National Framework for the Management and Monitoring of Australia's Native Vegetation

Natural Resource Management Ministerial Council
Department of Environment and Heritage, 2001
ISBN 0 642 254775 0

Appendix B: Best Practice Attributes of Native Vegetation Management and Monitoring Mechanisms (continued)

4. Communication and Capacity Building

4.1 Community Education

Best Practice

Best practice attributes of community education programs include:

  • comprehensiveness in terms of the range of community sectors targeted - for example school students, households, service clubs, industry, public land managers, opinion leaders;
  • a strong foundation of market research to determine the information needs of each target audience;
  • information prepared and presented for specific target audiences - both the type and content of information, and the mode of presentation;
  • use of a range of different communication channels including publications, print and electronic media and direct involvement according to the needs of different sectors;
  • integration of community education and information materials and activities into existing structures, activities and media - eg school curricula, community newsletters and functions, service clubs, industry groups - to complement stand-alone activities and publications; and
  • wherever possible, use of action learning principles to involve people directly in activities which are meaningful to them in their own locality, on issues which affect them directly.

4.2 Research and Development, and Extension

Best Practice

Research and Development

Best practice attributes of research and development in sustainable native vegetation management include:

  • involvement of the perceived or intended users of research products in all stages of the research process, from issue identification to dissemination and adoption of results;
  • facilitation where appropriate and practical, of the engagement of enthusiastic 'amateurs' alongside scientists carrying out research projects;
  • integration with extension, planning, monitoring and evaluation activities;
  • research priorities defined by the relative importance of finding solutions to problems encountered in achieving desired ecological outcomes;
  • research priorities also informed by an understanding of who needs to know what, what type of knowledge or skills, delivered in what form;
  • decentralised research activities capable of embracing regional diversity and delivering locally-relevant information; and
  • clear identification of ownership and access to intellectual property.

Best practice attributes for extension services in native vegetation management include:

  • recognition that much practical knowledge in revegetation and management of remnant vegetation rests with landholders, and hence extension services need to be designed around sharing, extending and consolidating this knowledge and experience. Vegetation management extension should be based on two-way interaction and joint learning between professionals and land users, rather than models based on transferring the fruits of scientific endeavour to farmers;
  • use of group-based and action learning principles to share landholders' information and experience among themselves, to capture and formalise anecdotal information and practical experience where appropriate, and to provide a more effective means of introducing research-based information through contact between researchers and the intended users of that research;
  • a focus on identifying, documenting, sharing and promulgating best practice in on-ground native vegetation management and revegetation, and on identifying and scoping areas where current best practice falls short of what is required for ecologically sustainable native vegetation management as input to definition of Research and Development priorities;
  • integration of extension services with planning, incentive, regulatory and research frameworks, and with infrastructure elements;
  • integration of vegetation management information and networks with conventional extension services, both government and industry-based; for example Property Management Planning in its various guises - Top Crop, Target Ten, Pro-Graze and FM 500;
  • constructive use and resourcing of non-government networks through for example, the conservation movement, field naturalists, bird observers and organisations such as the Society for Growing Australian Plants, Greening Australia, Trees for Life, Men of the Trees, Australian Forest Growers and the Australian Trust for Conservation Volunteers;
  • seamless connections and active attention to the linkages between activities with a research emphasis and those with an extension emphasis. This is such an immature field in both research and extension that researchers have a crucial role in dissemination of information, just as practitioners and extension agents have a crucial role in generating and formalising information and feeding into research;
  • recognition that best practice for native vegetation management extension is not a single program, but rather a coordinated series of programs or levels of delivery (network) that encompasses regional planning, group facilitation, broad-based awareness raising, and site-specific advisory work. Such a series of extension methods forms a hierarchy of delivery that needs to be coordinated vertically as well as horizontally (and temporally) to ensure that the varying needs of the communities and sustainability needs are appropriately provided for. Landholders' capacity needs to be built to encourage participation in over-arching regional planning processes and regional native vegetation planning;
  • a hierarchical approach with different levels of extension from input into regional plans, through group facilitation, to individual site advisory services;
  • strong coordination between the levels and individual elements of the extension network; and
  • a tailored approach to extension based on community and regional needs and issues.

