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The Private Protected Area Program

‘Private protected areas’ are internationally recognised as an important part of protected area systems, and in Queensland, are formally represented by special wildlife reserves and nature refuges.

Queensland has the largest private protected area network in Australia with nature refuges accounting for almost a third of Queensland’s total protected area system.

The Private Protected Area Program partners with landholders to support their sustainable land management goals through the establishment of private protected areas and through financial assistance programs such as NatureAssist and Nature Refuge Landholder Grants.

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Stunning sandstone cliffs – Cobbold Gorge Nature Refuge – Einasleigh Uplands.
Photo © Cobbold Gorge

What is a nature refuge?

A nature refuge is a voluntary agreement between a landholder and the Minister to conserve the significant natural and cultural values of privately managed land. It is one of the strongest ways a landholder can demonstrate a commitment to environmental stewardship and to ensure their good land management practices are continued into the future, even if the property changes hands. A nature refuge is a class of protected area under the Nature Conservation Act 1992 that, once declared, must be managed to:

  1. conserve the area’s significant cultural and natural resources
  2. provide for the controlled use of the area’s cultural and natural resources
  3. provide for the interest of landholders to be taken into account.

Before a nature refuge can be declared over part or all of a property, a conservation agreement is negotiated between the landholder and the Minister, which commits to protecting the land’s significant conservation values, while allowing compatible and sustainable land uses to continue. Nature refuges are compatible with, and often complement alternate income streams for landholders such as carbon farming, sustainable beef production and ecotourism.

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Balancing conservation with production – Rutland Plains Nature Refuge – Gulf Plains.
Photo © Queensland Government

Why become a nature refuge landholder?

For landholders, particularly generational farmers, and those that have invested significantly in their natural capital and sustainable land management practices, a nature refuge offers a powerful living legacy as a testament to their commitment and investment.

Other key benefits identified by nature refuge landholders include:

  • financial assistance through programs such as NatureAssist and Nature Refuge Landholder Grants
  • technical advice to support property management goals and aspirations
  • formal recognition and protection of sustainable land management practices
  • facilitated access to markets in the growing conservation economy
  • opportunities for commercial branding by demonstrating environmental stewardship.
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Rainforest fringed waterhole – Teemburra Nature Refuge – Central Queensland Coast.
Photo © Wayne Ware

Is my property suitable for a nature refuge?

If your property contains significant conservation values and aligns with the Private Protected Area Program’s priorities, it may be eligible for a nature refuge. Priority consideration will be given to land that:

  • meets the requirements of the NatureAssist funding program
  • provides habitat for threatened species and/or ecosystems
  • establishes landscape scale corridors and connectivity to or between existing protected areas
  • contains remnant vegetation communities that are poorly represented within the existing protected area system
  • contains significant wetlands including springs.