Chapter 4 - The role of regional bodies
The Regional Model
In November 2000 the Council of Australian Governments
(COAG) agreed to a regional model for the delivery of the NAP. Following this,
the NRM Ministerial Council adopted a regional delivery model for NHT funding
of environmental activities at a regional level, leading to the integrated
implementation of both programs based on regional needs.
The principal driver underpinning the regional delivery
model for NRM is to 'harness the capacity of those closest to the problem on
the ground', building on local knowledge, experience and expertise and enabling
flexible and responsive solutions to local NRM challenges.
The key features of the regional delivery model
the development of a framework that sets out the
respective NRM roles for Commonwealth, state/territory and local governments
and the community;
a shift from funding of individual projects to
funding outcomes determined through regional NRM strategic planning;
devolution of decision-making to a regional
level – that is, a dispersed rather than centralist approach that allows for flexible
decision-making tailored to local conditions and needs;
introduction of national standards and targets
to guide and provide direction for investment in NRM;
a comprehensive accreditation, monitoring and
evaluation framework to achieve consistent and acceptable standards of program
encouragement of community capacity building
through involvement in local NRM.
A total of 56 NRM regions have been established across Australia.
The boundaries for each region were agreed to by the Australian and state/territory
Map Source: Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry and
Department of the Environment and Heritage, Submission
24, Attachment G
The role of regional bodies
The Australian Government Department of Agriculture,
Fisheries and Forestry and the Department of the Environment and Heritage
describe the role of the regional bodies responsible for these regions as
The key role of regional bodies involves undertaking regional
natural resource management planning, prioritising regional level investments,
co-ordinating actions at the landscape scale, getting community ownership in
decision making and reporting on progress.
The role of regional bodies includes:
mobilising community involvement and
contributions to achieving positive NRM outcomes at a regional level;
undertaking comprehensive consultation with the
broad community and segments of the community with interests in natural
developing integrated NRM plans that would form
the basis for strategic investment by governments, the community and other
stakeholders in action to improve management of natural resource and the
developing management, resource condition and
aspirational targets as agreed by governments and communities in partnership as
part of building the integrated NRM plans;
developing investment strategies as a basis for
undertaking targeted investment by governments and community to provide on
ground NRM improvements;
facilitating the delivery of education and
information to the broad community and segments of the community with interests
in natural resource management;
providing advice on priorities for investment of
grants and other related funding;
monitoring and evaluating progress and reporting
against targets at the regional scale;
ensuring effective governance arrangements are
in place in both establishing priority setting processes and in accounting and
administering government and community funds; and
representing regional community NRM interests to
State and Australian Government governments.
Government investment in the form of NHT and NAP
funding for the regions is based on regional plans rather than allocated on the
basis of individual project applications. The regional plans identify regional
priorities and set up a framework for investment in action.
The regional bodies develop their plans with feedback
and advice from all levels of government and specialist advisory bodies. All
key stakeholders are included in the planning process through consultation and
negotiation. Stakeholder groups include communities, Indigenous people,
academic/scientific communities, environmental groups, industry, local
governments and state/territory and Commonwealth agencies. The plans are
jointly agreed to by government and the community and, along with investment
strategies for implementing the plans, they outline the goals, timelines and roles
and responsibilities of all relevant parties.
The regional planning process takes account of the
environmental, economic and social dimensions of any natural resource
management issues and should be based on sound science.
The accreditation process
All regional plans must be accredited before they can
be implemented. Plans are accredited against criteria that were developed by
the Australian and state/territory governments through the Natural Resource
Management Ministerial Council in May 2002.
The accreditation criteria require regional bodies to
demonstrate that their plans:
cover the full range of natural resource
are underpinned by scientific analysis of
natural resource conditions, problems and priorities
have effective involvement of all key
stakeholders in plan development and implementation
focus on addressing the underlying causes rather
than symptoms of problems
include strategies to implement agreed natural
resource management policies to protect the natural resource base
demonstrate consistency with other planning
processes and legislative requirements applicable to the region
set targets at the regional scale, consistent
with the national framework for natural resource management standards and
identify strategic, prioritised and achievable
actions to address the range of natural resource management issues and achieve
the regional targets: this includes an evaluation of the wider social economic
and environmental impacts of such actions and of any actions needed to address
provide for continuous development, monitoring,
review and improvement of the plan.
Support for the Regional Model
The delivery of national programs through a regional
model was viewed favourably by a number of witnesses. The key advantages of a
regional approach identified were the ability for locally-based management to
engage different community stakeholders, to build on local knowledge, and to
tailor programs and practices to local need. The North Central CMA, Victoria,
The regional approach necessarily taken by
CMAs is appropriate to efforts to mitigate the effects of salinity:
local-scale, appropriate decisions can be implemented as required.
Additionally, CMAs are able to demonstrate leadership on diverse natural
resource management issues – this cannot be achieved using a 'centralist'
Similarly the South Coast Regional Initiative Planning
Team, WA, submitted:
We believe that the NRM Regional Model and the role of Regional
NRM Groups in the management of salinity-affected areas will create significant
positive benefit. The reasoning behind this is that the regions have a good
understanding of the local issues and the management options available and how
to achieve them through local knowledge and experience.
The Centre for Salinity Assessment and Management, University
of Sydney, highlighted the
importance of community driven action:
The regional catchment management authorities (CMAs) are good
vehicles to coordinate and manage catchment scale projects on salinity and
other natural resource issues. CMA involvement ensures strategies address local
problems, and are driven by communities rather than research providers.
This was affirmed by the
Burnett Mary Regional Group, Queensland:
Regional arrangements have created a groundswell of community
actions and participation in activities to address salinity in our region.
The benefits identified by witnesses resonated with
those reported by the Regional Implementation Working Group for NRM, which was
established by the NRM Ministerial Council to examine regional delivery. In
2004 the Regional Implementation Working Group held a Community Forum, which
gave the chairs of all regional organisations an opportunity to convey their
views on the progress of the regional model and areas for improvement to the
NRM Ministerial Council. The findings of this Forum were presented in the
report, Regional Delivery of NRM – Moving
Forward, in March 2005. The following benefits of the regional model were identified:
Regional delivery has contributed to systemic changes
development of landscape-wide solutions;
integration of NRM activities through plans and
formation of institutions and frameworks for
delivering programs; and
implementation of improved monitoring and evaluation
It has helped generate attitudinal and social changes
cultural change in acceptance of the need for
target-setting and acceptance of the need to
an outcomes focus on the need for projects to
contribute to overall improvements; and
the development of local leadership and
In their joint submission, the Australian Government
Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry and the Department of the Environment
and Heritage concluded that the key message from regional communities expressed
at the Regional Implementation Working Group's community forum was 'to continue
with this approach as it provided the best means to deal with catchment wide
natural resource management problems'.
