Australian policies to preserve native vegetation on farms rest on mandatory regulations without compensation, whereas policies in most OECD countries rest on voluntary conservation with compensation. In New South Wales, the Native Vegetation Conservation Act 1998 restricts farmers from clearing native vegetation on their own freehold land, and offers no compensation. The Act may therefore impose opportunity costs, or losses in income, on landholders. These opportunity costs are estimated for a case study property in the Hunter Valley of New South Wales, and these results are then generalised to assess the broad trade-offs between development and preservation. The losses in income appear to vary between 5 and 10 per cent of annual income, depending on livestock prices. The flow of these losses over time appears to total some $26m for all properties of this kind in the immediate region. In addition to imposition of these direct opportunity costs, the regulations hinder land sales and so hinder adjustment by landholders to changing conditions.


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