Department of Agriculture and Water Resources Australian Government investment in Landcare

​​The Government recognises and supports the important role Landcare plays through community and industry organisations in protecting and improving the condition of soils, vegetation and biodiversity on-farm. The condition of these natural resources underpin the productivity and profitability of the agriculture sector and deliver community benefits. The next phase of the National Landcare Program will provide financial support for the agriculture related programs listed below (Note: information about the National Landcare Program, including the environment only elements and joint agriculture and environment elements, are on the nrm website).

The nrm website includes the Regional Land Partnership App which identifies national priorities for Management Units for investment in improving soil condition, including soil acidification, soil carbon, hillslope erosion and water erosion. These are listed for each Management Unit on the interactive map, and displayed for the continent on four separate maps. This information may also be useful to Smart Farms applicants.

Detailed data sets (at a resolution suitable for sub regional planning) used to prepare these maps will be available for download shortly.

The priorities have been developed using the following reports commissioned for the National Landcare Program:

Leys, John: Chappell, Adrian, Mewett, Jodie and Barson, Michele (2017) Wind erosion assessment for National Landcare program. New South Wales Office of Environment and Heritage.


​DocumentPagesFile size
Wind erosion assessment for National Landcare program PDF 565.55 MB
Wind erosion assessment for National Landcare program DOCX 566.43 MB

If you have difficulty accessing these files, please visit web accessibility.

Mckenzie, N.J., Hairsine, P.B., Gregory,L.J., Baldock, J. A., Webb, M. J., Mewett, J., Cresswell, H.P., Welti, N., Thomas, M. (2017) Priorities for improving soil condition across Australia’s agricultural landscapes. CSIRO. Australia

Smart Farms Program

Applications now open for:

  • Smart Farming Partnerships grants program. The first round of this program opened on 19 October 2017 and close at 2:00 pm AEDT on 21 December 2017.
  • Smart Farms Small Grants. The first round of this program opened on 24 October 2017 and close at 2:00 pm AEDT on 7 December 2017.

The Government is allocating $134 million to support the development and uptake of best practice, tools and technologies that help farmers, fishers, foresters and regional communities improve the protection, resilience and productive capacity of our soils, water and vegetation, in turn supporting successful primary industries and regional communities.

The program will focus on protecting and improving the condition of soil, vegetation and biodiversity and support agricultural systems to adapt to change.

The Smart Farms Program will run over six years from 2017‑18. It is made up of the following three elements:

  • Smart Farming Partnerships is a $60 million grants program for medium to large scale projects to encourage the development, trial and roll-out of new and innovative tools and farm practices.
  • Smart Farms Small Grants is a $50 million grants program for on-ground projects to support the adoption of practices that improve the management and quality of our natural resources and increases on-farm productivity.
  • Building Landcare Community and Capacity will allocate $24 million to support the sharing of knowledge and achievements in natural resource management and promote community leadership.

There is also information on the nrm website in video format concerning the Smart Farms program.

What will Smart Farms Deliver?

The main element of Smart Farms are two grant programs (Smart Farming Partnerships and Smart Farms Small Grants), which begin in 2017-18.

Smart Farming Partnerships grants are expected to range between $250,000 and $4 million (GST exclusive). These larger projects will support the formation of relevant and effective partnerships between experienced and skilled organisations and individuals. Under the program these partnerships will:

  • develop, trial and implement new and innovative tools that support sustainable agriculture practice changes that will deliver more productive and profitable agriculture, fishing, aquaculture and farm forestry industries;
  • protect Australia’s biodiversity;
  • protect and improve the condition of natural resources (in particular soils and vegetation); and
  • assist Australia to meet its obligations under relevant international treaties.

Smart Farms Small Grants will range between $5,000 and $100,000 (GST exclusive) under two tiers: Tier 1 for grants between $5,000 and $50,000; and tier 2 for grants between $50,001 and $100,000.

