Figure 1: Chain of command in the Victorian NRM
decision making process. This structure is being used as an NRM
model for other states, and may suit the Northern Territory
VCMC=Victorian Catchment Management Council
(the NT Landcare Council equivalent)
CMA=Catchment Management Authority (Regional NRM statutory bodies,
there is no NT equivalent)
DPI=Dept of Primary Industry (DBIRD equivalent)
DSE= Dept of Sustainability and Environment (DIPE equivalent)
Royce Sample , facilitator for the
Victoria River District Conservation Association, provides food for
thought on how NHT 2 could operate in the Northern Territory.
How the NT implements NHT
initiatives | Future direction? Some
questions | Figure 1 | Figure 2 | Acknowledgements | About the
author | Contact details |
The long-awaited announcement that the bilateral agreement with
the Commonwealth Government was signed in June of
2003—releasing NHT 2 funds for Natural Resource Management
(NRM). However this release continues to be only an ‘Interim
Bid’, meaning the Northern Territory’s Natural Resource
Management funding continues on an ad hoc basis annually.
The process of obtaining more coherent and strategic long-term
NRM funding from the Commonwealth hinges on the Northern Territory
developing an Integrated Natural Resource Management Plan (INRM)
and a Regional Investment Bid that have to be accredited by the
Federal Government. Having been an interested observer and
participant in developing these prerequisites in Victoria, I know
this is not done overnight. In fact, it took Victoria the best part
of five years. Also it is necessary to have some organisational
structure and community consultation process in place to achieve
the desired results.
From my observations these elements are only in their infancy in
the Northern Territory—despite having several years to
prepare for the not unexpected requirements of the Federal
Federal Agriculture Minister Warren Truss has said that the new
NHT will be “much more regionally focused, with projects
being identified at the local level and funding going to achieving
larger-scale objectives.” Clearly there is a perception the
old way the states and territories handled NHT funds was not
achieving national NRM goals, with the majority of funding never
reaching the ground.
The NT Landcare Council will perform the role of the main
regional body for the purposes of implementing Commonwealth NRM
initiatives such as the extension of NHT 2. Being familiar with how
its counterparts in Victoria and New South Wales operate, and the
role other organisations play in catchment management
arrangements, I believe it is a tall order for this advisory
group to perform all the functions expected of it.
This does not imply any criticism of the Council, only of the
tasks allotted to it as I understand them.
I believe it may be useful for people interested in NRM matters
to examine Victoria’s structure as it is the state with the
longest experience with these arrangements. This is not because it
is the preferred model but because it is being used as a model by
other states and, with modifications, may suit the Northern
Figure 1 (above right) shows the chain of command in NRM
decision making. Note Victoria has 10 catchment management
authorities (CMAs) which are professionally staffed, based on river
catchments and have minister-appointed community boards that set
regional strategic direction. The Victorian Departments of Primary
Industry (DBIRD equivalent) and Sustainability and Environment
(DIPE equivalent) are primary service delivery agencies who are
contracted to deliver NRM outcomes and advise on strategic
Figure 2: The necessary components needed to
satisfy federal requirements prior to receiving NHT 2 funding and
how they relate to one another
Figure 2, directly above, shows the components needed to satisfy
federal requirements before receiving NHT 2 funding and how they
relate to one another.
The Northern Territory will be treated as a single region
despite its large size but obviously there will have to be some
input by sub-regions to cater for the huge variations in issues,
climate and landscape. The real challenge is how to achieve
ownership of the strategies and the INRM plan by the various
stakeholders via the community public consultation process in such
a short time frame.
So far natural resource planners are being appointed but the
consultation process details are unknown though initial indications
are these generally will be directed by DIPE. In Victoria and NSW
strategic planning functions are undertaken by community
boards—supported by professional organisations separated from
previous bureaucratic structures.
Is it possible for the NT Landcare Council to act as the
government advisor, reflect community aspirations, determine the
strategic direction, oversee the preparation of the INRM plan,
assess and determine the plan’s investment bid and report on
the outcomes of the plan without any of the new professional
organisational structures used by other states? Or is institutional
reform in the too-hard basket? In Victoria and New South Wales
there is much reliance on partnership funding arrangements between
community (Landcare, etc.) groups, NGOs (Greening Australia, etc.)
and various government agencies to implement programs. Is this a
model being actively pursued in the NT?
It appears NHT 2 has finally set sail to the NT—but is it
with the correct chart and compass?
Thanks to David Cummings, Victorian Department of Sustainability
and Environment for the diagrams used in this article.
Royce Sample has spent 15 years in extension and consulting
work, mostly on sustainable agricultural production. He has managed
integrated pest animal programs, national and regional grazing
programs, national land use change programs and worked for a
Catchment Management Authority. He has undertaken postgraduate
study in regional policy making and adaptive management, and is
currently employed by the Victoria River District Conservation
Association and based in Katherine, Northern Territory. The views
expressed in this article are his personal opinions.