Farming and conservation sector proposes 24,000 jobs in conservation and land management to stimulate economy as Covid-19 restrictions are eased

3 April 2020

Over 70 farming, conservation and land management organisations across the country, including the National Farmers Federation, the Australian Land Conservation Alliance, Landcare and the Invasive Species Council have written to the Prime Minister and all state Premiers proposing a $4 billion combined federal and state economic stimulus package in the conservation and land management sector.

The proposal would provide jobs to 24,000 workers at its peak to undertake practical conservation activities across Australia such as weed and pest control, river restoration and bushfire recovery and resilience.  

The organisations say that investment in a jobs-rich conservation and land management program could be part of the bridge to recovery for Australia as Covid-19 restrictions are eased.  With over 1 million people predicted to be out of work in the coming months, the sector has the capacity to provide recently unemployed people with safe, meaningful and socially beneficial work, while leaving enduring benefits for the environment, tourism and farm businesses.

The organisations have been engaging closely with federal and state policy makers and say that developing this package early will allow for good program design and the opportunity to learn the lessons of past programs. If funding is committed, then projects can be developed, partnerships formed and positions advertised, so that the program can hit the ground running as social distancing measures are eased.

The jobs would be appropriate for temporarily repurposing existing workforces which are under pressure, including tradespeople and workers in the tourism and small business sectors.  It would also have significant economic multipliers, especially in regional communities, with work generated for local suppliers and hospitality businesses.

Doug Humann, Chair, Landcare Australia: 

“Over the years, conservation and land management organisations have mobilised hundreds of thousands of volunteers and workers.  In these challenging times, we want to play our part in providing meaningful work for those that need it. 

“The conservation and land management sector stand ready to support the delivery of economic stimulus measures once social distancing measures are eased.  Community organisations and the farm sector will be critical in ensuring this rolls out across the landscape.”

Pepe Clarke, Deputy Director, Outback to Oceans, The Pew Charitable Trusts:

“The road to recovery will be a long one, which will require each sector of society to contribute in its own way. This investment would deliver practical, meaningful work for those that need it, while leaving enduring benefits for the environment.”

“Conservation programs have formed a part of economic recovery programs in the US and Australian since the Great Depression because there’s an enormous amount of valuable work to be done, from bushfire recovery and tree planting to weed control and river restoration. Many thousands of people will need support to make a transition back to work and would benefit from practical, hands on jobs like this.” 

Representatives from signatories to the letter are available for interview. Please contact Jack Gough on 0427 713 101.

Practical conservation activities that could be undertaken across public and private land include:

·         a surge in weed control efforts, focussed on containment and preventing cross-tenure spread;

·         river and wetland restoration, including fencing, revegetation and erosion control;

·         national park infrastructure, track maintenance and park management (fire, weeds, feral animals);

·         bushfire recovery and resilience activities, including infrastructure repairs and habitat restoration;

·         invasive animal control, including deer and pigs which impact on farming and threatened species;

·         tree planting and habitat restoration in metropolitan, suburban, peri-urban and rural areas;

·         funding for private land conservation, putting money in the hands of farmers and other land managers;

·         coastal habitat restoration and monitoring, in partnership with the fishing industry and local communities;

·         plastics and marine debris clean up, including research to inform future policy decisions; and

·         funding for Indigenous rangers to deliver jobs directly to vulnerable communities using a proven model.