13th June - Scotia Sanctuary

National Parks are an idea conceived in the nineteenth century. New visions are needed to sustain our parks into the 21st century. Today, I wish to put forward an alternative. It is not some future vision. It is a reality today. It is called Earth Sanctuaries. An Earth Sanctuary is identical to a National Park except in the cases of funding, ownership and management.

I realise that I do not have the space to answer every question you may have. I also realise that those of you who have a welfare mentality will continue to argue that “Russia got it right”. However, I ask you to look at this problem from the point of view of the environment rather than the status quo. I hear, all the time, the argument that “only the public sector can properly care for our environment.”

This exact argument can be used for arguing that the production of food should only be done by the public sector.  “The private sector would hoard it and force up prices”.  “The private sector would not give us the bio-diversity of food we require”.  etc. We could have a whole government department called “the Department of Food”. It would have an enormous budget.  There would be people arguing how good a job the public sector did. Its biggest expenditure would be public relations (just as it is with the environment) telling us what a wonderful job they were doing and how much better a job they could do if they had a bigger budget.

The fact of the matter is that in Australia today, all our food is produced by the private sector. They do an absolutely excellent job giving us good quality, cheap food. They give us an excellent diversity. If the public sector was completely responsible for the production of our food then we would all die of hunger.

We must bury these paradigms forever.

I would like to present an Earth Sanctuary as being:

managed as well as we would all like National Parks to be managed;
owned by those interested enough to own it;
independently funded at no cost to the public.

I would also claim that without some sort of reasonable competition, such as Earth Sanctuaries, our National Parks have no other direction but complete and utter failure anyway.

The concept of an Earth Sanctuary is fairly simple. We obtain land, we fence it with feral-proof fencing, we eradicate the feral animals, we put back the animals which once lived there. Let me describe Scotia Sanctuary as an example. Scotia Sanctuary is situated about midway between Broken Hill and Wentworth in Western New South Wales. It will be 1,000 sq kilometres (100,000 hectares). We are presently fencing it and eradicating the rabbits, cats, foxes and goats. We then plan to reintroduce woylies, boodies, bilbies, numbats, sticknest rats, mala, red-tailed phascogales, chuditch, bridles nailtail wallabies,  western barred and golden bandicoots.

We also plan to re-establish the vegetation as it was before it became a sheep station. We will then care for it as “best practice” conservation dictates. Of particular importance will be the rare birds which live there such as the mallee fowl and black-eared miner.

The funds to develop Scotia Sanctuary come from the issue of shares to whoever wishes to own shares. At present, shares in Earth Sanctuaries Limited, are being issued at $1.50 each with minimum subscription of 500 shares. Earth Sanctuaries Limited presently has about 1,500 shareholders. The number of shareholders are doubling every two years. So what I am saying, here, is that the funds to develop Earth Sanctuaries are raised in “The Market Place”. I believe there are ample funds available in the Market Place to save our environment. I do not believe that sufficient funds are available elsewhere.

At Scotia we then plan to develop, and have commenced building, tourism facilities which it is hoped will fund the day-to-day running of Scotia Sanctuary. 

To set up the mathematics of an Earth Sanctuary then one has to make a number of assumptions. The assumptions that I will now make are as follows:

That 100 Earth Sanctuaries, each of 1,000 sq kms be developed over the next 25 years;
That the National Parks System fail to save our wildlife;
That without Earth Sanctuaries, Australia would lose 100 species of mammal over the next 25 years;
That Earth Sanctuaries save this 100 species.

I probably should develop further the meaning of the word “lose” used above. I understand that in today’s world we can store genetic material and hence lose nothing. I understand that we can keep a few hundred alive in zoos “in vitro” and hence pretend that we have lost nothing. I would like to broaden the meaning of the word lose a bit here to mean something like “for all practical purposes lose” or to mean something like “the animal can not be displayed in the wild filling the niche it evolved to fill” or something.

We can then talk about the “cost” of saving species. Since here we say that 100 sanctuaries saves 100 species, we can think of each Earth Sanctuary saving a species. Of course what would really happen is that 10 Earth Sanctuaries would each contain 10 different species with, say, 10,000 individuals of each. So that, in the case of bilbies, there would be 10,000 at Scotia Sanctuary and 90,000 elsewhere. There may well be still 3,000 living in other places. However, the bulk of the bilbies of the world would live on various Earth Sanctuaries averaging one species per sanctuary.

Again, I would like to clearly point out and later I will demonstrate further, that if say, over 95% of a species lives on Earth Sanctuaries’ land then I am saying the species only survives on Earth Sanctuaries’ land. This is because, for all practical purposes when talking of value, this is true. For example, the American Hooping Crane has been valued at between $400,000,000  and $800,000,000 as a species. If there are 10,000 left and 9,500 live on land managed by X, then the value attributed to that population is 95% of the species is between $380,000,000 and $760,000,000 which is close enough to 100% of $600,000,000.

The cost of developing Scotia Sanctuary is as follows:

Land purchase                                   250,000
Fencing                                           2,500,000
feral eradication                                500,000
Reintroduction of Wildlife               750,000
Tourism Facilities                          1,000,000

     Total                                        $5,000,000

Therefore, if we use the assumptions above, the cost of saving a species of mammal is $5,000,000. The real problem is “How much is a species worth?” Of course if a species is worth less than $5,000,000 then it should not be saved. If it is worth more than $5,000,000 then it should be saved.

However, I believe there is little problem demonstrating that a species of mammal is worth more than $5,000,000. I can probably explain one way to sort out this problem by showing how we solved it.

