Date of Award


Document Type



Edith Cowan University

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


School of Natural Sciences


Faculty of Computing, Health and Science

First Supervisor

Dr Pierre Horwitz

Second Supervisor

Professor Alan Black

Third Supervisor

Dr Jackie Alder


Globally management agreements have emerged as more effective in assuring long-term nature conservation on private land, than regulatory mechanisms alone. Restrictive permanent covenants in particular, which are legally binding management agreements in perpetuity, have been adopted in most States and Territories in Australia. However, there is reluctance among landholders to take them up. Sound understanding of the factors that influence the decisions of landholders regarding the uptake of permanent covenants is important in planning and strategizing for increased covenant uptake. The aim of this thesis is to further this understanding and to support the design of a coordinated covenant mechanism for nature conservation on private lands in Australia. This thesis postulated that the decision of landholders regarding the uptake of permanent covenants could be explained within the theoretical framework of landholders’ adoption of land and agricultural conservation practices and technologies. Three self-administered questionnaires were employed in this study through mail surveys on three groups of landholders in two Australian States (Victoria and Western Australia): one for permanent covenant holders, another for fixed-term agreement and fixed-term covenant holders in Victoria and Western Australia respectively, and another for non-holders of covenant or agreement holders in both States. Data, both qualitative and quantitative were collected on demographics, social-economics, landholders’ attitudes, and property characteristics. The data analysis included frequency distributions and proportions, analysis of variance, multivariate regression path analysis, and content analysis of written views of landholders on incentives and disincentives for covenant uptake. Landholders’ decisions regarding uptake of a permanent covenant are influenced directly, and/or indirectly by several interactive factors categorised into five non-mutually exclusive constructs: landholders’ confidence in permanent covenant mechanisms, nature conservation ethic, outlook on property rights, level of economic dependence o the property, and nature conservation equity. In both States, there is lack of comprehensive knowledge about permanent covenant, leading to negative perceptions about the purpose, intentions, and ability of permanent covenants to deliver the desired outcomes, and these affect landholders’ confidence in permanent covenants. In addition, misconceptions and misunderstanding abound on the rights attached to private property and the relationship between these rights and permanent covenants. Furthermore, policy measures to compensate for loss of landholders perceived property rights are likely to induce relatively similar measure of response to permanent covenant uptake among all landholder categories. There is a need for clarification of the allotment of property rights over biological resources that have a public good on private property among the different claimants. Voluntary uptake of management agreements mostly attracts the landholders who are least economically dependent on their property and those who have a high conservation ethic and appreciation of conservation values on their property. The presence of the economic dependent category of landholders justifies the use of financial incentives to motivate their uptake of permanent covenants. Recent amendments to the taxation law to address loss in land value are likely to have disproportionate magnitude of impact of conservation policy on different landholder groups, confirming the need for a pre-implementation policy impact assessment on the relevant landholder groups. There is risk of comprehensive policy framework for nature conservation on private land to address the complex issues that affect private conservation efforts. Development of incentive measures that ensure sustained motivation to conserve nature and a gradual shift from compensatory approaches to stewardship support measures are necessary. In views of the trans-generation and transferability of land, programs that promote a nature conservation ethic need to move beyond current landowners to potential future ones. Extension programs can address perceived disadvantages to, and losses to be incurred by landholders caused by, taking up a permanent covenant. Extension programs and policies that clarify the connection between biodiversity on private land, landowners’ goals and aspirations, and the link between human wellbeing and the healthy maintenance of the environment can encourage a value and ethic for nature conservation and in turn motivate the uptake of permanent covenants and land stewardship. Clarification to landholders of the importance of the biodiversity on a specific property to the overall regional and national biodiversity plans and needs, and the importance and value of a specific landholder’s contribution to conserving biodiversity are necessary to motivate the uptake of permanent covenants.