The governance arrangements of regional bodies differ
across the states and territories. As Mr
Mike Lee from
the Australian Government Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry noted,
the regional bodies are 'creatures of the state'. That is, the governance structures
of the regional bodies have been developed within the varied context of each state
and territory. In some cases, regional bodies pre-existed the NAP and NHT
delivering state-determined NRM outcomes. In WA, for example, the regional
bodies were based on existing advisory committees. In Queensland
and the ACT, alternatively, regional bodies were created following the
identification of the NAP regional areas.
from the Australian Government Department of the Environment and Heritage told
the Committee that regional bodies that pre-existed in some other form may have
been inferred powers from the state.
In their submission, the Department of Agriculture,
Fisheries and Forestry and the Department of the Environment and Heritage
provided an overview of the legislative arrangements of regional bodies on a
state-by-state basis. This
overview is summarised below with additional information as referenced. In
brief, regional bodies in NSW, Victoria, Tasmania
and South Australia are
underpinned by legislation. There is currently no legislative basis for
regional bodies in other states/territories.
In July 2004, the SA Parliament passed the Natural Resources Management Act 2004,
which provides a more integrated, streamlined and transparent system for NRM in
South Australia. The Act established
eight new statutory boards, one for each existing NRM region. Prior to this
there were over 70 boards separately managing issues relating to water, pest
plants and animals and soil conservation.
Following the introduction of the Act, interim
Integrated Natural Resource Management (INRM) groups or boards were established.
Statutory-based NRM Boards formally assumed responsibility for the delivery of
natural resource management on 1 July
Each regional NRM board is comprised of up to 9 members
appointed by the Governor on the nomination of the Minister. Appointments are
based on relevant skills, expertise and experience in different aspects of NRM
and land management, business administration, state and local government
administration, regional and urban planning and Aboriginal heritage and land
management. A majority of the board must reside within the region.
The Act also provided for a new state NRM Council,
which forms a peak body providing independent advice and developing and
reviewing a state NRM plan. The first skills based council was appointed in
April 2005 based on criteria identified in the Act.
The NHT is delivered through all eight NRM regions and
the NAP is delivered through the regional bodies covering three priority NAP
New South Wales
In 2003, the NSW Government introduced natural resource
management reforms aimed at ending broadscale land clearing and encouraging
responsible land management practices. Three bills were passed in the NSW
Parliament to govern these reforms and enable a regional model for the delivery
of natural resource management:
Resources Commission Act 2003;
Management Authorities Act 2003; and
Vegetation Act 2003.
Resources Commission Act 2003 established an independent Natural Resources
Commission (NRC). The role of the NRC is to develop standards and targets for
natural resource management, and to monitor the progress of catchment
management authorities (CMAs) in reaching these targets.
Management Authorities Act 2003 created 13 regional catchment management authorities
(CMAs). The principal role of the CMAs is to coordinate natural resource
management programs and services. This includes the development and
implementation of Catchment Action Plans (CAPs) and associated investment
strategies. Under the Catchment
Management Authorities Act 2003 the CAPs must take account of the
state-wide standards and targets set by the NRC.
In January 2004, the CMAs were formally constituted as
statutory authorities with a responsible and accountable board. CMA boards are
appointed by, and report directly to, the Minister for Infrastructure and
Planning and Minister for Natural Resources. Appointments are merit-based according
to knowledge and experience in the following areas: primary production,
environmental, social and economic analysis, state and local government
administration, negotiation and consultation, business administration,
community leadership, biodiversity conservation, cultural heritage, and water
Prior to the establishment of the 13 CMAs, a total of
21 Catchment Management Boards (CMBs) were involved in natural resource
management in New South Wales.
Vegetation Act 2003 covers the
management of native vegetation and the prevention of broadscale clearing. It
predominantly applies to private rural land. CMAs hold powers under the Act and
are responsible for assessing land-clearing proposals.
The NHT is delivered through all 13 regions while the
NAP is delivered through the CMAs that cover seven priority regions.
Resource Management Act 2002 is the principal piece of legislation underpinning
natural resource management in Tasmania.
The Act sets out the roles, functions and powers of the Tasmanian Natural
Resource Management Council and three regional committees (NRM
NRM North and NRM South). It also provides for the development of regional
strategies and the accreditation process.
The role of the Natural Resource Management Council is
to advise government and to liaise with the regional committees. The Council is
comprised of up to 16 members appointed by the Government and reflecting a
representative mix from the following groups: each of the regional NRM committees,
the Aboriginal community, industry and land managers, conservation interests, state
and local government, and community groups.
The three regional committees facilitate and coordinate
regional natural resource management and are responsible for developing
regional strategies. They do not have a regulatory role and therefore do not
have enforcement powers. The committees are appointed by the Government
in accordance with selection criteria that aims to ensure a representative mix
from the following stakeholder groups: community and conservation interests, the
Aboriginal community, state and local government, industry and land managers.
has one priority region under the NAP - the Midlands Region - which falls in
both the North and South NRM regions.
10 regional Catchment Management Authorities (CMAs) deliver the NAP and the NHT
at the regional level. The CMAs are body corporates established under the Catchment and Land Protection Act 1994. Members
(up to 15) of authorities are appointed by the Victorian Minister for
Environment and Conservation and comprise:
A mix of experience and knowledge of land
protection, water resource management, primary industries, environmental
conservation and local government;
a representative of the relevant department(s);
at least one half of the members being persons
whose principal occupation is primary production.
Prior to the introduction of the Catchment and Land Protection Act 1994 the 10 regional bodies were land
Under the Catchment
and Land Protection Act 1994, the CMAs are responsible for the development
and implementation of regional catchment strategies and provide advice to State
Government on both federal and state resource priorities in the region.
Under the Water
Act 1989 the CMAs may also have responsibilities in relation to waterway
management, floodplains, irrigation and regional drainage systems.
The NHT is delivered through all 10 regions and the NAP
is delivered by the CMAs covering four priority regions.
there are 15 NRM regions and 14 regional bodies. The regional bodies were
established in 2003 and each body is responsible for developing and
implementing a regional NRM plan. The NAP is delivered through the regional
bodies covering four priority regions.
There is no legislative basis for the support of
regional bodies in Queensland.