The purposes of these grants are to

  • increase land manager’s awareness, knowledge, capability and adoption of tools and management practices that will deliver more productive and profitable agriculture, fishing, aquaculture and farm forestry industries;
  • protect Australia’s biodiversity;
  • protect and improve the condition of natural resources (in particular soils and vegetation); and
  • assist Australia to meet its obligations under relevant international treaties.

Building Landcare Community and Capacity will start in 2017-18. The Department of Agriculture and Water Resources will work directly with the Landcare community and farmer organisations to identify suitable activities. Activities are likely to include, but are not limited to:

  • awards and recognition for excellence among the Landcare community
  • leadership development opportunities
  • conferences and networking events
  • communication and community engagement activities and other projects that strengthen the social and technical capacity that underpins the delivery of Landcare
  • efforts by Landcare and farming groups to deliver on-the-ground improvements in land management.

Who can apply?

The Smart Farming Partnerships and Smart Farm Small Grants programs are open to a range of stakeholders. Details are contained in the guidelines.

When are they open?

Smart Farming Partnerships opened 19 October 2017 and close at 2:00 pm AEDT on 21 December 2017

Smart Farms Small Grants opened 24 October 2017 and close at 2:00 pm AEDT on 7 December 2017

Register for grant opportunities

All Department of Agriculture and Water Resources grant opportunities are published on GrantConnect, the Australian Government Grants Information System. To be notified about grant opportunities that interest you, please visit GrantConnect and register at no cost to establish an account. This includes a self-defined notification profile, so you can receive information about Forecast Opportunities and Grant Opportunities that may interest you.

The Smart Farming Partnerships and Smart Farm Small Grants programs will be broadly open to all Australian legal entities. Details are contained in the guidelines (Smart Farming Partnerships opened on 19 October 2017).

Support for efforts to eradicate Red Imported Fire Ants

The Australian Government is committed to the eradication of Red Imported Fire Ants (RIFA) and is providing nearly $50 million of funding from the National Landcare Program as part of its contribution to the Red Imported Fire Ants eradication program for south-east Queensland. This investment, along with state and territory governments under nationally established cost-sharing arrangements, will help the program intensify current Red Imported Fire Ant eradication efforts with the aim of full eradication over the proposed 10-year funding period.

Focus of the next 10-year RIFA SEQ Program

On 26 July 2017, Agriculture Ministers agreed to fund an enhanced $380 million eradication plan over the next 10 years. The objective remains to prevent RIFA from establishing in Australia, avoiding significant social, environmental and economic costs to Australian governments and communities. A total of $92.1 million will be applied from the National Landcare Program ($49.6 million during phase 2 of the Program) towards the Australian Government contribution to the 10 year program.

In addition to eradicating RIFA from south east Queensland, the program seeks to develop new scientific techniques and technologies for the detection, diagnosis, treatment and surveillance of RIFA. This will increase Australia’s capacity to respond to any future outbreaks of RIFA and other invasive ants in Australia.

Given the level of investment to be made by the Australian and state and territory governments, Agriculture Ministers also approved the establishment of a steering committee to provide strategic oversight of the program, as well as ensure the program receives the appropriate level of support and guidance required to increase its likelihood for success.

Key Benefits to Program

The key benefits of the program will be avoiding the impacts that are known to occur where RIFA are established, such as:

  • the significant financial cost of ongoing management
  • the cost of losses and management in agricultural industries
  • the displacement and potential extinction of native species
  • human health impacts associated with the painful sting of red imported fire ants, including anaphylactic reactions which have been known to be fatal
  • damage to infrastructure, including electrical systems, buildings and roads
  • reduced tourism and damage to popular recreational facilities.

Red Imported Fire Ants in Australia

RIFA are one of the world’s worst invasive species due to their devastating economic, environmental and social impacts. They pose a threat to human health, delivering a painful sting and, in some cases, causing anaphylactic shock, which can result in death. In the US state of Texas (around 100 000 km2 smaller than New South Wales), RIFA are estimated to cost US$1.2 billion each year in control, damage repair and medical care.

