The Role of Government in a Partial Transition from Public to Private in the Expanding Australian Protected Area System
Jamie B Kirkpatrick1, Julie Fielder1, Aidan Davison1, Lilian M Pearce2, Benjamin Cooke3
1 School of Geography, Planning, and Spatial Sciences, University of Tasmania, Hobart, Tasmania, Australia
2 School of Geography, Planning, and Spatial Sciences, University of Tasmania, Hobart, Tasmania; Centre for the Study of the Inland, School of Humanities and Social Sciences, La Trobe University, Victoria, Australia
3 School of Global, Urban and Social Studies, RMIT University, Victoria, Australia
School of Geography, Planning, and Spatial Sciences, University of Tasmania, Hobart, Tasmania
Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None
Since the 1980s in democratic societies, neoliberal reforms and neofeudal governance have transferred the delivery of many public goods and services from governments to non-government actors. Privatisation is a core neoliberal agenda, but little is known of the nature and extent of its application to nature conservation through reservation. We investigate the degree of privatisation of the expanding protected area system in our case study areas of Australia and Tasmania, hypothesising that governments have: disrupted public agencies managing the protected area estate by repeated reorganisation; diverted public funds from public to private protected areas; and increasingly alienated public reserves for subsidised private profit from tourism. We found frequent restructuring of agencies managing protected areas. Although Federal Government expenditure on private reserves increased markedly in the twenty-first century, so did expenditure on public conservation reserves. All States except Queensland increased public protected area funding. Direct subsidisation of private reserves by government has not had a steady upward trajectory. In contrast, subsidisation of private alienation of public conservation reserves for tourism may have accelerated in the twenty-first century. We conclude that, while Australian governments see value in protected areas as a source of economic development and electoral advantage, they are agnostic on ownership.