Regional Bodies are, in the main, incorporated entities and not catchment
There are six NRM regions in Western
Australia and six corresponding regional bodies. The
regional bodies are responsible for developing and implementing (accredited)
has four priority NAP regions and a fifth priority NAP region (the Ord) that
overlaps with the Northern Territory.
Regional bodies in WA are not founded on any
legislative basis. The regional bodies are incorporated entities but not
catchment management authorities. The bodies are based on existing advisory
committees following the identification of priority regions under the National
Management committee/board membership of the six
regional bodies is set out in each organisation's constitution. Membership
varies across the six organisations, however, all constitutions state that
members must demonstrate a connection to, and live in, the region. Membership
of each governing body is a mix of state government and community members, with
community members including local government, Indigenous, natural resource and
land management interests.
It should be noted that a state-wide review of delivery
and management of NRM in Western Australia,
including the governance arrangements and status of regional bodies, has commenced.
The Landcare Council of the NT (LCNT) was appointed as
the regional body for the NT Region (the entire NT is one region) under the NHT
Bilateral Agreement, which was signed in June 2003. In December 2003 the LCNT
took on the additional role as regional body for the delivery of the NAP.
There is no legislative basis for the support of the
regional body in the Northern Territory.
The LCNT is a community and industry based advisory body
appointed by the NT Minister for Lands and Planning. The Council comprises
representatives from industry, Aboriginal Land Councils, local government,
non-government organisations, research bodies and the Territory Government and
has an independent community chairperson. Executive support and financial and
administrative management is provided by the Department of Infrastructure,
Planning and the Environment. The NT Government is moving towards creating an
incorporated entity to function as the regional body, which is expected to take
effect in the 2005-06 financial year.
Australian Capital Territory
The ACT forms a single region for the delivery of NRM. The
Natural Resource Management Territory Body acts as the regional body for the
ACT and works closely with the Murrumbidgee Catchment Management Authority in
NSW. The Murrumbidgee region, which is a NAP priority
area, encompasses the ACT.
The ACT is currently negotiating its bi-lateral
agreement for the delivery of the NAP. Originally, the ACT was not listed as a
NAP region because it was anticipated it would be covered by the NSW NAP region
(the Murrumbidgee-Lachlan), which encompasses it. However, the ACT now
considers this is not the most productive way to address salinity in the ACT
and is negotiating an agreement as a single region.
There is no legislative basis to support the regional
body in the ACT. The regional body is not incorporated. It was created
following the establishment of the bilateral agreement for the delivery of the
Natural Heritage Trust in the ACT, which sets out its membership and
Is more legislative support required?
Terms of Reference (b) to this inquiry sought to
establish whether adequate legislative support was available to assist regional
bodies in achieving national goals. However, little attention was given to the
issue of legislative support in submissions received. WA was the exception to
this. As noted above, the introduction of statutory arrangements for regional
bodies is currently under consideration in WA within the context of a review of
In their submission the Avon Catchment Council, WA,
explained that an advantage of greater legislative recognition of regional
bodies is that it would enhance their status, bringing them to the table on
external but related decision-making processes:
Legislative recognition of Regional NRM Groups in Western
Australia is an ongoing issue that is currently under
review. In the interim it would be useful if environmental legislation review
or development recognises the role and function of Regional Groups. This is not
creating a role for NRM Groups in the delivery or coordination of legislation
but is ensuring that a level of consultation is sought with NRM Groups in the
decision making process.
At a public hearing in Perth, Mr Peter Sullivan, CEO of
the Avon Catchment Council, expanded on this statement reiterating the benefits
of further 'legitimising' the role of regional bodies. However, this was
qualified by the concern that statutory recognition of regional bodies in WA could
potentially weaken the community-based character of these organisations:
On the notion of a statutory umbrella and perhaps to what extent
that statutory process feeds down to council level really we are quite
open-minded about the benefits and, I suppose, some of the threats that that
may pose. There certainly are benefits in terms of legitimising council’s position
in a state and regulatory context, but we do not want to undermine the
fundamental basis of council, which is a community group. That can be managed
in a statutory context, as it can in our current context as an incorporated
association. The bottom line is that, if statutory meant not attacking the
fundamental benefits of being a community based organisation and having
community decisions reflected as part of the process, a statutory model would
not necessarily be an issue for us.
Similarly, Mr Mike
Lee from the Department of Agriculture,
Fisheries and Forestry pointed to the tension between holding statutory powers
and remaining a community driven body and highlighted the benefits of a
The issue of when a regional body acquires enough statutory
powers to perhaps cease to feel like a representative of the community is an
interesting one. At this stage right across the country we are seeing regional
bodies having a very large community content; the people involved have great
energies, enthusiasm and passion. That is very good for governments, because it
allows us to work with these people and implement our programs.
Commenting on the WA context, Councillor
Western Australian Local Government Association, told the Committee that the
Association favoured the current non-statutory approach, in part because it
facilitated better relationships with local government:
[T]he association is supportive of the NRM regions remaining non-statutory
as this enables greater flexibility for the NRM regions as a catalyst for
change and improves the opportunity for partnership with local government.
Whilst limited evidence was received on this issue, the
Committee believes that in the longer-term there could be a need to embed NRM
decisions in the planning laws of local governments. For this reason, the
Committee believes that further attention should be given to the issue of a
statutory role for NRM bodies.
In SA, the Committee heard that the regional NRM boards
hold the legislative power to amend development applications. However, as yet,
regional boards have not resorted to this legislative power, instead working in
consultation with local councils. Mr Wickes
from the Department of Water, Land and Biodiversity Conservation explained:
Under the current act, the board can make a change to the
development applications. Where they set it up and say, ‘This is what we’re
going to do in our district,’ the boards can make a change to that. Under law
they have not because, as soon as they start talking about it, they work
together. We are just changing the development act so that it has to take
account of those activities and put in new arrangements, so the development act
and the Natural Resources Management Act will work closely together in doing
what you are saying. So we are setting the processes up. We have a planning
strategy to now recognise those things, and that planning strategy then
influences the planning programs of the council. We have started a process
where they then have a program of what should happen and that can influence
that program. We are trying to get all those connections going at the moment with
local government and the planning fraternity.
The Australian Conservation Foundation saw a
legislative role for regional bodies in relation to planning and put forward a
That appropriately accredited regional NRM bodies be granted
referral powers on local government land-use planning decisions, and be
resourced appropriately to ensure that local government decisions match
regional NRM standards.
