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 (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).