The Challenge of 30 by 30

Ross McDonnell, Convenor, NPA Landscape Conservation Forum

The NPA’s Landscape Conservation Forum (LCF) recognises the challenge ahead for NSW if it is to make an equitable contribution to the evolving Commonwealth Government policy of achieving ’30 by 30’. Articles in this Journal by WWF’s Dr Stuart Blanch and NPA’s Dr Ross Jeffree focus on the National Reserve System and the supporting economic context, but a considerable challenge exists on how NSW develops and implements a suitable response.

Broadly speaking, it will come down to what types of protection and management measures will be counted as contributing to a 30% target, and will there be a coordinated NSW approach?

For NPA a consideration is how does it focus its advocacy role in support of ’30 by 30’. The LCF, in considering this, has focused on promoting a broadening of the IUCN’s protected area classifications to include areas (land and waters) where the rehabilitation and restoration of natural values is required. The ’30 by 30’ target can also be legitimately met if it includes appropriately managed Crown Lands such as travelling stock routes, road reserves or verges with known natural values, and Indigenous Protected Areas (IPAs). In addition, a significant contribution would occur if NSW followed Victoria and Western Australia and ceased forestry in native forests and those areas were transferred to NPWS management.

Where this comes together for NPA is in the soon to be finalised NPA Strategy 2022-2028 which would provide a platform for what NPA works towards. 

A key concept directly related to ’30 by 30’ is how would the CAR principle (comprehensive, adequate, and representative) be relevant. The context is that the NSW NPWS uses CAR in its Reserves Establishment Plan 20081 and Draft National Parks System Directions Statement 20172 and it is a primary factor in how the NPA Western NSW project develops. CAR is a very useful tool in identifying the values that should be in a protected area network. It is also useful when analysing progress in creating protected areas, in that, a comparison of each bioregion allows for future protection measures to be targeted to particular (underrepresented) bioregions.

The background here is that while nationally the ’30 by 30’ target in nearly achieved3 we are not close to achieving it in NSW.  The reality is that both nationally and in NSW we have a skewed outcome. Regardless of if you measure the outcome based on a gazetted protected area network or add in other legitimate measures such as IPAs and crown lands, the current outcome in NSW varies significantly between bioregions and will continue to do so under current NSW arrangements.

Examples of bioregional variations in NSW is that some coastal and mountain bioregions have a well in excess of 40% protected area network (NPWS managed) coverage. Recent NSW acquisitions in north western NSW has resulted in those bioregions now having over 15% coverage. Contrast that with other bioregions in south western and central NSW which have less that 5% coverage.

Another context item is that it has taken NSW 150 years to develop a gazetted protected area network which is now 9.5% of terrestrial NSW and 7% of NSW waters, meaning there is 8 years left to achieve another 20% to 23%. The 7% for NSW waters refers to the sanctuaries within the marine reserves. Recent research indicates that it is only the sanctuaries which deliver a conservation outcome.

The NPA LCF firmly believes that ’30 by 30’ will only be achieved via a combination of outcomes being: continuing the application of CAR principles in focusing attention on underrepresented bioregions; adding in legitimate contributions from IPAs and other sympathetically managed outcomes (see Bush Heritage and Nature Conservancy outcomes); adopting an approach where lands are managed for eventual IUCN classification status but where a real short to medium term commitment for rehabilitation and restoration is required (apply restoration ecology actions); and where a scheme for funding landholders to protect and manage natural values is formally established.

Returning to the key questions posed (see 2nd paragraph above), it can be argued that an approach to identify the lands and waters needed to meet the ’30 by 30’ challenge can be achieved. The outstanding question is will NSW get there by the numerous parties involved working separately, or will a NSW Government attempt to provide a coordinating framework?  

NPA (LCF) calls on the NSW Government to develop a draft policy on how it believes ’30 by 30’ can be achieved, undertake a community consultative process, and implement a final policy inclusive of establishing a coordinating framework. A commitment to annual reporting on progress over the next 8 years would be a welcome first step. 


NSW National Parks Establishment Plan 2008, Department of Environment and Climate Change, 1 August 2008. New South Wales National Parks Establishment Plan 2008

Draft NSW National Parks System Directions Statement, Office of Environment and Heritage, 17 November 2017. Draft National Parks System Directions Statement

The Conservation, “Protecting 30% of Australia’s land and sea by 2030 sounds great – but its not what it seems”, Benjamin Cooke, Adrian Davison, Jamie Kirkpatrick, and Lillian Pearce, July 29, 2022. Protecting 30% of Australia’s land and sea by 2030 sounds great – but it’s not what it seems

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