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A Duty of Care for the Protection of Biodiversity on Land

Consultancy report

This report by Dr Gerry Bates was released on 11 May 2001, similtaneously with the staff research paper, Cost Sharing for Biodiversity Conservation: A Conceptual Framework. This report explores the concept of duty of care to the environment in relation to biodiversity. It explains when a duty of care may exist, the obligations it imposes and the implications of introducing a duty of care in statute.

This consultancy report forms part of a stream of work being undertaken by the Commission in relation to private incentives for the conservation of biodiversity. Also see:

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  • Media release
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Clarifying landholders' property rights or their 'duty of care' for the environment is an important first step in deciding who should pay for conservation on private land, according to two reports released by the Productivity Commission today.

The Commission's staff research paper, Cost Sharing for Biodiversity Conservation: A Conceptual Framework, discusses principles for sharing the costs of conservation between individuals, groups and the general community.

According to the paper, property rights determine the responsibilities as well as the rights of users over resources. 'Depending on how they are defined, property rights could imply that individuals are required to meet certain environmental standards', said Neil Byron, Commissioner. The paper suggests that property rights are not always clear, leading to confusion and disputation, and further work - such as research and public discussion - is needed to clarify them.

A consultancy report by Dr Gerry Bates of the Australian Centre for Environmental Law, A Duty of Care for the Protection of Biodiversity on Land, says that a statutory duty of care on landholders can offer considerable benefits in protecting the environment. It suggests that such a duty of care should be tied to environmental standards and codes of practice, so that landholders could have greater certainty about their responsibilities for the environment.

Both reports recognise the contribution of private sector conservation in preventing biodiversity loss. 'Establishing an appropriate cost sharing framework is essential to ensure best use of public and private funds, and to achieve the full potential contribution of biodiversity conservation on private lands', said Dr Byron.

The reports form part of a stream of work being undertaken by the Productivity Commission in relation to private incentives for the conservation of biodiversity. They build on inquiries conducted by the Commission into Ecologically Sustainable Land Management and Ecologically Sustainable Development.

Further information

Leonora Nicol, Media and Publications 02 6240 3239 / 0417 665 443

Preliminaries
Cover, Copyright, Contents, Preface, Key Points

1   Introduction
1.1   Structure of this report
1.2   Proposals for introducing a duty of care into environmental legislation
1.3   Adequacy of current legal approaches to the protection of biodiversity

2   The concept of the duty of care
2.1   The common law duty of care
2.2   Effect of statutes on common law duties of care

3   Statutory duties of care
3.1   Duty of care owed to individuals
3.2   Duty of care owed to the environment
3.3   Duty to comply with the law
3.4   Defining standards of care
3.5   Duty of care and cost sharing
3.6   Is there merit in introducing a general duty of care into legislation to protect biodiversity?