Over the past two decades, Australian private land conservation (PLC) policy has shifted from a community-based approach to a market-based approach. This paper analyses the trade-offs that have arisen as a result of this shift using social-ecological systems theory as an analytical framework. I find that, firstly, competitive funding models can weaken collaboration and knowledge exchange among landholders. Secondly, short-term funding does not allow sufficient time to establish partnerships nor to undertake adaptive management. Finally, payment for ecosystem services programmes risk crowding out the valuable volunteer ethos that arguably sustains PLC programmes over the long-term. Viewed through social-ecological systems theory, these findings suggest that a market-based approach to PLC has the potential to erode social-ecological resilience. I also propose a policy framework and governance model that minimises the trade-offs raised by the market-based approach, which should be of particular interest and use to policy practitioners.