4.3 Vegetation Management Infrastructure

Best Practice

The extent to which the various elements of a vegetation management infrastructure are necessary, and thus what could be considered to be 'best practice', varies from region to region. However, particularly where revegetation has an important role to play, land users and community groups may need access to equipment and services beyond what is reasonable for individual landholders to provide within their own resources. These include:

  • seedbanks with the full suite of local provenance germplasm, appropriately stored, documented and labelled;
  • nurseries producing sufficient quantities of the full suite of local species and provenances;
  • revegetation equipment such as direct seeding machines, planters and sprayers; and
  • specialist services for monitoring and management of remnant vegetation.

5. Incentives

General Best Practice Attributes

  • All incentive programs require:
    • clearly defined objectives and eligibility criteria;
    • clear decision making processes;
    • efficient administrative arrangements;
    • flexibility to address special/individual circumstances; and
    • clear monitoring and accountability procedures.
  • To encourage landholder participation, wherever possible incentive programs should be based on voluntary participation by land managers.
  • Grants can be targeted at multiple scales - regional, local, community group and individual landholder. As the size and scale of grants reduces the administrative approvals, processes should be simplified and involve direct on-site assessment and management advice.
  • Incentive programs will achieve greater uptake if a range of management commitments are offered concurrently. Hence, non-binding programs (e.g. Land for Wildlife) through to covenants registered on title (e.g. Trust for Nature (Vic)) should be offered.
  • Financial assistance should be accompanied by stewardship/extension arrangements for providing ongoing support and management advice to landholders.
  • Payments should be based on cost sharing principles. Larger payments should be made available for higher valued sites and where greater landholder commitment is volunteered. For example, the Natural Heritage Trust provides tiered fencing assistance depending on whether landholders are willing to commit to managing fenced areas for conservation outcomes.
  • Payments should provide for a community benefit beyond a landholder's 'duty of care' and cover both the capital and ongoing costs.
  • To deliver lasting conservation benefits incentive programs should be targeted at high priority ecosystems and regions, with particular focus on gaps within the National Reserve System.
  • Changes in legislative arrangements will have greater chance of acceptance if accompanied by incentive programs that encourage and assist landholders to meet new standards.
  • There is scope to use market based incentives, such as tradeable greenhouse sink quotas (carbon credits from carbon sequestration), or salinity rights to create a market and value for native vegetation.

5.1 Grant Programs

Best Practice

  • Grants incentives will be most effective where there is a need for direct negotiation between the landholder and granting agency including extension support and advice.
  • Grants should be targeted at multiple scales - regional, local, community group and individual landholder. As the size and scale of grants reduces the administrative approvals, processes should be simplified and involve direct on-site assessment and management advice.
  • Grants that provide discretion in the type of assistance may be more acceptable to landholders, for example incentive packages including options for fencing, cash, farm planning, or management advice.

5.2 Property Right and Market-based Measures

Best Practice

  • Property right measures can be used to clarify rights, entitlements and obligations, such as in the case of a conservation covenant. They will be most effectively used where site specific arrangements for the management of native vegetation are required.
  • Market-based measures will be most effective where a good or service of a marketable value is defined and traded. Examples could include tradeable carbon and salinity rights.
  • Rights, entitlements and obligations for any market-based measure must be clearly defined and have clear processes for review put in place.
  • Considerable care has to be taken in the initial allocation of rights between existing and prospective users of the resource.
  • Mechanisms that assist in the trading of resource use rights should be considered, for example a carbon trading bank.
  • When governments foster and promote new commercial practices, such as production of eucalyptus oil, care has to be taken in managing expectations and ensuring equitable access to markets.

