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Garret Hardin’s ‘tragedy of the commons’ tells the story of environmental degradation when each individual who has access to a communal paddock decides to increase personal profits by adding an extra cow into the enclosure. As a cumulative result of this individual self-interest, the resource is destroyed. Supportive of free-market approaches to property ownership and development, this parable assumes that each individual is likely to take better care of their resources if they have ownership and control, and most importantly experience the consequences of their decision-making. Unfortunately, when played out in the ‘real world’ has contributed to cumulative decline of biodiversity in Australia. In response various regulations have been implemented by national and state governments to protect biodiversity at the landscape scale. The most recent change has been introduced through the Victorian State Government’s document: Securing our natural future: A white paper for land biodiversity at a time of climate change. If implemented, the environmental commons will be managed in a way that mobilises a complex fabric of public and private landownership. This paper explores the tensions between directions proposed by the White Paper and some of their implications on private property rights, and how these tensions play out through the development and implementation of policies aimed at protecting biodiversity.

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Conference Paper

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