Social research looking at NRM investment and demographic change

W. Minato, A. Curtis, C. Allan

Research output: Book chapter/Published conference paperConference paperpeer-review


In some parts of Australia rural areas are increasingly a mix of farming and lifestyle properties. Newer property owners in these areas are more likely to be motivated by consumption or protection values; in other words the land is seen as 'a nice place to live' and there may be a desire to plant trees and protect native flora and fauna. These trends are being driven by a mix of factors, including the retirement of a large cohort of older farmers, strong demand for lifestyle properties from baby boomers retiring from cities and greater mobility facilitated by freeways and the internet. Increasing rates of property turnover and the move away from farming are leading to changes in land management that are likely to alter the appearance and function of existing landscapes. The implications of these trends for future investment in natural resource management have received little attention in Australia and there appear to have been no attempts to link past investments with changes in resource condition in areas undergoing demographic change. This research aims to explore the relative influence of demographic change and government investment in NRM on the extent of native vegetation on private land in North-eastern Victoria. A case study approach combining field visits and in-depth interviews with land managers in a small catchment was used to explore this topic. Field investigations established that there has been an overall net gain in the amount of native vegetation within the catchment and that this increase is mostly associated with lifestyle properties where owners are actively planting or encouraging regeneration. However there is also evidence of change on farming properties where vegetation has been strategically planted over the years to address salinity and erosion problems, and clearing of regrowth is less likely to occur. Interviews with landholders revealed that government funding often goes to landowners who admitted they would probably have done at least some of the work without financial assistance. This raises some interesting questions about future government investment in similar high amenity rural areas, which may be addressed at a later stage in this research. Interview data suggest that the effects of drought and a downturn in the agricultural sector in recent decades have undermined efforts to increase the extent of native vegetation on private land. However there are indications that there is the potential for an exponential increase in the extent of native vegetation in future years if the drought breaks and some of the farming properties change hands. Given that much of the current investment in natural resource management is now focused on conservation and re-establishment of native vegetation it is noteworthy that only a small proportion of landholders (particularly those with bush blocks) showed any real interest conservation as a land management objective. Preliminary findings from this study suggest that government investment in areas undergoing demographic change has greater potential to lead to improvements in native vegetation extent than in areas not undergoing population turnaround. Traditional farmers are often reluctant to undo what generations of their forbears have done in terms of clearing the land and maximising production, whereas newer non-farmer property owners are not operating within the same financial constraints and long established traditions. The challenge will be to capitalise on these changes with incentive programs that are flexible enough to take advantage of significant rainfall events, perhaps by paying farmers to allow natural regeneration to occur. Future NRM programs may need to refocus on the needs of the next generation of non-farmer property owners who are not so constrained financially and are perhaps more willing to give up some of their land 'for trees'.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationProceedings of the 18th World IMACS Congress and MODSIM09 International Congress on Modelling and Simulation
EditorsR.S. Anderssen, R.D. Braddock, L.T.H. Newham
PublisherModelling and Simulation Society of Australia and New Zealand
Number of pages7
EditionJuly 2009
ISBN (Print)9780975840078
Publication statusPublished - 2009
Event18th World IMACS Congress and International Congress on Modelling and Simulation : MODSIM 2009 - Cairns Convention Centre, Cairns, Australia
Duration: 13 Jul 200917 Jul 2009


Conference18th World IMACS Congress and International Congress on Modelling and Simulation
Abbreviated titleInterfacing Modelling and Simulation with Mathematical and Computational Sciences
Other2009 conference, proceedings published 2020
Internet address


Dive into the research topics of 'Social research looking at NRM investment and demographic change'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this