Private landholders provide bang for buck for green investment

The passion, dedication and significant contribution of private landholders involved in Sunshine Coast Council’s Land for Wildlife Program and Voluntary Conservation Agreement programs has been recognised at today’s Ordinary Meeting.

Mayor Mark Jamieson said Sunshine Coast had the largest Land for Wildlife membership in the state and Council’s program was the largest delivered by any local government in Australia.

“This voluntary conservation program supports landholders as they conserve wildlife and habitats on their properties,” Mayor Jamieson said.

“Council’s Land for Wildlife program protects more non-remnant vegetation in the Sunshine Coast local government area than all other tenures combined, including state and council land.

“The region boasts 830 Land for Wildlife members and thanks to programs such as this, Sunshine Coast is one of Australia’s most biologically-rich areas with just over 60% of remaining bushland privately owned.”

An SEQ Land for Wildlife network survey undertaken last year revealed that thanks to this program, Sunshine Coast respondents had improved their knowledge and skills in restoration, identifying weeds and native plants and habitat requirements.

“The survey revealed 363 Sunshine Coast properties planted a total of 441,000 trees, 95% of respondents planned to continue weed control on their own properties next year and 13% planned to assist on other properties,” Mayor Jamieson said.

“The 60% of respondents who said they adjoined a conservation reserve are not only benefiting their own property, but are enhancing those public assets by providing buffers, corridors and increased habitat viability.”

Environment Portfolio Councillor Jenny McKay said the Land for Wildlife program could serve as a launching platform for the Voluntary Conservation Agreement program.

“Through the VCA program, council supports landholders to permanently protect ecologically-significant areas of privately-owned bushland,” Cr McKay said.

“We have 58 properties on the Sunshine Coast involved in that program, covering 918ha.

“Among other benefits, Council’s support of the VCA program helps contributes to the survival of plants and animals that are dependent on particular habitats and provides links between isolated conservation reserves, allowing for essential wildlife movement.

“The VCA program also promotes a sense of community responsibility for nature conservation and recognises and rewards good conservation management by private landholders.”

Mayor Jamison said Council’s investment in the Land for Wildlife and Voluntary Conservation Agreement programs including offering a range of environmental management advice, incentives and grants to assist property owners protect and manage wildlife habitat and benefited the whole community.

“Through landholder cash and labour in-kind contributions, the Land for Wildlife and Voluntary Conservation Agreement programs delivered more than $6.025 million or 652% return on council’s investment of $922,806,” Mayor Jamieson said.

“Of that, almost $414,600 is contributed by the Environment Levy.

“For every dollar invested by council in these programs, we receive a return of $6.52.

“That’s a very worthwhile investment and I congratulate these private landholders for managing and enhancing the region’s environmental assets.

“While this cash and in-kind contribution to the community is enormous, it is the underlying passion and dedication underpinning that contribution that will ensure the Sunshine Coast environment will continue to be protected and enhanced.

“It puts us well on our way in our quest to become Australia’s most sustainable region – vibrant, green and diverse.”