Paul Dettmann bought his first property in 2008 to protect it with a conservation covenant.
He has since established about 40 covenants on properties across Victoria, making him one of Trust for Nature’s largest covenantors.
A sixth generation farmer with agricultural qualifications from Dookie College (with a masters in private land management of private conservation areas), Paul has turned conservation into a business, leveraging private industry to protect land through a diversified business model that services environmental markets such as carbon offsets. He uses the land for offsets and carbon trading and is also interested in eco-tourism.
He chooses his properties based on their conservation values and their proximity to other protected areas like national parks.
Paul said, “We like to have diversity across the state. We’re working across a range of ecosystems and we focus on connectivity. National parks are big areas of biodiversity—they’re like continents and the land in between the parks are like islands. We want to link them up.”
“The United States’ view of conservation is much bigger than ours. We have a limited view of conservation —theirs includes forestry and ranch land but there are synergies between low input grazing and conservation.
“I think we need to understand and integrate farming and conservation more. Farmers are the biggest land managers and rather than there being a tension
between agriculture and conservation, we need to find synergy.”
He anticipates his work will include a lot more sustainable agriculture over the next 10 years and he hopes to have models that have significant covenants but are also profitable for agriculture, with the goal to covenant at least another 10,000ha. Paul’s business often covers the cost of the covenanting, which can be upwards of $30,000 each.
Paul said conservation covenants are a way to protect land forever, regardless of who owns it. He said, “Although I am sure we will be doing things better in the future, we can clearly see we are living with fragile natural systems that can be damaged or destroyed so I want to make sure that whoever follows in managing the properties can’t undo the good work and years of protection we’ve put in, that’s the main reason I strongly believe in establishing conservation covenants on land.
“Without a covenant, if you get hit by a bus tomorrow your legacy could be lost. All your work could be undone if it’s not protected.”
Paul has seen an increase in covenanting since he started but hopes that it will be slowing down because we’ve done the work we need to do.
“Not all areas are suitable for conservation covenants and hopefully in 50 years there will be fewer people doing it simply because we will have protected the bulk of the remaining intact private land native vegetation,” he said.