Changing the delivery of environmental stewardship in Australia
Dr Pamela Parker, Australian Landscape Trust
Mr G Fitzhardinge
prepared for the 2006 Australian State of the Environment Committee, 2006
Conservation organisations, first formed to address small-scale local problems, now deliver a variety of services. As government reduces its direct delivery of services and devolves functions to contractors, the management and accountability that is core to these partnerships focus on quantitative measurement (Beeton et al. in prep, Johns and Roskam 2004, Nasbitt and Aburdene 1990). Thus government has a tool for defining boundaries and the nature of services that follow from government policy. There are benefits to government (leveraging resources, delegating delivery of government policy) and to private sector organisations (extending the mission through the aid of additional financial resources and benefits of government-conferred legitimacy). Organisations participating in contracts for government programs include Conservation Volunteers Australia (administered Green Corps in which young people learned workplace skills and performed work of benefit to the environment) and Greening Australia (planted trees, delivered the services of Green Corps). WWF–Australia has delivered services of the Endangered Species Network. Sustainable Regions grants represent another approach to public–private investment partnerships.
Contracts with government underwrite some conservation activities and can drive the directions of conservation organisations. Government grants generally require significant matching components. Conservation organisations must find the matching resources from funding not restricted to specific projects. Without having general operating support, grants as contracts with matching requirements are not affordable. Through the matching components, government directs additional private sector resources to goals of the public sector.
Programs such as Landcare mix public and private cultures, and are delivered through both government and community volunteers. These programs commingle conservation and rural community capacity building directed by the community itself to achieve investments in nature with the highest values for individual communities.
These activities give ownership of environmental stewardship to local communities and build capacity in the rural sector so that environmental stewardship is better understood and valued. An objective for durable conservation is to ensure that the rural sector has the resources (knowledge, human, social and financial capitals) to invest in environmental stewardship.