The natural resources management (NRM) system established by the State Labor Government in 2004 has lost the confidence of the South Australian public, particularly in our regional communities.
The system is heavy on compliance and light on building effective, working partnerships between government and the community.
A gradual centralisation of staffing, resourcing and decision making has eroded public confidence in the way NRM works.
Goodwill, essential when cooperation by multiple parties is needed, has drained away. While NRM levies have risen dramatically, environmental outcomes have declined.
The system is so broken that a major overhaul is required.
When Labor introduced the NRM system, it claimed it would enable ‘integrated’ natural resource management in South Australia.
Eight NRM regions were created across the State, each with its own board.
These reforms started with the best of intentions.
In replacing previous boards that had been responsible for soils, pest control and water catchment, Labor promised the new structure would lead to greater transparency, consultation, support for land managers and a balance between the environmental, economic and social values of our natural resources.
But over more than a decade what has evolved instead is a structure which is increasingly centralised and extremely bureaucratic, disenfranchising many local volunteer land care groups, while failing to maintain vital environmental programs.
The Liberal Party has undertaken statewide consultation during 2017 about the future of natural resource management, talking directly to those who work the land about how best to sustain our environment.
An online survey was made available to gauge community views.
More than 750 responses were received to questions about the NRM structure and funded programs, how land and water levies should be calculated and where the levy money should be spent.
The survey was supported by follow-up regional visits and forums to further measure community views.
Our consultation has confirmed significant dissatisfaction across the state over the structure of NRM boards and the lack of community input into decision making.
Respondents also expressed confusion about where and how their levies were being spent.
Our statewide survey revealed that:
70 percent of respondents were not satisfied with the current NRM system
70 percent believed NRM boards should be independent of the State Government
95 percent believed local communities should be able to nominate board members in their own region
50 percent believed their levies were too high
65 percent don’t even know how their levy funds are being spent (more than $45 million is now raised across South Australia in annual NRM levies).
It is clear from our consultation that people and communities in our regions want more of the decisions affecting them to be made by the people who live in and understand their communities.
THE STATE LIBERAL's PLAN
If elected in March 2018, a Marshall Liberal Government will make NRM reform a foundation of our environmental and regional policies through decentralisation of decision making and empowerment of communities.
Our reforms will put people at the heart of management of our natural resources, recognising that those who work the land on a daily basis are best placed to sustain its environment.
Our approach will focus on building strong partnerships with land users, valuing their knowledge and understanding of the landscape. It is the role of government to work alongside land users, providing support, advice and a helping hand where needed.
Repeal the Natural Resources Management Act and establish Landscape SA
We will repeal the Natural Resources Management Act and replace it with the Landscape South Australia Act to reduce the level of red tape that has become synonymous with the current approach to managing our environment. Our reforms will focus on practical programs and on-ground works delivered within existing resources.
Our new legislation will identify soil quality, pest plant and animal control and water management as major priorities of natural resource management.
The new act will be introduced into parliament in our first year of government.
Our Landscape South Australia Act will create nine Landscape Boards to replace existing NRM boards.
The regions covered by the Landscape Boards will be:
- Alinytjara Wilurara
- Arid Lands
- Eyre Peninsula
- Hills and Fleurieu (new)
- Kangaroo Island
- Northern and Yorke
- Plains and Valleys (new)
- SA Murray-Darling Basin
- South East
The Adelaide and Mount Lofty Ranges NRM Board will be abolished. The regional areas that it serves will be covered by the two new boards established to serve the Hills and Fleurieu region and the Plains and Valleys region north of Adelaide.
The Landscape SA Boards will be responsible for setting strategy and approving programs for the environmentally sustainable management of South Australia’s natural landscape.
Each Landscape Board will have seven members, three of which will be directly elected by the community. Four members, including the Chair, will be appointed by the Environment Minister.
The Landscape Boards will be at arms length from government, responsible for their own budgets and the employment of a general manager who will be responsible for employing and directing staff.
Landscape Board staff will undertake environmental management in the region employing them and will only work in another region with the agreement of both boards involved.
- The Boards will establish a 5-year Landscape Plan for their regions identifying up to five priorities to be achieved by the Plan during that time. The plans will be simple and publicly accessible.
Boards will be required to outsource aspects of these priorities to the private and non-government sector to create jobs and drive investment further. Local councils will also be encouraged to apply to undertake this work.
Natural resource management levies have become an additional cost of living pressure for households. In dealing with levies, a Marshall Liberal Government will:
cap annual land and water levy rises at a rate set by an independent body (in the same way that a Marshall Liberal Government will cap council rates)
establish the Grassroots Grants program, a $2 million statewide annual fund (in addition to existing NRM grants programs), administered at a board level for volunteer, community and not-for-profit groups to access
commit that all levies (land and water) collected in a region will be spent in that region
provide a publicly available budget outlining how levies will be spent in the forthcoming financial year and an end-of-financial-year report documenting actual expenditure
- continue to collect levies via council rates.
We often think of cities as places for people, but the best cities in the world are those which have thriving natural environments in their midst.
The abolition of the Adelaide and Mount Lofty Ranges NRM Board creates the opportunity to establish a new organisation which will work towards Adelaide being the most ecologically vibrant city in the world.
A Marshall Liberal Government will create Green Adelaide which will deliver natural resource management functions in metropolitan Adelaide, focusing on enhancing the city’s urban ecology and investing in the natural environment to improve
overall community wellbeing.
Green Adelaide will have a seven member expert board appointed by the Environment Minister.
It will focus on building a strong connection between Adelaide residents and their natural environment and work to ensure there is a clear understanding of how and where levies are spent.
Green Adelaide will have seven priorities:
- coastal management
- urban rivers and wetlands
- water sensitive urban design
- green streets and ﬂourishing parklands
- fauna in the city
- controlling feral weeds and animals
- nature education.
Alongside the Landscape SA boards, Green Adelaide will co-administer the $2 million Grassroots Grants fund to give environmental groups and not-for-profits access to funding opportunities for on-ground works.
If you would like to download the full NRM Policy click here.