What I am trying to say here can best be described by an example. Suppose that bilbies as a species is worth $100 million. It costs me $5 million to save it. I then have an asset worth $100 million. I therefore have no problem raising the necessary $5 million in the market place. So it really all boils down to a matter of value.

What seems to have happened, in the case of environmental values, is that probably in a well meaning fashion we decided that these things should not have a value at all. We thought they should somehow be above valuing. We would somehow all believe they were so valuable that we were all happy to pay whatever was necessary to save them. In fact what has happened is a “worst case scenario”. We have put a value of zero on these assets and therefore there are no funds to save them other than welfare funding.

However, the only real problems we encountered here were bureaucratic problems. The main one being that:

under Accounting Standards, assets can only be valued at their recoverable value;
under Wildlife Regulations, rare and endangered wildlife cannot be sold;
therefore, according to the Australian Securities Commission, all rare and endangered wildlife have to be valued at zero.

This caused us all sorts of problems in the “early days” but this has now been overcome.

The problem we had was really a circular argument. The assets of Earth Sanctuaries Limited are wildlife. We had to value our assets at zero. Therefore our shares had an asset backing of zero. Therefore we could only issue shares at zero. Therefore we couldn’t make it work.

So what we did was as follows:

We simply said that we did not accept a value of zero on our environmental assets. To demonstrate they were not worth zero, I appealed to our tourism figures. Tourism earned Australia over $13 billion last year. One quarter of the tourists entering Australia said they were primarily motivated by Australian wildlife. Therefore wildlife earned Australia over $3 billion last year. Hardly nothing. In fact more than sheep earned Australia last year.  Of course what this really says is that we, Australia, can have as much land properly managed for wildlife as we presently have under sheep.

I then divided this value amongst species based on how many species an average tourist would be able to see. It gave us a value of $360 million per species of Australian mammal.  I arbitrarily gave their habitat an equal value. Much more than $5 million!  I printed the document. I distributed it. I even published part of it in one of our prospectuses.

At the same time we paid a Broker to run a secondary market in our shares so that they could find a market value. No one can argue that goods sold freely on a free market do not give a fair value of those goods.

Anyway, to cut a long story short, 15% of the shares in Earth Sanctuaries Limited changed hands between 1st April 1996 and 31st March 1997 at an average price of $1.24.
This represented over 2,500,000 shares at a total price of $3,135,000. This gave Earth Sanctuaries Limited a fair market price of about $21 million. Hardly zero!

However, it gave much more than that. The assets of Earth Sanctuaries Limited are wildlife. If you purchase Earth Sanctuaries’ shares then you are purchasing wildlife. If you sell Earth Sanctuaries’ shares then you are selling wildlife. This meant that over $3 million worth of wildlife had traded over the last 12 months. Now we had concrete sales in rare and endangered wildlife which could be translated back into the value of wildlife. In fact these sales of shares give an acceptable value of $120 million per species on Australian wildlife. It puts a further $120 million on the value of a species habitat.

We can therefore complete the mathematics commenced earlier. It costs $5 million to save a species of Australian mammal from extinction. The “market value” of a species of Australian mammal and its habitat is presently $240 million. Therefore I can return $48 to an investor for each $1 he invests. There is no problem selling that to the market place.

However, we can look further at these matters. What has been returned for investing in Earth Sanctuaries Limited? What is now a share could be purchased, ten years ago, for 2.5c The last sale on the secondary market of ESL shares was at $1.20. This represents a return of $48 for each dollar invested ten years ago.

We are therefore in the position of being able to demonstrate a return of better than 40% per annum saving wildlife. We can predict that this return will continue. We therefore will be able to raise the funds we require in the market place to develop Earth Sanctuaries. Note that I am not talking about something that may be done, I am talking about what has been done.

The cost of properly managing land for environmental purposes is very high. I estimate that the cost of properly managing environmental lands at about $100 per hectare per annum. Presently South Australia has 20 million hectares of National Parks. To properly manage that land would cost about $2 billion per annum. This represents a State Bank each year. South Australia cannot meet these costs. I doubt that any State can.

On the other hand we must distinguish between the bureaucratic object called National Parks and the actual land called National Parks. You can easily satisfy the bureaucratic thing by increasing funding a little. If you work for the National Parks then an increase in funding will make your life much easier. It may do nothing for National Parks’ land. We must be very careful that we do not confuse these two objects.

When the Director of National Parks says that everything is unkydory with the National Parks she doesn’t mean the actual land is being properly managed. She means her staff are happy.

Presently the National Parks, itself, is the sole arbiter as to how well it is performing. This is extremely dangerous. There is no way the private sector can compete unless this is changed. This is like making one of the players the referee. It just cannot work. It must be changed. Fortunately we have been promised change under the National Competition Guide-lines. I hope that it will be so. South Australia is certainly resisting it with all the energy they can.

There is no doubt in my mind that the private sector could well take on the management of our National Parks and return a greater profit to all. The problem, as I see it, is the lack of desire for monopolies to allow competition. The greatest monopolies in the world today are built about wildlife. I believe we need not have any rare or endangered anything. They could all be common. However it all rests on the National Parks Bureaucracy itself.

I believe that as a matter of urgency, the bureaucracy of the National Parks be split from the land called National Parks. There should be a body whose job it is to oversee our environmental assets. It should not be the same body whose job it is to actually care for our environmental assets.

However, when I see the dog’s breakfast that New South Wales achieved over what it calls the “display of animals” under the NSW Department of Agriculture, I have difficulty seeing anything reasonable being achieved in respect of saving our environmental assets from that direction.

I therefore can foresee some fairly rough fights that have to be won before we achieve the right to save our environment. However, I believe that we will win.

All the wildlife reintroduced to Scotia Sanctuary have thrived. Clips of these can be seen at Scotia Wildlife.