Australia’s worst established invasive species (rabbits, cane toads, foxes, camels, wild dogs and feral cats) collectively cost an estimated $964.4 million each year to control. Managing the impacts of RIFA, should it not be eradicated, could easily surpass this annual cost. RIFA were first detected in Brisbane in 2001, prompting a nationally cost-shared eradication program in southeast Queensland (RIFA-SEQ). There have been six incursions of RIFA in Australia, four of which have been successfully eradicated (most recently in Port Botany, New South Wales, and Yarwun, Queensland). In addition to the south east Queensland incursion, a RIFA eradication response is currently underway at Brisbane Airport (QLD), which is expected to be free from RIFA by the end of 2017.

The national capacity to deal with invasive ants continues to improve. Many valuable lessons have been learned about surveillance and detection methods, effective treatments and the engagement of local communities. This increasing knowledge and experience benefits all of the RIFA eradication programs.

Independent Review of RIFA-SEQ Program

In December 2014, Agriculture Ministers commissioned an independent review of the RIFA-SEQ program, which was completed in May 2016. The independent review panel concluded eradication of RIFA remains in the national interest, and is still both technically feasible and cost beneficial ($25:1). The final report of this program directly informed the structure and agreed budget for the 10-year eradication program.

Centre for Invasive Species Solutions

The Government is supporting the Invasive Animals Cooperative Research Centre’s transition into the new Centre for Invasive Species Solutions. The new Centre is focusing on invasive species management and this investment supports the Centre and its efforts to carry out research, development and extension activities aimed at managing invasive animals and weeds. The Centre will continue the collaborative investment the Invasive Animals Cooperative Research Centre has been undertaking in invasive species management, following the conclusion of CRC Programme funding in June 2017.

Established pest animals and weeds are a chronic and intractable problem with significant economic, environmental and social impacts for Australia. The annual economic cost of pest animal impacts is at least $1 billion, and a 2004 study estimated the agricultural cost of weeds to be nearly $4 billion per annum. Pest animals and weeds also threaten Australia’s biodiversity, and the condition of our natural resource base, by accelerating the erosion of fragile soil, stirring up waterways and reducing water quality and outcompeting or killing native species.

When, and how much funding is available?

The investment into Centre for Invasive Species Solutions totals $20 million (GST exclusive) over five years. The Department of Agriculture and Water Resources will provide $4 million for 2017-18, and the National Landcare Program will support the centre for 2018-19 through to 2021-22 by providing $16 million.

Invasive Animals Cooperative Research Centre has a proven track record and, since 2005, has been successfully collaborating with government, industry, business and universities to counteract the impact of invasive animals by developing tools to control and manage invasive pest animals. For example, through the Invasive Animals Cooperative Research Centre, governments and industry have co-invested in a 20-year rabbit biocontrol strategy to identify and develop optimal strategies for the long-term sustained control of wild rabbits and mitigation of their impacts. This has included the identification and selection of a new virus to control wild rabbits, which was released in March 2017.

What types of projects could be funded?

The centre’s RD&E activities will focus on pest animals and weeds that threaten native ecosystems, native habitats and endemic species and that may also reduce Australian agricultural productivity and profitability.

The RD&E will be balanced across prevention, eradication, containment to asset based protection, with five program areas: incursions, integrated landscape management, biocontrol, management tools and systems and community engagement and education.

The RD&E priorities for the centre are consistent with the RD&E priorities identified through the Invasive Plants and Animals Committee, a cross-jurisdictional committee responsible for providing a national mechanism for identification and resolution of government policies on weeds, vertebrate pest and freshwater invertebrate pest issues.

The centre will provide collaborative RD&E program brokering, program management and capacity building through strategic facilitators, training and through integrated and targeted best practice management programs. The centre will deliver decision support tools, community mapping, surveillance and the PestSmart toolkit, which will be broadened to include weeds.