The Multifunctional Transition in Australia’s Tropical Savannas: the Emergence of Consumption, Protection and Indigenous Values
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As elsewhere in affluent, western nations, the direction, complexity and pace of rural change in Australia can be conceptualised as a multifunctional transition in which a variable mix of consumption and protection values has emerged, con- testing the former dominance of production values, and leading to greater com- plexity and heterogeneity in rural occupance at all scales. This transition has been explored in accessible, high-amenity landscapes driven by enhanced consumption values. Less attention has been directed to remote, marginal lands where a flimsy mode of productivist occupance can, in part, be displaced by alternative modes with the transitions being facilitated by low transfer costs. Such is the case in Australia’s northern tropical savannas where an extensive mode of pastoral occu- pance is selectively displaced by alternative consumption, protection and Indig- enous values. This transition towards multifunctional occupance is most readily documented by mapping changes in land tenure and ownership over the last three decades. Tenure changes have been accompanied by new regimes of property rights and land ownership, including: native titles derived from common law; non-transferable, common-property Aboriginal freehold tenures; transfers of pas- toral leases to Indigenous and conservation interests; expansion of conservation lands under public tenures; and revisions of the rights and duties of pastoral lessees. Future occupance scenarios remain unclear, given the sensitivity of this frontier zone to national and global driving forces.