The states and territories have primary responsibility for land management in Australia's federal system. For more than 130 years, they have been building protected areas by declaring national parks in some of the country's most stunning landscapes. With Australia's signing of the Convention on Biological Diversity in 1992, they became foundation partners in building our National Reserve System, part of a groundbreaking collaboration between all levels of government. The Australian model of collaboratively developing its protected area network is a unique conservation partnership envied around the world.
The state and territories continue to be important purchasers and managers of protected areas and are vital partners in developing a 'comprehensive, adequate and representative' National Reserve System.
Local councils are vital partners in helping to build the National Reserve System and are increasingly viewing conservation as part of their core business. Most local councils manage a network of reserves and open spaces for community purposes. Many of these places have high conservation value, with valuable bushland, rivers, creeks and wetlands providing habitat for threatened plants and animals. Often these areas need only additional protection measures to be worthy additions to the National Reserve System.
Many councils are partners with regional natural resource management bodies and power and water utilities. These partnerships, allied to their legal responsibilities for local planning and development, mean that councils are ideally placed to establish and manage new protected areas. Local governments also have the greatest capacity of all spheres of government to engage local communities in on-ground conservation activity. They offer the prospect of innovative approaches to the management and protection of conservation properties.