While the Committee received limited evidence from
regional bodies on the issue of legislative support and legislative powers,
from a local government perspective significant concerns were expressed. As
discussed in Chapter 3, the view put to the Committee was that investing
regional bodies with statutory powers could infringe on local government's
areas of responsibility. The ALGA firmly opposed regional bodies holding
ALGA rejects any proposal to grant catchment management
authorities legislative powers.
Consistency in arrangements
The House of Representatives Report observed that the
legislative basis and organisational structure of the regional bodies varies
considerably across the states and suggested there could be some merit in
introducing national consistency in this respect.
However, this did not emerge as a concern in this
inquiry. In fact, from a WA perspective Councillor Clive
Robartson from WALGA argued against
consistency on the grounds that the broader political and regulatory
environments were different across states:
I would not like to see statutory CMAs being put into place in Western
Australia, because the situation here is different to
what is happening in the eastern states. ... I was on the
Australian Landcare Council for a period of time, representing the Australian
Local Government Association, so I had a bit of feedback and liaison with
people from particularly New South Wales with their CMA—Catchment Management
Authority, or whatever they are called—and it struck me that that probably
fitted New South Wales quite well. There seems to be greater political
influence in local governments in New South Wales, so there is a different understanding. There is a different
approach to local government. That does not happen as much in Western Australia. We tend to work together in local governments in a different
way and so encouraging voluntarily involvement, I think, is important for Western Australia, at this point anyway.
Given the lack of evidence, it is difficult for the
Committee to assess the extent to which legislative consistency and greater
legislative support across the states is possible and desirable. Any move to
reform the broader governance structures of regional bodies is, perhaps, best
determined on a state-by-state basis. In this way, arrangements can be
introduced that take into account the existing governance structures,
relationships between state and local governments and the regional bodies, and
the level of maturity of regional bodies. The starting point for reform should
be: how can we best deliver the desired NRM outcomes in this state, under these
Not withstanding the support for the concept of the regional
model discussed earlier, a number of concerns about the regional model in
practice emerged during the course of the inquiry.
Uneven capacity of regional bodies
Evidence revealed a significant concern about the uneven
capacity of regional bodies both across and within states. While there is
general appreciation for the concept of a regional model, in practice
performance to-date has been variable. Greening Australia
observed that those regional bodies functioning effectively have built on
existing 'local knowledge, skills and experience'. At the same time, other
regional bodies have 'returned to first principles' prolonging the planning
process at the expense of on-ground action.
Within the Queensland
context, the Local Government Association of Queensland reported that local
government councils were concerned that there was a 'general lack of capacity
of the regional bodies to effectively undertake the required tasks'.
The CRC for Plant-Based Management of Dryland Salinity
conveyed its support for the regional model and noted the potential of regional
bodies, while highlighting their uneven ability. This variation in capacity was
viewed as a product of the differing stages of development or maturity of
regional bodies across the states:
We are committed to supporting the
regional delivery model for national programs, and increasingly are working
with catchment management authorities on R&D delivery. Importantly regional
bodies have the potential to draw together sound science, National/State
priorities and community preferences into a rational investment process and
should be given time and a relatively stable policy environment in which to
work. However, we observe that their capacity to meet program and community
expectations is uneven across Australia, reflecting an 'evolutionary process' from differing
State/Territory starting points.
Similarly, Mr Corey Watts from the Australian
Conservation Foundation noted 'a great deal of variety in the quality of
regional delivery' and argued that 'decision-making tools' were needed across
all regions to enable a strategic approach and enhance the capacity to engage
landholders and other groups.
Along these lines, Dr
Prosser from the CSIRO told the Committee, 'We
believe that regional authorities have a crucial role to play in salinity
management, but they have widely ranging capacities to meet their goals'. He
went on to explain that many regional bodies do not have the requisite skills
to apply current research to local conditions:
[T]here are significant technical challenges in assessing how to
manage salinity in each catchment. Techniques are available to identify the
assets for protection, the salt sources and the flow pathways and to design the
management options. Research in these areas is continuing to provide more
accurate and sophisticated techniques. ... However, our experience is that the
use of that research is limited, because it requires translation to be relevant
to local conditions. The general principles are understood, but their
application to each local condition needs to take into account the local
environment and the local cause and effect relationships of salinity. That
requires expert interpretation of those general principles using the local
knowledge. Many regional groups have not developed those skills to date. They
do not have the skills amongst their staff to do that.
When questioned further about the reasons for the
uneven capacity of regional bodies and whether it was funding levels or other
factors driving their level of performance, Dr
Prosser responded in the negative:
No, it is about their capacity, it is about their skill levels
and it is about their youth as institutions. A lot of these regional groups are
fairly young institutions. The longest existing ones are the Victorian CMAs,
and they are the most sophisticated. I do not believe that is a coincidence. It
is just the time it takes to develop up that regional scale, the thinking and
the tackling of these problems in a strategic way to develop other skills in
Roberts from the Murray-Darling Basin
Commission, which deals with 20 regional bodies in the Murray-Darling region, similarly
expressed the view that funding levels was not the problem.
In accord with the views put forward by the CRC for
Plant-Based Management of Dryland Salinity and the CSIRO, Mr
from the Murray-Darling Basin Commission pointed out that there is a strong
correlation between the maturity of regional bodies and their capacity for a
coordinated and integrated approach:
Looking at the Victorian example, where they have had catchment
groups in place for 10 years or more, there has been an increasing level of
coordination, to the degree where there is very good integration between the
state government, those catchment groups and the Commonwealth through the
national action plan. Certainly the independent audit group has reflected on
the differing stages that each state is at in terms of its catchment bodies.
Some are much newer—for example, Queensland.
Delays in on-ground action
A concern raised by Greening Australia was the amount
of time taken for regional bodies to prepare their catchment strategies. While
noting that this is 'an undeniably difficult and complex task', Greening
Our core submission is that the tasks of strategic planning and
on-ground action need to be more effectively linked. This requires a framework
for empowering action and then learning from the results. This will require
increased devolution of budgets and decision-making and improved monitoring and
evaluation to assess the effectiveness of alternative approaches.
Similarly, the Local Government Association of Queensland
suggested that 'excessive strategic planning is limiting funding for on-ground
The ANAO audit of the NAP reported that in many regions
comments had been made about the challenges of the planning process by regional
bodies, state agencies and research institutions. Again, this varied depending
on the stage of development of the regional body. Newly established
organisations were restricted by a lack of research material and data.
Established organisations were able to draw on existing resources and, for
some, existing plans. The report further noted that the degree of (geographical)
access to research institutions impacted on the planning process.
