivering environmental outcomes (Figure BIO31).

Phase 1 of the Caring for our Country initiative concluded in 2013, following an investment of $2.15 billion from 2008 to 2012. Another $316.7 million was paid in 2013–14 as part of the first year of phase 2 of Caring for our Country.

In 2014, the Australian Government announced the establishment of the (new) National Landcare Programme, merging the Caring for our Country and Landcare programs, with a budget of $1 billion across 4 years, which was a reduction of $471.6 million across 4 years from 2014–15 from the previous forward estimates. The savings were directed to fund other government priorities, including the Reef 2050 Long-term Sustainability Plan.

The 2015 Senate Standing Committee report on the National Landcare Programme (SECRC 2015) considered that there was ample evidence to conclude that the reduction in funding for Landcare will have a detrimental impact on NRM in Australia. The gains during the past 3 decades through the concerted efforts of government, NRM bodies, communities and landholders were considered to be under threat.

The National Landcare Programme supports regional NRM organisations across the country. In 2015–16, these organisations received funding totalling $108 million per year, representing a reduction in previous years’ funding. However, the overall objectives of this component of the program remained largely consistent with previous programs (Caring for our Country). Although investment in the regional stream has decreased, investment in NRM has been supplemented by other government programs, including new investments in biosecurity.

The Biodiversity Fund program was established in 2011 to maintain ecosystem function and increase ecosystem resilience to climate change, and increase and improve the management of biodiverse carbon stores across the country. Significant investment was directed through the Biodiversity Fund from 2011–12 to 2017–18, providing approximately $350 million to increase the condition, extent, connectivity and resilience of native vegetation in project areas. The fund operated through a competitive, merit‐based grants program, with an initial budget of $946.2 million across 6 years from 2011–12 to 2016–17. The program was broad in scope, with funding recipients including individual landholders through to large state government departments, and grants ranging from just over $7000 to $6 million. The program was closed in October 2013. At that time, almost $350 million was contracted to projects. Projects that received funding were to continue until 2017–18.

The Green Army, which was launched in 2014, is a hands-on practical environmental action program that supports local environment and heritage conservation projects across Australia. The program delivers environmental outcomes by working with communities, and building partnerships at the local and regional level. The Australian Government has provided more than $410 million for the program over 5 years from 1 July 2014 to support 1250 projects. Other sources of funding that contributed to the government’s investment in NRM from 2014–15 include the Working on Country Indigenous rangers ($238 million over 4 years from 2014–15) and Reef Trust (currently $210 million over 8 years from 2014–15).

Since 1995–96, successive Australian governments have contributed close to $200 million towards the National Reserve System, and partners (state and territory governments, nongovernment organisations and private landowners) have also contributed funding and in-kind contributions. In 2014, the Australian Government ceased its dedicated acquisitions program, although funding is still available under the National Landcare Programme, including the 20 Million Trees Programme and Green Army, to support management activities on National Reserve System properties. Funding also continues to support consultation on, and declaration of, IPAs, which are an important component of the National Reserve System (72 properties, and more than 44 per cent of the National Reserve System).

Unfortunately, although massive effort has been mobilised over the years to undertake environmental works that should have major benefits for biodiversity (e.g. revegetation, weed control, fencing of waterways, improved stock management), documentation of the impacts of these actions has been poor, with no standardised way of reporting. Introduction of the Department of the Environment and Energy’s online reporting tool, MERIT, in 2013 has gone some way to improving our understanding of the outcomes of Australian Government investments in NRM. The 2013 review of Caring for our Country noted achievements, among others, of expansion of the National Reserve System by more than 27 million hectares, including the declaration of 34 new IPAs, and off-reserve management of more than 10.8 million hectares of native habitat and vegetation projects to conserve native species, and enhance the condition and connectivity of landscapes.

Each state and territory also undertakes significant biodiversity conservation efforts,3 as do local governments, nongovernment organisations and industry, through investment. For instance, in Victoria, there have been significant investment programs targeting biodiversity, such as the Victorian Environmental Partnerships Program (2013–15) and the Threatened Species Protection Initiative (2015–16).