5.3 Revolving Funds

Best Practice

A best practice model should incorporate the following attributes.

  • Guidelines for purchase of land which include:
    • priority consideration, as potential sellers, of landholders who have indicated they wish to clear their land; and
    • ecological criteria such as ecosystem viability and continuity, uniqueness and specific values.
  • Financial management systems to ensure maintenance of capital through, for example, investment, minimising transaction costs, agreed parameters on purchase and sale prices.
  • Extension capacity - revolving fund managers need to have an active and on-going capacity to provide on-ground management assistance.
  • Collaboration with the agency responsible for establishing the reserve system so that there is cooperation (and not competition) in targeting land for acquisition.
  • Minimum conditions of covenant - for example, preparation and implementation of a comprehensive management plan.

5.4 Differential Rating and Taxation Measures

Best Practice

  • Tax incentives, and discounts on property rates, via differential rating, are most effectively used to market incentives to a wide range of landholders.
  • Tax incentives that allow donations of property, conservation covenants and money to organisations involved in the conservation of native vegetation have the potential to significantly increase private investment in the conservation and rehabilitation of native vegetation.
  • Tax and rate incentives can be effectively targeted by tying access to the conservation of high conservation value sites that are covered by a nature conservation covenant.

5.5 Offsets and Performance/Assurance Bonds

Best Practice

  • Offsets and performance/assurance bonds are most effectively used to minimise the impact of new developments on native vegetation.
  • Where performance bonds are used, the bond should be tied to clear targets for the management and rehabilitation of sites subject to development.
  • Performance bonds can be made less onerous on industry if they are permitted to reinsure with financial institutions and/or insurance companies. This has the added benefit of encouraging self regulation through the private sector.
  • Offset programs should include criteria that require a 'net environmental improvement' from proposals that impact upon native vegetation.
  • Proposals to offset the impacts of new development should be subject to independent assessment.
  • Where offsets are used, the clearing of native vegetation should be tied to the protection of native vegetation from the same ecological community or to re-establishment of native vegetation in strategic locations, such as a wildlife corridor.

6. Regulatory Arrangements

6.1 Threatened Species/Ecological Communities Protection

Best Practice

Typical key attributes of the threatened species/ecosystem legislation are as follows:

  • listing of threatened species/ecosystems - clarifies to which particular assets and threats the legislation should be specifically applied;
  • strategic planning - determines the most effective generic approaches and identifies priority groups of species, ecosystems and threats;
  • recovery and threat abatement planning - determines appropriate specific actions and coordinates implementation and feedback on effectiveness;
  • critical habitat determination - specifies the key minimum areas of habitat which require adequate management to ensure the conservation of the particular asset, and ensures due consideration of this need in land use planning processes;
  • protection - identifies mechanisms, which allow intervention, where required, to ensure that recovery planning actions proceed and that the objectives of the legislation can be met for the particular asset;
  • linkage - endangered species legislation should have appropriate linkages to land clearing regulation.

Best practice features for each of the above attributes are summarised below.