Getting beyond the local
The Centre for Salinity Assessment and Management, University
of Sydney, pointed to a potential
downside or risk in the local nature of the regional delivery model. Without
diminishing the value of local knowledge and activities, the Centre argued for
the importance of ensuring CMAs tap into current research being carried out at
a national and even international scale:
... there are risks in CMAs primarily focusing on local and
community-based activities, including local knowledge not being linked with the
best contemporary national and international research, and not giving
appropriate weight to scientific endeavours. It is also important to recognise
that natural resource management problems in Australia
are too large to be solved by local scale activities alone ...
The need for regional bodies to have improved access to
current research was a major concern raised in the inquiry. This is discussed
in more detail in Chapter 5.
Improving the accreditation process
The CRC for Plant-Based Management of Dryland Salinity
emphasised the role that a strong accreditation process can play in achieving
consistent, quality standards of NRM program delivery. It was argued that the
accreditation process needs to be strengthened, with particular attention
directed towards mechanisms that enable sound investment decision-making. The
need for guidance and support for regional bodies in meeting strengthened
accreditation requirements was noted:
A stronger accreditation process is required, making funds
conditional on use of a rigorous approach to selection of investments by
regional bodies. Investment decisions should be (a) science-based, (b)
outcome-focused and (c) designed around an understanding of landholder adoption
of conservation technologies. For instance, use of conventional decision tools
such as benefit/cost analysis should be expected. There should be guidelines
and training support for regional bodies in the use of such an approach to
investment. The principle of adaptive management is important here – the
measure of achievement should not be “dollars out the door by 30 June” but the
level of confidence that investment will realize maximum impact over time, in
the face of changing economic and environmental conditions.
At a public hearing in Perth, Mr Goss, CEO of the CRC,
expanded on the CRC's concerns noting that an improved accreditation process
would help to bring into line the performance of regional bodies in terms of
governance, planning, and investment decision-making, and counteract some of
the teething problems of the NAP and NHT:
On the matter of accreditation, this is really an acknowledgment
that the regional bodies are still evolving—and that is uneven across
Australia—and also that the National Action Plan for Salinity and Water Quality
and the Natural Heritage Trust themselves are programs that have only a few
years behind them, and they have gone through some pretty painful iterations in
settling things down.
The accreditation process becomes very important in not only
starting to bring in governance for investment of this scale, but also in
starting to bring in some consistency, and even some learning behind it, so
that the groups that have different starting points start to get to a level of common
good planning, good governance and good investment behaviour. We see
accreditation, and in fact benchmarking and performance, as very important means
to that end.
Commenting on the state of play as at late 2004, the
ANAO Audit Report noted that the quality of accredited regional plans was
variable, which could, in turn, impact on the timing and quality of outcomes. This variability undermines the intent
of the accreditation process, which was introduced to provide quality assurance
and, concomitantly, consistency.
Relationships with Other Players
As noted above, one of the perceived advantages of the
regional delivery model is the access to local knowledge, expertise and need. Regional
bodies are positioned to engage with landholders, environmental groups,
industry bodies, Commonwealth, state and local governments, Indigenous
communities, and science-research communities. Central-West CMA, NSW, made the observation
that 'You need to engage people to create change'.
It was pointed out to the Committee, however, that this
engagement at the local level is also one of the major challenges for regional
bodies. The Avon Catchment Council, WA, made the general point that regional
bodies have many stakeholders to liaise with and many different – and sometimes
competing – interests to weigh up; this is a 'difficult and complex task'.
Eaton, Chair of the Northern Agricultural
Catchment Council, also noted the challenge faced by regional bodies in accommodating
In terms of on-ground delivery, there can be some tensions
between a technical assessment of what will make a difference to the natural
resource as opposed to what land-holders might see as being a more productive
response. Regional groups again are charged with being able to find a pathway
that achieves the required difference to the natural resource and encourages
sufficient private investment to contribute to that difference. That is one of
the challenges of the strategy and investment planning process.
Particular relationships were highlighted in the
relationships between regional bodies;
relationships between regional bodies and local
relationships between regional bodies and
industry groups; and, more broadly,
the capacity of regional bodies to engage the
are discussed below.
Relationships between regional bodies
Landgrafft from the WA Farmers Federation told the
Committee that communication between regional bodies needs to improve if the
salinity programs are to be successful:
The real success of these programs will come by tackling some
very major projects. To that end, these catchment groups have to talk to each
other a little bit more, too. I am aware of one example where the Avon
Catchment Council through its drainage corner, if you like, is very keen on the
project, but I have heard some very senior people in the Swan Catchment Council
saying, ‘Over my dead body.’ There needs to be a lot of communication
internally as well as externally, and some cooperation in delivering outcomes.
This observation is a reminder that, to some extent,
regional boundaries are artificial when it comes to salinity management. In
some cases, cross-catchment work may need to be undertaken. In NSW, for
example, Mr Neville
Pavan from the Hawkesbury-Nepean CMA told
the Committee that the CMA was working collaboratively with other CMAs from
neighbouring regions to address salinity issues in the adjoining areas. In other cases, action taken in one
region could have impacts on land and water quality in another region –
construction of deep drains and potential downstream effects for example. For
these reasons, good communication between regional bodies is important.
As noted earlier, the ACT, whilst a region in its own
right, is also located within the Murrumbidgee Catchment region. Dr
from the ACT Chief Minister's Department told the Committee that being the 'hole
in the doughnut', working cooperatively with the Murrumbidgee CMA is important.
She explained: 'environmental issues do not respect any political
jurisdiction'. As a result, the ACT regional body and the Murrumbidgee CMA are
developing a memorandum of understanding to underpin their relationship.
Sound communication between CMAs can also lead to
exchange of information, circumventing the problem of 'reinventing the wheel'
or duplicating effort. In their submission Hunter-Central Rivers CMA suggested that
a framework for communication between CMAs – a 'framework that facilitates exchange
of salinity information' – would lead to improved use of investment.
from the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry, told the Committee
that as the regional groups are maturing, communication and information
exchange between them is increasing. He further explained that the Australian
and state/territory governments are providing more forums for regional bodies
to formally meet and exchange ideas and concerns and provided examples of this
kind of activity.
Relationships between regional bodies and local government
Local Government has the capacity to play a significant
role in salinity and broader natural resource management. The Australian Local Government
Association explained that councils can undertake a range of tasks to help
regions meet their salinity targets, for example, modifying watering of
parklands and reserves to reduce saline discharge and recharge, and taking on
an educative role with the community.