Biodiversity discovery and research funding

Expenditure on biodiversity discovery and documentation has traditionally been undertaken by government through collections agencies (herbaria, museums) and university research, supported by the long-running National Taxonomy Research Grant Programme of the Australian Biological Resources Study (ABRS), managed by the Department of the Environment and Energy. During the past few decades, there has been a massive increase in investment from industry as part of development approvals. However, much of the information collected is not available more broadly for decision-making (and no information is available on the size of that investment). The ABRS Bush Blitz program is a partnership between the Australian Government, BHP Billiton Sustainable Communities and Earthwatch Australia. For the past 7 years, Bush Blitz has combined Department of the Environment and Energy funding with BHP Billiton investment, to discover, document and describe Australia’s unique biodiversity (see Information gaps and gap-filling initiatives—terrestrial and aquatic). Figure BIO32 shows expenditure in the past 7 years for the ABRS and Bush Blitz.

Funding of the research infrastructure that supports biodiversity research is also an important component of government funding for biodiversity. The long-running programs of the Terrestrial Ecosystem Research Network (TERN), the ALA and the Integrated Marine Observing System (IMOS) all play key roles in the generation and distribution of biodiversity data and information that ultimately supports biodiversity management. Figure BIO33 shows biodiversity-related expenditure for the past 7 years for TERN, the ALA and IMOS. (The IMOS numbers are a conservative estimate based on 50 per cent of total IMOS spending being attributed to data that underpin biodiversity management.)

Climate science and adaptation funding

In response to the predicted effects of climate change, successive Australian governments have committed to a target of reducing, by 2020, Australia’s carbon emissions to a level that is at least 5 per cent below the year 2000 emission levels. In July 2011, the Australian Government announced the Clean Energy Future initiative, which outlined planned measures to reduce Australia’s carbon emissions to meet the 2020 target. The 4 key elements of the initiative were:

  • the introduction of a carbon price
  • a package of renewable energy programs
  • a package of energy efficiency programs
  • the Land Sector Package, which included the Biodiversity Fund program.

Overall funding to support climate research—such as data collection and measurements, and climate modelling—has fallen during the past 5 years. Figure BIO34 shows that climate science research funded directly by the Department of the Environment and Energy (not including contributions by other program partners or investment in climate research through other government departments, such as through Cooperative Research Centres or Centres of Excellence) was around $11 million in 2013 and has dropped to less than $6.5 million in 2015–16. Similarly, funding for climate change adaptation research from the department has dropped from around $18 million in 2013 to around $4 million in 2016.

Although not all research in these programs is directly related to biodiversity, the information gained provides the context for management to frame its response to the addition of climate impacts to a multitude of threatening processes. The loss or reduction of key climate programs that provided understanding of climate change and support for climate adaptation at a time of increasing climate pressures (see the Atmosphere report) has reduced activities that support the ongoing adaptive management of ecosystems.

Biosecurity measures

Australia’s biosecurity system is designed to manage the risk of pests and diseases entering, emerging, establishing or spreading in Australia, and causing harm to human, animal or plant health; the economy; the environment; and/or the community. Preventing pests and diseases from entering or emerging in Australia is more cost-effective than eradication, containment and ongoing management, and therefore biosecurity efforts are focused on keeping pests and diseases out of Australia.

Onshore and offshore, the Australian Government uses a range of sophisticated technologies and approaches—including research, shared international resources and intelligence—to prevent the introduction and spread of disease, and to manage and contain established pests and diseases. Biosecurity is a shared responsibility between the Australian Government, state and territory governments, farmers, industry, land managers and the wider community. In 2012, a range of measures—including the National Environmental Biosecurity Response Agreement, the Emergency Plant Pest Response Deed and the Emergency Animal Disease Response Agreement—were agreed to by all governments to provide national emergency response arrangements for biosecurity incidents that primarily affect the environment and/or social amenity, and involve plant pests and/or animal diseases.

Despite efforts to prevent pests and diseases from entering Australia, some pests and diseases do enter. They may be detected at ports and landing places; on farms; or in forests, urban areas and other environments. In 2012, Australia strengthened its ability to respond to outbreaks or incursions through the development of the nationally agreed Biosecurity Incident Management System. This system provides guidance on contemporary practices for the management of biosecurity incident response and initial recovery operations in Australia, such as eradication, re-establishing area freedoms (freedom from a pest or disease in an area), and helping industries and communities to rebuild.

Cresswell ID, Murphy H (2016). Biodiversity: Management initiatives and investments. In: Australia state of the environment 2016, Australian Government Department of the Environment and Energy, Canberra,, DOI 10.4226/94/58b65ac828812