Listing - Scope
  • any native taxon of flora (vascular or non-vascular) or fauna (vertebrate or invertebrate) can be listed if threatened, subject to guidelines/rules regarding definition;
  • any ecological community can be listed if threatened, subject to guidelines/rules regarding definition;
  • rare, poorly-known and/or 'near threatened' taxa can be recognised to facilitate planning/management to avoid additional taxa becoming threatened;
  • taxa/ecological communities that are threatened at the regional level can be recognised to facilitate planning/management to avoid additional entities becoming threatened at the State/Territory level;
  • any threatening process can be listed, subject to guidelines/rules regarding definition.
Listing - Criteria and Thresholds
  • objective/quantitative as far as possible;
  • subject to periodic review;
  • international standards adopted or considered;
  • have minimum information requirements, but incorporate precautionary principle;
  • based solely on biological issues.
Listing - Mechanism
  • provision for public nomination;
  • provision for 'bulk' listing from pre-existing credible sources (e.g. from threatened species lists in use at the time legislation is enacted);
  • independent scientific evaluation;
  • advice of scientific committee and Government response publicly available;
  • rapid process (reasonable, limited time from nomination to listing).
Strategic Planning
  • legislation includes requirement to prepare strategy detailing approaches to be taken;
  • provision for 'overview' or 'action plan' style documents to identify urgent actions and priority species across the whole spectrum of threatened species/communities.
Action planning - Requirement to prepare
  • guidance on purpose and broad content (action plans will vary from comprehensive recovery plans to brief statements of intended actions for the immediate future, according to need and available resources);
  • requirement to prepare an action plan triggered by listing;
  • time limit for preparation of plan following listing;
  • recovery plans to include specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and time-bounded objectives;
  • open for public comment;
  • provision for threat abatement plans, either as complementary to a taxa/ecological community approach or as the primary approach to threatening processes which impact on a number/range of taxa and/or communities;
  • provides for and promotes the cooperation and coordination of efforts between States/Territories and the Commonwealth;
  • includes mechanism/provision for monitoring of effectiveness.
Action planning - Legal/administrative status
  • action plans provide guidance for decision making in environmental impact assessments or other planning processes;
  • identifies the extent to which Government agencies are bound by action plans.
Critical habitat determination - Requirement to prepare
  • critical habitat determination required to be prepared in highest priority cases (e.g. critically endangered);
  • time limit applies;
  • provision for scientific guidelines to be prepared and peer-reviewed.
Protection - Threat Prevention
  • contains provisions, or links to provisions in other Acts, such that activities likely to have significant impacts on threatened taxa/ecological communities require approval by a competent authority (approval may include conditions to ameliorate impacts and monitoring of compliance and effectiveness).
Protection - Taking, trading etc
  • contains provisions, or links to provisions in other Acts, regulating the taking, trading and possession of threatened species.
Protection - Emergency provisions (e.g. interim protection order)
  • allows for immediate cessation of activities etc posing threat to listed items, subject to procedures and limitations (eg only within declared critical habitat);
  • specifies offences and penalties relating to orders, handling etc.
Protection - Critical Habitat
  • critical habitat confers higher level of protection within planning process on all tenures.

6.2 Land Clearing Regulation

Best Practice

The best practice attributes are summarised below as a starting point for a national framework. The regulations must be simple and clear yet must also link to broader vegetation management programs and be about protecting the social, cultural and economic values of vegetation and not just the biodiversity values. Because of the variability of vegetation and variability of land use across the landscape the regulation needs to be capable of adopting a regional approach - yet there is a need for broad consistency in application across the jurisdiction. The regulations need to be widely understood and promoted, and should be applied in the context of an integrated natural resource management approach. It is the ability of regulation to deal with these conflicting objectives that is the real measure of the success of best practice.