The Australian Conservation Foundation (ACF), outlined
the broad range of policy tools that local government can use to contribute to
natural resource management:
Public land management
Joint NRM Authorities
Financial management assistance
Community capacity building and networks
Direction and leadership
A major concern expressed by the ALGA was that there
has been a lack of coordination between regional bodies and local government
leading in turn to a lack of congruence between regional and local plans. It
was clear from the ALGA's comments that local government should be involved in
the regional planning process and not simply the implementation process:
To date there has been a lack of effective local government
involvement in the regional arrangements. A recent ALGA Natural Resource
Management (NRM) survey of councils suggested that while 73 per cent of
councils had attended briefings by their regional organisations, only 12 per
cent had actually contributed to their regional plan. This is not effective
engagement and will not result in local and regional plans being compatible. As
a result, optimal environmental outcomes can not be achieved.
However, the ALGA went on to say they imagined a more
productive relationship in the future as regional bodies moved into the
implementation stage. Greater consultation and collaboration would, it was suggested,
We would anticipate that as the regions move from a planning
phase into an implementation phase, greater consultation with local governments
will occur. This will reduce duplication and will result in good partnership
projects to reduce salinity levels. Catchment management authorities need to
understand the role councils play in environmental management and the benefits
of working with councils to achieve environmental goals, such as reduced
The Local Government Association of Queensland (LGAQ)
submitted that member councils of LGAQ who were represented on regional boards
were generally satisfied with the regional process. Those councils with no
direct board involvement, in the main, did not share this satisfaction. Some of
the concerns put forward were: 'lack of appreciation of local government roles
and responsibilities to influence natural resource management', 'lack of
understanding and skill to effectively engage Councils' and 'confusion over
regional boundaries with some councils included in 3 different regions'.
from the Western Australian Local Government Association told the Committee
that within WA local government representation on the regional bodies had
improved. However, Councillor
Robartson observed that it would have been
beneficial to have greater local government involvement from the outset. He went on to explain that a move in
WA to establish regional local government structures would better place local
government to actively engage in regional natural resource management.
In SA, a proactive and considered approach was taken to
ensuring local government involvement from the beginning. Mr
Wickes from the Department of Water, Land
and Biodiversity Conservation said that local government was involved in
developing the legislation to underpin the regional model. Further, local
government representation is achieved through designated observer positions on
the NRM boards. However, Mr Wickes
explained that the process of securing broad local government involvement is
ongoing, with some Councils actively involved while others are less interested:
The Local Government Association helped us to draw up the
legislation and actually sat here in this house the whole time it was debated
to help us with it. Built into it is quite a strong relationship with local
government. The issue, of course, is maintaining that relationship. Local
government here have always looked after quite strongly the animal and plant
control and feral side of it, and they are all very keen to get into the
broader natural resources debate. As we have said, some councils have taken
that on very strongly, whereas others have not. The challenge now is to get all
those local governments to embrace that. The rural areas are probably more
around it than the Adelaide type
councils. But it is on the local government agenda; it is quite regularly on
the agenda of the local government forum with our minister—in fact, it is on
the agenda for the next forum. So it is something that we are trying to build
up. People with local government experience are members of the NRM boards, and
each board can have on it a person representing local government, like a chief
executive, who is not a voting member but partakes in all the meetings. We are
trying to make that a stronger relationship, and there are quite a number of
forums going on at the moment where the NRM, the natural resource management,
chair and the executive officer are meeting with all the local governments.
Regional body responses to the issue of local
government engagement were varied. Some described a strong and engaged
relationship with local governments in their region. For example, Namoi CMA,
NSW, talked positively of their relationship with local government. In a
supplementary submission they stated: 'Local Government is very supportive of
work carried out by the CMA and provides resources and time'.
Similarly, Mr Gledhill
from the Lachlan CMA told the Committee that local government 'has taken us on
100 per cent' and explained the CMA has formed a reference group with local
Meldrum from the River Murray Catchment
Management Board in SA told the Committee that their organisation had a 'reasonable
level of understanding' of local government's policy and regulatory roles in
NRM and that communication between the regional body and local government was
On the other hand, as discussed in Chapter 3, a
regional body in NSW expressed concern about local government's lack of
understanding about - or lack of willingness to - take into account, salinity
management issues in relation to urban development of rural lands. This observation highlights the need
for a willingness by all stakeholders to engage with the challenge of salinity.
Like the ALGA, the Australian Conservation Foundation
(ACF) stated that the potential of local government in NRM is not adequately
harnessed. However, ACF was quite critical of local government's role in
contributing to this state of affairs:
The potential NRM capacity of local municipalities remains
grossly untapped, and the linkages between regional NRM and investment plans
appear to be weak for the most part. ACF’s consultations with representatives
of several regional NRM organisations reveal a high level of frustration with
local government involvement (or lack thereof) in the regional planning process
is very common. At best, local government support for integrated catchment
management and sustainable land use is variable; at worst local government
obstinacy and ignorance of the principles of Integrated Catchment Management
can make the efforts of regional-catchment planners a waste of time.
The Committee believes that the regional bodies are
best-placed to be the primary managers of NRM as this is their specific
function and area of expertise. However, clearly local government has a strong
role to play. As discussed in the previous chapter and noted above, the
Committee heard concerns that some local governments do not adhere to NRM
principles in their planning decisions and other processes. In light of this,
the Committee believes that local government peak bodies and individual
councils should direct more attention to strengthening local government's NRM
practices and integrating local government processes with those of the regional
Local government involvement in the management of
salinity was a major issue that emerged in the inquiry. In the previous chapter
the following issues were discussed within the context of the governance
framework for national programs: lack of clarity around the roles and
responsibilities of local government and regional bodies, and the use of
planning powers. In Chapter 6 the role of local government is again addressed
within the context of urban salinity. The Committee notes that while there is a
clear need to better integrate local government and regional body processes,
there were also impressive examples presented to the Committee of local
government, regional bodies and other stakeholders working collaboratively and
productively together. Some of these examples are outlined in Chapter 6.
Relationships with industry
Encouraging industry engagement in salinity management
was an issue raised during the inquiry and in the House of Representatives
Report. At a regional level, the importance of developing partnerships with
private sector players was brought to the Committee's attention.
The Namoi CMA submitted that focusing on developing
regional partnerships – particularly with agribusiness – will be important in
achieving 'on-ground change'. Mr
Truman from the CMA explained to the
There is an opportunity for joint funding here between the CMA
and agribusiness to try and extend the money that we have for our incentives.
