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					          Peak body for five landholder associations and 1600 irrigators in the Murray Valley

PO Box 1254
Deniliquin NSW 2710
sri.deni@bigpond.com
0428 984570

25th April 2012

Mr Bob Debus
Chair
National Wildlife Corridors Plan Advisory Group
Department of Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities
GPO Box 787
Canberra ACT 2601

Dear Mr Debus

The delivery of sustained natural resource management (NRM) in regional Australia has
undergone a number of approaches, including legislative and voluntary.

The comparison of actual environmental outcomes of the legislative and voluntary
approach, can provide a window of opportunity for Governments to improve
relationships with regional Australia. Genuine consultation and community decision
making, provides a long term opportunity for Governments to deliver NRM outcomes at
significantly reduced cost to the taxpayers of Australia.

Government over the last 15 years, have adopted the ‘carrot and the stick’ approach, to
deliver conservation outcomes. In practise this has often resulted in Government reliance
on the stick approach which has often been detrimental to the ‘carrot’ approach.

The two approaches described can be in conflict with each other.

In economically constrained times and strong competition in the future for scare
Government dollars, conservation outcomes will have to focus more on positive
engagement with rural communities. Evidence shows that community based decision
making for natural resource management outcomes, is preferential for delivering long
term outcomes and sustained commitment.

Examples of this are the Land and Water Management Plans within the Southern
Riverina, where a genuine partnership approach with community and government,
delivered long lasting benefits to the environment. Sub catchment planning such as
initiatives achieved by Holbrook Landcare demonstrate the benefits of community
decision making.
The draft National Wildlife Corridors Plan (March 2012) raises concerns that community
input into NRM decisions may be overshadowed by centralists or remote decision
making.

It is not a positive step for our community to be aware of wildlife corridor planning in our
region, on or near the official closing date of submissions.

The release of the draft National Wildlife Corridors Plan and inclusion in the draft
document of the Edward Wakool Rivers, raises concerns that determinations of Advisory
Committee has not been developed with genuine engagement of the community.

While we welcome the opportunity to briefly discuss with the Advisory Committee the
proposed Edward Wakool River’s potential inclusion in the proposed National Corridor
System, we do not find the process satisfactory.

In particular the manner in which the consultation process occurred, the limited nature of
consultation and restricted list of invitees.

It is critical that Australia redesign its approach to conservation outcomes and approach
NRM planning with the community as the foundation platform.

The Advisory Committee is preparing to recommend to Minister Burke that a Wildlife
Corridors Act be developed.

SRI rejects the recommendations of the Advisory Committee for an Act. The committee
did not justify why an Act is considered necessary, other than to suggest that this would
help prioritise and protect funding streams.

SRI believes that an Act is unnecessary and this approach will adversely affect the
voluntary nature of existing programs currently providing benefit to the environment.

The Advisory Committee promotion of the proposed corridor system as voluntary,
however SRI remains concerned that disclosure of all future implications of such a
corridor, are not fully transparent.

It is important to note that private landholders, key people who are most likely to be part
of such a proposal, were not invited to the consultation meeting.

Your advisory committee indicted that the recent meeting held in Deniliquin was to gain
an indication of community views. Our organisation holds serious concerns about the
manner in which this corridor proposal is being put forward.

Given the concerns about the lack of genuine engagement with communities in the
proposed zone, SRI cannot support a wildlife corridor proposal on the Edward Wakool
system.
SRI also rejects the proposal of a Wildlife Corridors Act that will determine priorities for
future Government funding programs.

Background CSIRO documents prepared in relation to the proposed corridor plan refer to
the involvement of Non- Government Organisations in higher levels of decision making,
thus communities may rightly be concerned that this Act may prepare a movement away
from the concept of regional decision making on NRM issues.

We believe this is against the principles of genuine community engagement and
inconsistent with broader views on natural resource planning.

Please refer to attachment A for specific comments.

Yours faithfully



Ted Hatty
Chair
Southern Riverina Irrigators
ATTACHMENT A

Advisory Group – Committee

Genuine community partnerships for natural resource management will require rural and
regional input, as these regions are the most likely to be involved in NRM policy and
incentive areas.

Therefore the makeup of the advisory committee is critical for genuine engagement with
rural and regional communities.

The current advisory committee has a significant number of environmental interests, but
limited representation from rural Australia. SRI believes that this will lead to a top down
approach of NRM planning and will reduce the uptake of voluntary Government NRM
initiatives.

Public Consultation

The extremely limited consultation with communities in the proposed Edward Wakool
Corridor region (approx. 2 hours) is not considered acceptable for genuine consultation.

      Submissions are sought by the Advisory Committee, but the draft document has
       no advice on where submissions are to go or which Department. \

      There were no handouts in addition to this draft plan to guide how to lodge a
       submission. To find out contact details to make submissions, a member of the
       public must find that information out personally by searching the web or some
       other means.

      Once located, the submission cover page does not describe which section of
       SEWPaC the submission is to go to. With SEWPaC being an incredibly large
       department, it unclear whether all submissions will reach their destined section of
       the Department

      Small writing indicates that a cover sheet must accompany your submission, this
       was not made clear during the Deniliquin meeting, nor was there a hand out to
       ensure that this was understood by those attending


      CSIRO supporting documents are described by the committee as references only
       when questioned. However, presumably such documents have helped the
       advisory committee come to its deliberations. These documents do not promote
       the voluntary nature as suggested by the advisory committee. Instead words such
       as planning, LEPs, extension to the EPBC listings, all indicate future potential
       implications of a corridor system zoned over private land.
   When issues of concern were raised in regard to specific comments made by these
    background documents, they were dismissed as just a general guide of what
    currently happens. Clearly not all words outlined in these documents could be
    dismissed, this includes references to greater high level decision making by
    NGO’s (Non Government Organisations)

   Governance arrangements which involves NGOs participating in high level
    decisions, while also being the likely recipients for major funding initiatives raises
    some concerns about issues of integrity.

   If NGO’s are to play a great role in high level decision making, this means that
    the spirit of ‘localism’ and community engagements is tokenistic at the end of a
    process, not the beginning

   The Committee has not adequately explained the details of their proposed Act or
    why such an Act is necessary. The Committee suggests that it is to guide and
    ensure future funding, but this is a further example where the community has no
    input into regional decision making on NRM

   SRI rejects the Advisory Committee approach to funding prioritised via an Act
    specific to wildlife corridors.

   The Advisory committee is strongly promoting that the draft plan is voluntary in
    nature, but clearly there are significant implications of the committee proposals
    for other incentive programs.

   Future funding programs are to be prioritised according to the views of a limited
    committee that has conducted little public consultation.

				
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