  • Provides a 'duty of care' to all landholders to manage native vegetation sustainably.
  • Applies consistently across all land use tenures and all native vegetation types.
  • Adopts an integrated bioregional approach:
    • Sets clear achievable objectives and targets regarding vegetation extent and condition at State, bioregional, local and property level based on ecological, greenhouse, cultural and economic sustainability.
    • Targets are based on mapping at the appropriate scales.
    • Has clear links with other programs or legislation that enable property, local and regional planning and management.
    • Considers cumulative impacts.
  • Allows for a range of implementation mechanisms:
    • Is supported by extension and adequately funded incentive and education programs.
    • Modifications to proposals to maximise social, economic and environmental benefit.
    • Sets a monitoring, reporting and independent review process.
    • Sets appropriate enforcement and penalties regime.
  • Is supported by the community:
    • Community involvement in setting rules through regional planning.
    • Regulations apply equitably across all parts of the community.
  • Has a clear and transparent decision-making process that is legally defensible:
    • Provides for efficient and rapid determination of applications based on transparent assessment criteria.
    • Has clear definitions.
    • Has criteria for decision-making which permit a robust, repeatable and consistent assessment process/framework.
    • Is implemented in a consistent manner by staff trained and experienced in assessment.
    • Has ability to apply conditions on decisions which may involve revegetation or management of remnant vegetation.
    • Provides for appeals (including third party appeals).
  • Uses best available technical information:
    • Has links with vegetation mapping programs (status, distribution, condition, threatened species and communities), monitoring rates of change.
    • Has links with research programs.
  • Protects native vegetation of high conservation or cultural value, including:
    • Representativeness.
    • Threatened species and ecological communities.
    • Viability/vulnerability.
    • Conservation or landscape design principles.
  • Provides for, or is supported by, appropriate institutional arrangements.
  • Is responsive/adaptive to changes in information and policy.
  • Has capacity to accredit regions performing well.

6.3 Industry/Land Use Codes of Practice

Best Practice

Purpose of Codes

The following are some principles and attributes in relation to the purpose of codes of practice.

  • Codes of practice can be used to demonstrate compliance with a general environmental duty of care. This can provide a 'first line of defence' in the event of a prosecution for environmental harm.
  • They are used as a part of a system of self-regulation.
  • They are used to describe what is a body of acceptable practice within a particular industry.
  • Codes should be tightly drafted to provide certainty.
  • The critical parts of the code, particularly those parts which provide the absolute defence, should contain mandatory statements.
  • The primary purpose for codes of practice dealing with vegetation management is ecologically sustainable development.
  • Codes should also be targeted at enhancing industry practices, rather than simply 'codifying' the status quo.
  • Codes of practice as a tool for self regulation require a cultural change for industry.
  • While codes of practice can provide a tool for self regulation, an overarching regulatory system is necessary to back it up.
  • The scope of the code of practice needs to be highlighted in the code itself. It needs to clearly identify to which industries and individuals the code applies.
Statutory Recognition

The following are some principles and attributes of codes with respect to the issue of statutory recognition.

  • Codes of practice can be developed and approved under environment protection legislation. Codes may be prepared voluntarily and be approved by the Minister.
  • A statutory duty of care such as in the Environment Protection Act 1994 and the Land Act 1994 (Qld), is a critical part of the regime of codes of practice.
  • Statutory recognition gives weight to the defence of complying with a code of practice.
  • Because of this statutory weight, the legislation should contain criteria for developing the code including public consultation.
  • As long as there are clear criteria for the voluntary development of codes, they are as effective as mandatory codes. Mandatory codes are not part of a system of self regulation.
  • A statutory duty of care provides a reason for complying with a code of practice.

The following are some principles and attributes in relation to the contents of a code of practice.

  • There are two general approaches that may be used to prepare a code of practice - outcome or process based.
  • For best practice the code should state outcomes with a range of alternative processes or mechanisms that industry may comply with to achieve the outcome.
  • An example of an outcome may be a biodiversity target.
  • One of the processes to be specified in the code should include monitoring and evaluation. This is recognition of the need for continual improvement.
  • Codes do not usually require best practice environmental management. They should also be more than a description of current practices. Codes set out the minimum acceptable outcomes.
  • The most useful codes of practice are those that are specific to an industry. This allows recognition of the activities carried out by industry. Generic codes with minimal detail are of little use.

The following are some principles and attributes in relation to the preparation of a code of practice.

  • Codes may be prepared by peak bodies such as industry organisations. They may also be prepared by government for specific activities such as timber harvesting.
  • Stakeholder consultation is critical. This includes industry, relevant levels of government and the community.
  • Stakeholder consultation encourages acceptance by stakeholders and therefore may result in fewer third party actions.
  • Preparation by industry groups ensures ownership by the industry members and a greater likelihood of compliance.

