NATIVE VEGETATION

Mr PEDERICK (Hammond) (14:56): My question is to the Minister for Environment and Water. Can the minister update the house on the Marshall Liberal government's investment and partnership with communities through conservation of native vegetation on private land?

The Hon. D.J. SPEIRS (Black—Minister for Environment and Water) (14:56): I thank the member for Hammond for that important question. It is the case that the vast majority of land in South Australia will always be held by private individuals, and while we have a really strong conservation estate here in government-held national parks, conservation parks, wilderness areas and the like, bringing private landowners along on the conservation journey is such an important part of a conservation strategy that weaves together large areas of open space across the landscape, because we know that biodiversity needs space in order to survive and thrive.

That is one of the reasons that the Marshall Liberal government made the decision to reinstate funding—$3 million over two years—to what was once known as the heritage grants program, which is now called the Revitalising Private Conservation in South Australia program, a program that provides grants, both large and small, over three rounds across two financial years to private landowners who have made the decision to put their land into native vegetation and heritage agreements to ensure that this land is set aside in perpetuity for the purposes of conservation.

That can be a significant undertaking for landowners. It not only requires people to sacrifice some of their land that they might otherwise have thought of using for productive purposes, such as the production of food and fibre, but also requires significant amounts of upkeep: weeding, fence lines to be put in place, often creek lines to be fenced off to stop cattle and other livestock from getting into those creek lines and causing erosion, pollution in the water, and those sorts of things.

This is an undertaking by the private landowners, and the government is very much of the view that we should be supporting private conservation activity, and the reinstatement of this grants program is exactly what that is all about. We have also gone into a very significant and meaningful partnership with the NGO sector in order to deliver this program effectively.

This is a partnership between the government and environmental NGOs, such as the Nature Foundation, which is our lead partner here, Trees For Life, the Conservation Council of South Australia and the Nature Conservation Society of SA, with also significant involvement from Livestock SA and Primary Producers SA. It is really looking at that interface between conservation and the productive use of the landscape.

Again, I mention that the vast majority of land in South Australia is privately owned, but of course we also sometimes have tension when it comes to those different types of land use, so if you can give a helping hand to private landowners to set aside that land for conservation purposes that is going to provide that incentive and make that just a little bit easier.

The first round of grants saw 70 recipients receive more than $429,000 in grant funding, which will actually leverage co-contributions in excess of $530,000. Those were just the small grants. In early March, we announced the opening of the Linking Landscapes Fund, which is larger grants between $10,000 and $250,000, which will look at these larger projects that look to link up existing heritage agreements, perhaps new heritage agreements, with the national parks estate as well, getting that landscape scale solution to biodiversity sustainability.