Although we have only had a limited budget initially, if we can develop some
partnerships there then we may be able to extend our funding and our ability to
do our on-ground works longer.
from the River Murray Catchment Management Board in SA agreed that there was a
need to develop regional partnerships and that good communications networks
were critical to achieving this:
I think effective communication networks are the key. We seem to
be going down that path at the moment. We are in the process of establishing a
resource information centre for the South Australian Murray-Darling that Minister
Maywald will be launching next week.
Basically, that initiative is to share information between natural resource
management agencies and industry groups to have multiple use of the same
information so that they are sort of managing issues jointly. Regional
development boards and the Department of Trade and Economic Development are
part of that as well.
The Committee was encouraged to hear that some regional
bodies are actively seeking to build partnership with industry in order to fund
necessary salinity management projects. In regional New
South Wales the Committee heard from the Lachlan CMA
who told the Committee that they had been very successful in leveraging $16
million in non-government money:
[W]e are just about to sign off on our 1,000th project in the Lachlan
catchment in the last 18 months, which roughly totals $30 million. The
important message there is that out of that $30 million $14 million has been
provided by the New South Wales
state government and the Commonwealth government. The other $16 million is
private money that has come in from outside, and the list of people who have
been putting those dollars in is in the papers we have provided. They are
people like TransGrid, Country Energy and local government. I think that is an
important message: that for every dollar the government is putting in we are
managing to get outside dollars in as well.
The Committee concurs with Mr
Gledhill that this is indeed an important
The WA Farmers Federation registered its support for
the role of regional bodies but expressed concern that not all regional groups
were effectively engaging with the community – in particular, with landholders.
This was seen to lead to an imbalance in the decision-making process and, in
turn, the outcomes sought:
WAFarmers supports the roles of regional catchment management
authorities. The major criticism that WAFarmers has of the regional catchment
management authorities is the lack of community awareness of what their role is
and what activities they are undertaking. Whilst one group’s communication is
very good, others range from basic to non existent.
Given this uncertainty, community concern is being expressed
over a perceived focus on biodiversity outcomes as opposed to sustainable
farming and salinity control outcomes.
A perception also exists of excessive Government agency
influence in group decision making processes, particularly when these agencies
may be competing for project funding.
These perceptions highlight a major shortfall in this process.
There is an urgent need to engage more landholders in the process.
This concern was reiterated by Mr
Binning, CEO of Greening Australia:
The critical comment I would make is that if you did a survey of
land managers in most regions of Australia
they would be unaware of what the regional process is doing. They would have a
fair degree of uncertainty and fear around that process.
In the 2005 report by the Regional Implementation
Working Group, Regional Delivery of NRM –
Moving Forward, the difficult task for regional bodies in keeping community
groups engaged in planning and development of investment strategies was noted.
The report indicates that some community individuals and groups have felt
marginalised in the regional process.
As noted in the previous chapter, the River Murray
Catchment Water Management Board identified three challenges in building
community trust and securing ongoing community engagement: prior poor
consultation between government and the community; lack of continuity in
funding streams from one program to the next; and limited time/resources for
landholders and other community members to take part in activities.
The Australian Conservation Foundation submitted that
the Landcare movement and other community networks have not been adequately
supported or harnessed in the move to a regional delivery model for NRM:
... the regional NRM processes are largely bypassing Landcare and
other community networks. The sense in Landcare circles is that, if this is the
case, Landcare has no option but to ‘go its own way;’ regardless of the
directions and priorities of the regional bodies. What is striking is that this
view seems to be shared even by many of those Landcarers on regional and
catchment boards, and others in the movement, most of whom seem to see the
potential in the regional model.
Another layer of bureaucracy?
An issue potentially inhibiting community engagement is
that regional bodies are viewed by some sections of the community as another
layer of bureaucracy and not embedded in the community. The Regional
Implementation Working Group observed:
Some community groups have perceived regional organisations as
just another level of bureaucracy remote from the 'real' community.
This was certainly a view expressed by the Wheatbelt
Drainage Alliance – a group of land managers in WA's wheatbelt, committed to
putting forward land manager concerns to the state and federal governments. In
their submission, they characterised the regional delivery structure as
... a new level of bureaucracy that has no structure or line of
command with a top down approach ignoring long established sub regional and
structured groups within the region.
The Pastoralists and Graziers Association, WA, argued that
many landholders did not feel a part of the regional planning processes, which
could lead to the view that regional bodies are another tier of bureaucracy.
The need for the regional groups to remain community-based was emphasised:
The Regional catchment management groups have the potential to
be very valuable or detrimental to the fight against salinity. The “Decade of
Landcare” program has created a groundswell of grass roots support for salinity
management. The development of the strategies and investment plans by these groups
is a long and complex process and many landholders feel detached from the
process and therefore often the catchment groups themselves. This leaves the
potential for the catchment groups to be seen as bureaucracies by the land mangers,
which would work against the goodwill and support that the land managers have
for salinity management. These groups must remain community based so that they
reflect community perceptions and aspirations. The groups need to be clearly
separated from the government agencies and their directives to avoid the
perception of a bureaucracy.
As noted in Chapter 3, the ALGA suggested that granting
regional bodies legislative powers would increase community perception that
they were another bureaucratic layer.
Eaton, Chair of the Northern Agricultural
Catchments Council, raised this issue within the context of the WA review of
governance arrangements of regional bodies. She noted that not all sections of
the community are supportive of potential moves to strengthen the corporate
governance requirements of regional bodies to bring them in line with corporate
boards. While the rationale underpinning any such move is to ensure greater accountability,
for some, more rigorous requirements are seen to be a form of
I have been a member of that governance review committee where
regional groups are being compared roughly to boards of organisations and
expected at that level to demonstrate the kind of accountability that you would
expect of a board.
In the subset of regional groups that they used for the study,
they found all regional groups were demonstrating at least satisfactory
performance on that issue and that a couple of them were actually at better
practice. There is a clear expectation with the expenditure of government
funding that we have that level of accountability and transparency of
operations. Some portions of our community are not overly comfortable with that
approach and will say that we are becoming bureaucratic. We do get a bit caught
in that parcel of criticism and I think the community groups are committed to
making sure that their operations are transparent to gain the confidence of the
government in our operations.
The Committee understands the importance of community-based
NRM planning. However, the Committee does not hold to the view of community
members, reported by Mrs Eaton
above, that strengthened corporate governance amounts to bureaucratisation. Rather,
the Committee supports robust corporate governance arrangements to ensure
accountability for public funds, providing requirements are not
disproportionate to the size and complexity of the organisation.