The following are some principles and attributes in relation to the need for flexibility for a code of practice.

  • Codes should contain provisions requiring regular review.
  • There may be the need for other triggers for amendment such as legislative changes or changes in technology.

The following are some principles and attributes in relation to enforcement of codes of practice.

  • As part of a system of self regulation, it is critical that there be a system for monitoring compliance with codes and incentives to encourage industry to comply.
  • To be effective, it is important that monitoring be undertaken of both the environment and activities undertaken by industry. This may include monitoring undertaken for state of environment reporting, responses to complaints and routine investigations of industry.
  • In the event that industry is not complying with codes, a regulatory agency needs to be able to respond. This may involve the initiation of prosecution, injunctions or the publication of names of companies.
  • Training should be considered to assist industry to comply with the codes of practice. This should reduce the need for enforcement action in relation to breaches of codes of practice.

7. Monitoring and Evaluation

7.1 Cover and Condition Monitoring

Best Practice

It is difficult to identify any single best practice attributes in monitoring vegetation cover and condition, as the characteristics of a good monitoring strategy are defined by the objectives of the monitoring program, the scale of implementation, the vegetation community being examined and the resources allocated to the program. Based on a review of current national and international examples, the following features summarise a best practice approach to monitoring vegetation cover and condition.

  • Repeatable and transparent.
  • Protocols and standards for information collection and storage.
  • Robust method that encompasses uncertainty.
  • Commitment to sampling time-frame and incorporating outputs.

Best Practice principles include:

  • clearly defined, achievable objectives;
  • compliance with agreed standards, guidelines or protocols for sampling methods, data collation and storage, information sharing and agreed definitions for attributes and terms used;
  • commitment to collect agreed core data attributes to maximise usefulness of the data collected, where feasible;
  • acceptance of the need for the monitoring program and commitment to implementing outcomes from relevant stakeholders;
  • a basic understanding of the ecological characteristics (including natural spatial and temporal patterns and processes) of the vegetation community;
  • identification of the natural and anthropogenic disturbances or threats likely to influence the vegetation community;
  • an audit of existing data for the site/s and a strategy to incorporate and build on these existing data, where appropriate;
  • adoption of a method suitable for sampling and detecting change in the vegetation community (including sampling scale and frequency) and which incorporates an assessment of uncertainty in interpreting outputs;
  • a sampling strategy which is robust, repeatable and independent of the individual doing the sampling;
  • a commitment to sample the full range of spatial and temporal variability needed to meet the objectives, and allocation of sufficient resources to maintain and support the monitoring strategy in meeting its objectives;
  • inclusion of feedback loops and mechanisms to incorporate outcomes of the monitoring strategy into policy review or development and land management practices; and
  • appropriate dissemination/communication of the information component of monitoring activities.

The following information attributes can be considered a priority and to constitute a best practice approach to collecting monitoring information. These attributes are generally common to all reporting areas.

  • Extent of area by vegetation type, tenure and condition.
  • Rate of clearing and thinning, in hectares per annum, of native vegetation types by clearing activity.
  • The area revegetated, in hectares per annum, disaggregated into areas using local vegetation, and other.
  • Amount and rate of clearing specific to conservation status categories.
  • Reasons for clearing.
  • The condition and area of native vegetation, by type and region.
  • The degree of fragmentation of native vegetation.
  • Area and proportion of native vegetation affected by processes or agents that may change ecosystem health and vitality (e.g. diseases, weeds).
  • Area of land under best management practice.
  • Area of vegetation burnt, by frequency and intensity of burning and type of vegetation.
  • Area affected by soil erosion.
  • Area affected by dryland salinity.
  • Area affected by acidity.
  • The distribution (and abundance where possible) of non-indigenous species identified as pests.
  • Number and proportion of planning schemes that include best practice vegetation management.

* Condition is a very hard quality to measure and monitor, and more work is needed on how it would best be done.