Natural Resource Management(NRM) covers a wide range of activities. All councils undertake extensive NRM activities. For instance, in 2002-03, local government spent $2.6bn on measures to protect the environment and a further $1.9bn on NRM activities, according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics.
The Australian Landcare Council is the Australian Government's peak advisory body on landcare and matters concerning natural resource management. It has a major role in advising the Government on priorities and strategies for natural resource management to achieve efficient, sustainable and equitable management of natural resources in Australia that are consistent with the principles of ecologically sustainable development.
In the development of regional NRM plans, due regard is not always given to local plans, such as environment plans, council corporate plans or development plans. This can create a discord between the objectives of the regional NRM body and the local councils. As a result, several projects have been undertaken to investigate ways of improving the integration of local and regional NRM plans.
Planning for the development of NRM programs post NHT2/NAP got underway in 2005/06. A working group under the NRM Ministerial Council was established, the Natural Heritage Ministerial Board established a Ministerial Reference group and a number of evaluations of the current programs were undertaken. ALGA has contributed to these processes.
The second phase of the Natural Heritage Trust (NHT) involves communities working together to draw up and implement their own integrated regional natural resource management plans. What does this mean for councils and how can they participate?
The National Action Plan (NAP) has funding of $1.4bn over seven years to 2007-08 to develop regional solutions to salinity and water quality problems. Under the program, 21 priority regions have been developed. Action plans are being developed for these regions.
As managers of public land and land use planners, local government is responsible for policy development and implementation of land use planning as well as regulating a wide range of activities that may impact upon natural resource management (Binning et al. 1999). Local government can also play a key role to play in translating the policies of Commonwealth and state governments into on-ground projects.
In recent years there have been increasing expectations and responsibilities on local government for biodiversity conservation and native vegetation management. Why are they important and what can councils do to fulfil these expectations? What tools and options do councils have and what are councils already doing?
Before undertaking NRM activities it is critical that councils undertake consultations with the community, and in particular indigenous representatives in the community.
Regional Partnerships is another program offering funding for environmental projects. Many councils are already accessing funds through this program for economic or social projects without realising that environmental projects are also eligible.