Gold Coast landholders are being invited to apply for financial support to protect wildlife habitat and restore bushland that has been cleared or disturbed on private property, through the City’s Nature Conservation Assistance Program.
The program contributes to the protection, management and restoration of a connected and viable conservation network across the city.
The Nature Conservation Assistance Program is one of the services delivered by the City’s Conservation Partnerships Program. The program is a starting point for many landholders, who then tend to join the Land for Wildlife program.
The Land for Wildlife program, available to those with one or more hectares of bushland, offers access to officers who can provide expert knowledge on plant and animal ID as well as advice on weed control and habitat restoration. Those who sign up for Land for Wildlife can also access property maps and a property-specific management plan that identifies habitat values.
The Land for Wildlife program is just one way the City is supporting landholders hoping to improve the condition of the city’s wildlife habitat.
Property owners can also decide to sign up for a Voluntary Conservation Agreement, a legally binding agreement, such as a statutory environmental covenant or nature refuge, designed to protect the conservation values of private properties. The agreements can either be permanent or can end when the property changes hands. When landholders apply for a Voluntary Conservation Agreement, they choose the area to be protected under the agreement.
Property owners who agree to protect the landscape in this way are eligible for a heap of benefits including rate assistance and cash reimbursements for management activities such as habitat restoration, weed and fire management and erosion control and support and technical advice.
For those not eligible for Land for Wildlife, Council also offers free Bushland Health Checks.
Since 2012 the Nature Conservation Assistance Program has invested more than $620,000 in 94 projects with 199 hectares of natural areas restored as a result.
In 2019, funds of between $3000 and $9000 are available to each property with the landholder required to provide a co-contribution of 30% in cash, in-kind or a combination of both.
Michelle Benson is one local landholder making the most of Council’s support for nature conservation on private properties. Michelle has lived on 24 hectares in Tallebudgera for 16 years and is restoring its degraded weedy areas, once cleared for grazing and banana farming, back to original native rainforest and eucalypt forest. The property is an important link in the east-west Burleigh to Springbrook critical corridor.
Michelle registered her property with the Land for Wildlife program in 2011 and through that association was able to access “all sorts of valuable information and networking” that helped nurture her connection with the land.
When the City’s Land for Wildlife officer identified serious, declared weeds that were getting a nasty stronghold in degraded Richmond Birdwing Butterfly habitat, Michelle was encouraged to apply for the Nature Conservation Assistance Program to access funding for weed control. With that support, Michelle was able to engage professional weed contractors as well as purchase tree guards, native plants and chemicals for ongoing maintenance work.
“In 2012, our estate was granted a year’s funding,” Michelle said, “and through my determination that then lead to two more years of funding and a very special visit from Mayor Tom Tate.”
Three years of contract work knocked out a lot of weeds, but Michelle says there’s always more to do.
“There’s so much more to the habitat healing process as one tries to read the needs of the landscape and its wildlife from all angles as it evolves,” she said.
“Seven years on and thousands of hours of weeding (with a little help from my friends) has seen native growth flourishing again where once there was a weedy mess.”
Michelle says her primary advice to others applying for NCAP funding is to be aware that the journey is a long one.
“Stay focused and committed and know that your efforts play a vital role in restoring biodiversity in our region, they’ll reap beautiful rewards for you personally and will add real value to your property for future generations to come.”
Expressions of interest for City of Gold Coast’s Nature Conservation Assistance Program open 1 July and close 15 July with full applications then due 3.00pm Friday 16 August.