Cash for trees proposal to save native forests

Southern Cross Universitys Professor Jerry Vanclay, Lismore MP Thomas George, retired farmer David Cameron and SCU researcher Alex Jay at last weeks presentation of the report entitled A Proposal For Stewardship Support to Private Native Forests in NSW.

Providing cash incentives to landholders to manage native forests on their own land is part of a new proposal by a group of scientists, conservationists and industry representatives known as The Southern Cross Group.

Head of forestry at Southern Cross University, Professor Jerry Vanclay, is a key member of the group and said it was better to offer incentives rather than adopt a big stick approach.

He said the group was formed in July after increasing concern that the NSW Government had spent 10 years investigating a code of practice to protect native forests on private land, only to come up with increasingly prescriptive and complicated regulations.

He said the groups proposal had been put forward as an alternative after the government ditched its draft code of practice last month following vocal criticism from both sides of the debate. A new round of consultation is set to start.

Under the groups proposal an annual cash payment would be given to landholders per square metre of trees on their property and for reporting and protecting threatened plants and animals.

There are a lot of plants and animals that are considered to be threatened, Professor Vanclay said. Most of them are recorded as being by roads or within State Forests, but I know plenty of private landholders who have them, but they dont tell a soul because it just means more headaches for them.

Professor Vanclay said the cost of the scheme was estimated to be around $200 million a year no greater than policing a more punitive approach.

Anyone who has raised children or trained pets knows that incentives are more effective than punishment, he said.

The groups report deliberately did not offer ready-to-implement policy, he said. Rather it was putting a few ideas on the table.

Everybody wants more and bigger trees, he said. Thats what saw millers, farmers and environmentalists have in common. Were encouraging stakeholders from across the spectrum to come and participate in fine tuning our ideas into policy. Biodiversity is too important and everyone should have input.

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