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More than $30m of endangered environments nationwide being bought convenanted and sold back to that special breed of private buyer

Posted by gmarkets on 22 September, 2007

 In the Nandewar Ranges of northern NSW, the Nature Conservation Trust of NSW has an entire valley up for sale — 2000 hectares of granite heights and woodland bottoms almost untouched since European settlement — all for just $560,000, reported Robert Harley in The Australian Financial Review (22/9/2007, p.17).

Buy your own national park: “It is very rugged, with seven endangered ecological communities; you are buying your own national park,” says NSW NCT chief executive Rob Dunn. The private preservation of Rockview — NSW NCT buys, assesses, covenants, advises and then sells — is part of a nationwide system of “revolving funds”, under which state, federal and occasionally private money is recycled to buy, protect and resell environmentally sensitive land. “For the initial investment we get a better gain,” says Dunn. “We protect, and then sell and the dollars come back.”

$30m exchanged in new trend: The system was pioneered in Victoria in 1989. Today more than $30 million of endangered environments nationwide are being bought, covenanted and sold back to that special breed of private buyer.

Qld, NSW, Vic examples: On the Great Barrier Reef, 30 minutes’ flight from Mackay, the Queensland Trust for Nature has acquired Avoid Island, a 60-hectare slice of paradise with its own airstrip and one of the most important flatback turtle rookeries in the country. Eventually it will be protected by a covenant and resold. At Casino in northern NSW, NCT is selling an 800-hectare retreat, including its own lagoon and an isolated population of emus. With covenants, part would be suitable for eco-tourism. At Kotta near Echuca in northern Victoria, the Trust for Nature has an 80-hectare holding — one of the area’s largest blocks of woodland and home to the bush stone curlew — for sale at $170,000.

Tas forest: And at Snow Hill, 45 minutes’ drive north of Hobart, the Tasmanian Land Conservancy is selling 84.3 hectares of covenanted silver peppermint forest for $110,000. Earlier this year QTN sold a 64-hectare slice of rainforest at Pembers Scrub on the Atherton Tableland, complete with southern cassowaries and Lumholtz tree kangaroos, for $230,000. The buyer is committed to private conservation. At the same time, TLC sold the Dorothy Reeves Reserve at Port Sorrell in north-west Tasmania. It is 18.75 hectares with an understorey of native orchids, at least one of which is found nowhere else in the world. Not surprisingly, the buyer is an orchid botanist.

Vic forest: Five years ago, retired health administrator and chaplain, Geoffrey Serpell, bought 40 hectares, with remnant box and ironbark forest, near Bailieston in central Victoria, for about $55,000 from the Victorian TN. He has put up nesting boxes, planted 700 seedlings, pegged out nature trails and hosted field days. The biggest downside is the lack of rating relief from the local council and liability insurance costs, which stop him hosting school parties.

The Australian Financial Review, 22/9/2007, p. 17

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