A Biosphere Reserve for Tilba District?
Tilba Environment Landcarers (TEL) and the Tilba District Chamber of Commerce (the Chamber) are leading a project to determine whether a Biosphere Reserve is an appropriate way to recognise, protect and enhance what is special about our region and to ensure that it remains an attractive place to live, work and play as our climate and economic circumstances change.
What are we trying to protect?
The area in which we live, work and play has valuable natural and aesthetic assets, including National Parks; State Forests; other public reserves; mountains; lakes; beaches; rivers and creeks; a Marine Park; an island and other rocky outcrops; clean air and water; and abundant sea and land birds, animals and other living things.
We have a rich and interesting history, both Aboriginal and European, with important and valuable cultural assets, both natural and built form.
The climate in our area is warm, mild and temperate without significant extremes of temperature or rainfall.
Our commercial use of the land and waters of our area is largely sympathetic to, and supportive of, those natural and cultural assets, taking the form of a number of long-term farms (including dairy, beef, lamb and oysters); boutique and organic horticultural operations; and tourism which is nature-based or focussed on the enjoyment of our cultural assets and climate.
The way in which we live and work in our environment imposes a small footprint.
We see all of those aspects as extremely valuable and worthy of an appropriate form of protection and enhancement. We want to make sure that we have a say in how that occurs to ensure the sustainability of our area, adopting the United Nations definition of sustainability, namely “meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.” Whilst we are open to any system of protection which achieves that goal, we are interested in investigating the benefits of adopting the UNESCO Biosphere Reserve concept and testing the appetite of the local community and relevant Government authorities in pursuing that opportunity.
What is a Biosphere Reserve?
Biosphere Reserves are areas of terrestrial, marine and coastal ecosystems that are managed with the aim of balancing biodiversity conservation and the sustainable use of natural resources. See:
The aim of declaring a place a Biosphere Reserve is to improve human livelihoods and safeguard natural ecosystems as well as those managed for greater human use. The reserves promote socially and culturally appropriate and environmentally sustainable economic development.
The World Network of Biosphere Reserves includes 738 Biosphere Reserves in 134 countries. Australia currently has 5 Biosphere Reserves:
Fitzgerald Biosphere Reserve, Western Australia
Great Sandy Biosphere Reserve, Queensland
A Biosphere Reserve includes one or more protected areas and surrounding lands that are managed to combine both conservation and sustainable use of natural resources.
Each Biosphere Reserve conserves examples of characteristic ecosystems of one of the World's natural regions, managed for their protection and study.
It is a land and/or coastal/marine area in which people are an integral component, and which is managed for objectives ranging from complete protection to intensive yet sustainable production.
It is a regional centre for monitoring, research, education and training on natural and managed ecosystems.
It is a place where government decision makers, scientists, managers and local people cooperate in developing a model program for managing land and water to meet human needs while conserving natural processes and biological resources.
Finally, each Biosphere Reserve is a symbol of voluntary cooperation to conserve and use resources for the wellbeing of people everywhere.
What are the benefits of a Biosphere Reserve?
When an area is declared a Biosphere Reserve, the benefits include:
Helps explain the narrative about a place and its aesthetics.
Helps you tell government what you want in your area.
Helps you influence government planning in your area.
Provides additional support to groups working to preserve the unique ecosystems of the area.
Increases national and international recognition of the area as a good place to live, work and visit.
Increases the profile of the area as a tourist destination.
Promotes economic development in a sustainable way.
Helps to assure the ecological and economic sustainability of the area.
Helps First Nations to better address cultural, social and development issues
for their people.
Gives government and non-government organisations more leverage to
request funding and implement pilot projects for rural and economic
development and other areas of interest.
Encourages increased infrastructure for research, monitoring, educational
Gains access to information, expertise and support through national and
Once designated, a site becomes a member of the World Network of
Biosphere Reserves, where integrated research and monitoring as well as exchange and sharing of experience take place.
How do you create and manage a Biosphere Reserve?
The process of developing a Biosphere Reserve proposal allows communities to discuss what they value in their region and to learn more about their area.
Biosphere Reserves in Australia are always listed, planned for and managed with the consent of State governments and the local community.
National governments are responsible for putting nominations for places to become Biosphere Reserves to UNESCO. If accepted, the area then gains international recognition.
However, this is the last step in a process which throughout involves the local community in identifying the values of a proposed reserve and developing the reserve proposal. This enables communities to exchange ideas and increase their understanding of what their region has to offer.
Such a valuable activity can have an impact on future management and planning even if the community decides not to proceed with a nomination.
Both in developing a proposed nomination and in managing a Biosphere Reserve, communities, decision makers, scientists and managers cooperate in developing program and management approaches for land and water resources. These are seen from the perspective of both human needs and of conserving natural biological processes.
As well as formally nominating an area as a Biosphere Reserve, the Commonwealth Government has some responsibility under the external affairs powers of the Australian Constitution as a UN member and as a party to the treaty establishing UNESCO. It also has a role through the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 which covers recognition and protection of ecological communities and Commonwealth/State cooperation in managing reserves and protected areas, including funding and research support.
However, unlike other forms of national or international protection regimes for natural and/or cultural conservation areas (such as National Parks or World Heritage areas), neither the Australian Government nor UNESCO place specific management requirements on Biosphere Reserves. Management arrangements are specified by the proponents and are appropriate to local circumstances and other existing management regimes at the State level.
What has been achieved to date?
On 17 October 2022, TEL and the Chamber held a community forum in Central Tilba to hear presentations regarding Biosphere Reserves and to begin the discussion about them.
The forum was attended by approximately 80 people including local residents, farmers and other landowners, business owners, Indigenous representatives and Council representatives.
Professor Peter Bridgewater, of the University of Canberra and Australian
National University who has 30 years of working experience on Biosphere
Reserves around the world and in Australia. See his presentation here.
David Moore, Manager of Environment and Sustainability Policy of the Sunshine Coast Council. See his presentation here.
Following the forum, the following has occurred:
An email group was formed of people who are interested in this project. Regular emails are sent to that group providing updates on the project. If you want to join that group, please send an email to the address in the contact details below.
An interested group of local community members have joined the Future Tilba subcommittee of the Chamber to progress this project.
The Future Tilba subcommittee met on 25 November 2022 to agree on future steps.
One of those steps was to work on the potential boundaries of a Tilba Biosphere Reserve. That work is ongoing, but should be finalised in March 2023.
Another step was to engage Professor Peter Bridgewater as a consultant to the Chamber to assist in the feasibility of the project.
Grant funding was received in December 2022 from the Foundation for Rural & Regional Renewal (FRRR) to fund that feasibility stage.
The feasibility stage commenced with a visit to the Tilba district by Professor Bridgewater between 18-20 January 2023. That visit included travel around the district to familiarise Professor Bridgewater; meetings with a number of key stakeholders, including Dr Michael Holland, State Labor MP for Bega and representatives of Eurobodalla Shire Council including Deputy Mayor, Councillor Alison Worthington; and planning meetings with members of the Future Tilba subcommittee.
Contact Details for Further Information
Please email: TilbaBiosphere@gmail.com