Putting a value on the great outdoors

Media release from from SEQ Catchments
20 November 2012

For many people a weekend away camping or bushwalking is just what’s needed to recharge the batteries for another working week.

But how does a market driven economy place a value on the sound of water flowing, bird song at dawn, the coolness of a rainforest and the scent of clean mountain air?

Often referred to as ‘ecosystem services’, these are the benefits that people receive from the natural environment such as clean air, clean water, healthy soils or just enjoying being in the great outdoors.

Renowned American ecological economist Robert Constanza was in Brisbane yesterday to launch a new framework which is set to revolutionise the way planners and policy makers think about the benefits the environment brings to our way of life, our communities and overall well-being.

Renowned American ecological economist Robert Constanza

Renowned American ecological economist Robert Constanza

In 1997 Constanza estimated the global value of ecosystem services to be US$33 trillion per year, a figure greater than the annual gross national products (GNP) of all the world’s economies combined. He stated that investing in the preservation of intact ecosystems yields returns of 100 to 1.

The first of its kind in Australia, the SEQ Ecosystem Services Framework will allow decision makers, industry and government bodies to determine how the South East Queensland environment contributes to the community’s way of life, and therefore better understand how our actions impact on the benefits the environment provides.

SEQ Catchments CEO, Simon Warner said the Framework, based on a United Nations model, will provide a much needed tool to assess the value of the environment in terms of the SEQ community’s overall well-being.

‘‘The natural environment is an integral part of our society and economy.  In South East Queensland it is a big reason why so many people come to live here, but as the population grows so too does our collective impact on the environment,” he said.

“The SEQ Ecosystem Services Framework will allow us to better manage our landscape to provide these ecosystem services to people.”

“Planners and policy makers can use the Framework to; for example, place a value in terms of well-being on a healthy, functioning creek system and what we might risk if we were to lose it.”

“We are very privileged that a global expert such as Dr Costanza has been able to join us in launching this Framework and share his insights on the value it will have for our region,’’ Mr Warner said.

Over 190 individuals from government and non-government organisations have participated in developing the Framework. The Framework is coordinated by SEQ Catchments with financial support from the Federal, Queensland and Local Governments. The Brisbane Regional Environment Council, the University Sunshine Coast and the Australian National University provided technical support.

ENDS

Media inquiries: Sibel Korhaliller, 3211 4404, skorhaliller@seqcatchments.com.au