Ensuring a representative mix in NRM
The Committee appreciates the challenges that regional
bodies face in engaging a diverse set of stakeholders with a sometimes diverse
set of interests. However, given that regional planning is, by design, community
driven, the Committee stresses the importance of ensuring that all relevant
stakeholder group interests are represented in a balanced way.
Several examples of good practice in community
engagement were provided to the Committee during the inquiry. The Committee suggests it would be
beneficial to systematically gather mechanisms for stakeholder input from across
the states so that the most effective mechanisms can be adopted in less
successful jurisdictions. A balanced mix of stakeholder input though formal
mechanisms should be continued and encouraged.
The Committee notes that board representation is one mechanism
through which broad stakeholder representation is currently achieved in some
jurisdictions, while in other states boards are merit-based. In light of concerns expressed about the
adequacy of the corporate governance arrangements of some regional bodies (discussed
below), the Committee warns of the challenges in using a representative board
model as a means of securing broad community input. Representative board
members can face significant challenges in balancing sectional interests with
their governance (fiduciary) duty to act in the interests of the organisation
as a whole. Additionally, representative boards have a tendency to be large (to
accommodate all stakeholder groups), which can, in turn, lead to inefficient
Resourcing and Support
Given the uneven capacity of regional bodies reported
by several witnesses (discussed above) it is clear that more support and
guidance for regional bodies is required.
This is consistent with the ANAO Audit Report, which
presented findings of a survey with regional bodies showing that 54% disagreed
or strongly disagreed with the statement: 'In shifting to the regional delivery
model for the NAP and other initiatives, adequate guidance and information was
provided to assist regions in dealing with increased workload and responsibilities'. The Report also revealed concerns
about ongoing support:
Regions in particular have commented about the shortcomings in
the level of ongoing support in the preparation of regional plans.
Corporate governance guidance
McMillan from the WA Farmers Federation told
the Committee of early concerns from regional bodies in WA about their ability
to manage the new programs. Specifically, unease was expressed about their
standards of corporate governance:
I have only been in the state for a handful of years, but I have
been here since the NRM groups were first kicked off. My first introduction was
at a seminar in Fremantle where Sir James Hardy and the group that was
overseeing the whole program came across. I think four of the groups presented
and, at the end of it, every one of those groups said, ‘We have a real issue in
our ability to manage the corporate governance of these schemes.’ It was a cry
for help. But when the bureaucrat summarised at the end of the day, it seemed
he must have been in a different room because he certainly did not hear that.
Since then I think these groups have been struggling to come to
terms with the role, the accountability, the legal implications of what is
required in managing considerable amounts of taxpayers’ funds.
Similarly, concerns about the standards of corporate
governance at the regional level were also reported following the ANAO audit of
the NAP. The ANAO Report referred to a 2003 report by the Victorian
Auditor-General, which noted concerns surrounding corporate governance for the
State CMAs. The Victorian report highlighted a lack of knowledge and experience
of financial management at the board level. The ANAO expressed concern about
these findings given that the Victorian CMAs are advanced in relation to other
The ANAO put forward a recommendation that corporate
governance templates and relevant training to ensure regional bodies meet
acceptable standards of corporate governance be introduced. The Regional Implementation Working
Group similarly proposed that guidelines on best practice in governance and
accountability be developed.
Access to research and data
A major theme that emerged during the inquiry was
inadequate access to, or capacity of regional bodies to access, latest science
and research findings. Enhancing the capacity for regional bodies to
incorporate good science into their regional plans through adequate support was
directly addressed in the House of Representatives Report in recommendations
one, three and fifteen. This issue is
addressed in Chapter 5.
At a public hearing in Perth,
CEO of the Northern Agricultural Catchments Council, told the Committee that he
had undertaken an analysis that showed the Council was only receiving 10% of
the funding needed to effectively manage NRM in the region. Mrs
Eaton, Chair of the Council, explained that
this made prioritising of investment – in particular, weighing up competing
interests – very challenging. Mr
Bradley's and Mrs
Eaton's comments highlighted the need for
the careful prioritising of investment and tools to assist regional bodies in
The Avon Catchment Council submitted that broadly the
'true cost of managing salinity' was not covered by existing funding. However the Council reflected positively on
the financial support at a regional level:
The financial support available through the National Action Plan
for Salinity and Water Quality (NAP) and the Natural Heritage Trust (NHT) is
highly effective and highly targeted at regional priorities for salinity
management. Both programs are integrated with the regional strategic and
investment planning process and have enough scope to enable effective salinity
management programs to be developed and implemented.
Namoi CMA in NSW expressed concern about the impacts of
required monitoring and evaluation on the CMA's resources:
Expensive monitoring and evaluation requirements are time
consuming and are heavy resource users. CMA's are small entities with limited
from Murrumbidgee CMA noted the time, energy and resources needed to fulfil the
different financial reporting requirements of the state and Australian
As discussed in the previous chapter, the most pressing
issues raised were short funding cycles and funding security beyond 2008.
As discussed in Chapter 3, some regional bodies raised
concerns about the prioritising of funding under the NAP. Mr
from the Hawkesbury-Nepean CMA told the Committee that not all CMAs have access
to adequate financial support because their region was not designated a
priority area under the NAP:
[A]ll catchment management authorities do not have the financial
support to effectively manage salinity. The Hawkesbury-Nepean catchment, which
drinking water catchment and the rapidly expanding development of Western
Sydney, is not designated as a national action plan priority area.
This means that the Hawkesbury-Nepean Catchment Management Authority has limited
access to funding to address rural and urban salinity issues.
The Committee heard substantial evidence that there is
strong support for the regional delivery model. However, there were significant
concerns expressed about the uneven capacity of regional bodies across the
country to effectively plan and achieve salinity management outcomes. The major
impediments identified were:
inadequate standards of corporate governance
an inadequate accreditation process
limited ability to apply research at a catchment
insufficient access to local current data.
The Committee notes that these concerns largely reflect
those expressed in the ANAO audit report of the NAP, and the Ministerial
Council's Regional Implementation Working Group Report.
The Committee was particularly concerned about the last
two of the above dot points: limited ability to access research and
insufficient access to local data. These two issues are considered in more
detail in the following chapter within the context of a discussion on
supporting and communicating research.
Ensuring all relevant players are adequately engaged in
the regional planning and implementation process emerged as another area
requiring greater attention. In particular local government involvement in salinity
management, and NRM more broadly, is an area that requires greater attention.
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