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

2. Use of the National Framework

All Australian Governments recognise that the Commonwealth, individual States and Territories, and local governments are responsible for the detailed management of native vegetation in their respective jurisdictions, in accordance with their particular circumstances and priorities.

The Commonwealth Government is also responsible for coordinating a national approach to natural resource management, environmental and industry-development issues which are of national and international significance. The state of Australia's native vegetation is one such matter.

The Framework is designed to provide a mechanism through which the native vegetation management commitments agreed to by all Australian Governments can be progressed in a consistent and coherent manner.

State and Territory Governments have primary responsibility for native vegetation management, in recognition of the constitutional responsibility of the States for land use decisions and their ownership of large areas of native vegetation.

Local governments have responsibilities for local land use planning and rating systems, which affect public and private native vegetation management and use. They are also significant landholders and managers in their own right.

Private landholders (including leaseholders), as managers of large tracts of native vegetation and/or cleared land suitable for revegetation, are important in the implementation of the Framework.

The Commonwealth will continue to work bilaterally with all jurisdictions to implement Natural Heritage Trust Partnership Agreements, particularly as they relate to vegetation matters. The Framework provides a consistent multilateral or national approach for sharing information and experience (particularly related to best practice) over the full range of management and monitoring mechanisms.

The Framework establishes a series of benchmarks for best practice native vegetation management and monitoring mechanisms (see Appendix B). It also establishes a national monitoring and public reporting mechanism to demonstrate progress towards reducing the broad-scale clearance of native vegetation, and increasing revegetation. The Framework sets out a national approach through which Commonwealth, State and Territory commitments can be implemented.

It describes what is meant by 'best practice' measures for native vegetation management, and provides an independent evaluation process that will report on progress being made by each jurisdiction. (see Appendix B)

The mechanism for implementing the Framework is the Framework Work Plans. This compilation of work plans from individual jurisdictions commits each State, Territory and the Commonwealth to actions that will improve approaches to native vegetation management. Work plans have been developed in response to the Framework and to the preliminary assessment of each jurisdiction's approaches to native vegetation management described in the consultancy report Native Vegetation National Overview: States/Territories/Commonwealth Stocktake of Native Vegetation Management (Dore, John et al 1999, ANZECC, Canberra).

The Framework does not seek to set vegetation retention or revegetation targets for individual jurisdictions. Nationally, the goal is to reverse the long-term decline in the quality and extent of Australia's native vegetation. However, more specific targets have not been set here. The desired native vegetation outcomes described here are performance-based. Individual jurisdictions will be responsible for determining targets in the context of their individual work plans.

This national, multilateral approach complements existing individual and bilateral approaches, and offers significant opportunities:

  • to increase community awareness and national commitment to sustainable native vegetation management;
  • to share principles, information, contacts and ideas that may lead to better outcomes in relation to any particular strategy and/or jurisdiction;
  • to improve consistency between jurisdictions, where appropriate, in native vegetation management and monitoring;
  • to link and integrate the various approaches to native vegetation management being pursued in accordance with the broad array of relevant national strategies; and
  • to establish national principles and benchmarks with respect to desired native vegetation outcomes, facilitating comparative analyses of vegetation management and monitoring issues and environmental trends across the nation.

This national, multilateral approach should significantly enhance the return on the public investment in the Natural Heritage Trust and other programs and strategies.

The Framework will be periodically reviewed by the Natural Resource Management Ministerial Council (NRMMC) to maintain its relevance in the longer term.

2.1 Monitoring Framework

A major purpose of this Framework is to provide a vehicle through which the national goal of reversing the long-term decline in the quality and extent of Australia's native vegetation cover can be implemented. Progress towards the national goal will be achieved by reductions in vegetation clearance, increased revegetation and other measures that improve quality and extent. The monitoring framework is a basic element of the Framework as it facilitates the periodic measurement at the national level of the quality and extent of native vegetation and of progress towards reversing the decline.

The monitoring framework needs access to consistent and repeatable national measurements of the quality and extent of native vegetation at the national level. The assessment of progress towards the national goal will require an accounting protocol that evaluates losses and gains in the extent and quality of native vegetation. The monitoring framework encompasses both the periodic measurement of extent and quality and a protocol for assessing gains against losses. No new monitoring task is proposed: the monitoring framework will draw upon existing monitoring processes such as the National Land and Water Resources Audit.

Factors that need to be taken into account in developing the accounting protocol include:

  • the variation in vegetation type and conservation status;
  • the variation in vegetation condition and viability;
  • the contribution of the offsetting measures to the range of native vegetation values.

Information on these factors will be captured in the monitoring process and analysed under the accounting protocol to provide periodic assessments of progress towards the national goal.

2.2 Implementation Arrangements

Formulation of implementation arrangements for the Framework has involved:

  • an analysis of the existing 'baseline' vegetation management and monitoring situation in each jurisdiction (Dore Report); and
  • development of work plans for each jurisdiction that commit to specific management actions to be implemented within specified timelines.

Work plans will be updated on a continuing basis, and used to measure progress towards best practice native vegetation management.

The Framework will be used as a guide to the strategic allocation of Commonwealth funding towards native vegetation management and monitoring activities in the States and Territories. Evaluations of progress towards best practice management and monitoring arrangements, and desired native vegetation outcomes, will be used to inform decisions on allocating Commonwealth funding. It is the Commonwealth view that levels of funding will be contingent on the continuing and timely achievement of best practice management arrangements and desired native vegetation outcomes.

2.3 Evaluation Arrangements

Progress towards the best practice native vegetation management arrangements described by the Framework and towards the fulfilment of work plan commitments will be independently evaluated on an ongoing basis. Native vegetation management and monitoring activities will be evaluated against the agreed native vegetation outcomes and against identified best practice.

The preliminary consultancy report Native Vegetation National Overview: States/Territories/Commonwealth Stocktake of Native Vegetation Management (Dore Report) that assessed each jurisdiction's approaches to native vegetation management demonstrates an independent evaluation method that could be periodically repeated.

In February 2001 progress against the Framework was independently evaluated by URS Australia Pty Ltd in association with Griffen nrm and an assessment made of the appropriateness, effectiveness and efficacy of the work plans for achieving long term sustainable native vegetation management. The evaluation report was released for public comment. A copy of the evaluation report is available on the Environment Australia website at http://www.environment.gov.au/land/publications/nvf-evaluation/index.html. The evaluation process will be rigorous, transparent and independent. It will demonstrate to governments and the community that nationally agreed goals, objectives and outcomes for native vegetation management in Australia will be fully met.

Ongoing evaluation of progress against the Framework is due to occur once every three years.

2.4 Ongoing Review

The Framework will continue to be refined with advances in methodologies, analytical tools and planning measures to maintain best practice in the management of Australia's native vegetation.

The NRMMC will continue ANZECC's role as a national forum on this issue to ensure the involvement of relevant agencies and stakeholders in the future development and implementation of this Framework.