The Goulburn Broken CMA (2012) estimates that for every $1 spent by government in natural resource management, at least another $1.50 (and as high as $4) is spent by the Catchment community (VCMC 2012). The communities ongoing investment in NRM has been critical to the success of past RCSs, and will be critical to the success of this one.
Involvement by the community in catchment management is broad based. For example in 2006–07, 86 per cent of agricultural-based businesses surveyed in the Catchment reported NRM issues on their property. Encouragingly, 99 per cent of those, or 5,055 businesses reporting NRM issues also reported they were actively addressing these problems on their farm (Montecillo 2012).
In addition to the effort undertaken by landholders on private land, across the Goulburn Broken CMA there is a variety of networks and groups working to achieve NRM outcomes on public and private land and the Catchment’s waterways. As at 2012, these community networks include:
- Landcare groups (78 groups, 3000 volunteers)
- Landcare networks (six networks, Figure 14)
- Conservation Management Networks (five networks, see Figure 14)
- Community sustainability, climate change action, sustainable farming groups (about 25)
- Waterwatch Community Waterways Monitoring Program
- Traditional Owner organisations
These groups are critical to implementation of the RCS. They bring people, skills, experience, knowledge and vision. For example, in 2009-10, Landcare Groups and Networks conducted 262 activities in the Goulburn Broken region involving 6,217 people who donated 28,101 hours of volunteer time (GB CMA 2011)
Formal groups of people with an interest and/or technical expertise are also brought together to achieve NRM outcomes in partnership with key regional agencies and organisations. These groups are important in bringing together local information and skills to contribute to the management of the Catchment. Examples of these groups include:
- Goulburn Broken CMA Community Advisory Committees
- Issue or sub-strategy based community working groups
- Program based technical advisory committees
- Governance networks, for example all agencies involved in the implementation of strategic priority actions identified in the Hume Strategy for Sustainable Communities 2010-2020
- Partnership projects with Registered Aboriginal Parties
Figure 14: Conservation Management Networks and Landcare Networks across of the Goulburn Broken Catchment
It is difficult to accurately assess the condition of 'people' with respect to their ongoing involvement in NRM, although some indicators are available. For example the Goulburn Broken CMA collects information about community-based NRM groups via an annual report card process. These reports provide an indication of how Landcare groups see themselves. In 2010/11 networks rated themselves as an average of 4.5 out of 6 on the network health scale, and the group rating was 3.5 on the same scale (GB CMA 2012).
Overall, Landcare group health is variable, depending on a number of factors including viable projects, funding and group and member activity. This is expected and tools like the groups and network health scales help to tailor support to ensure community groups prosper into the future. Another indicator that can be used is the estimated investment of the community in NRM activities as reported through the Goulburn Broken CMA Annual Report. This illustrates the ongoing commitment to private investment in NRM, including how this commitment, coupled with local leadership can result in regional investment by the Victorian and Australian governments in projects such as the Farm Water Program. The 2011 Goulburn Broken CMA Annual Report rates Collaborations and communities condition as satisfactory.
Threats to community involvement and investment in NRM include:
- group member and co-coordinator burnout and waning enthusiasm
- changing government priorities and support, including funding
- loss of access to co-coordinators
- limits to voluntary action
- financial ability to invest
- increasing competition for time and resources resulting in less ability to undertake NRM activities
Changes in community dynamics inherent in trends like amenity migration and increased absentee landholders may also affect a collective vision for catchment management and operation of community-based programs such as Landcare. Farmer investment in catchment management may not be a high priority where market instability and an ageing farm population are disincentives for investment in future farm production. Alternatively, emerging farm industries in some areas might require modified approaches to catchment management (Barr 2012).
Guiding current thinking
The key State policy guiding this area is the Victorian Landcare Program Strategic Plan (2012). Relevant Goulburn Broken CMA sub-strategies include the Community Landcare Support Strategy, Communication and Marketing Strategy 2010-2011 and Community Engagement Action Plan 2011- 2012.
Organisations across the Goulburn Broken will continue to work to strengthen the involvement of the Catchment’s people in natural resource management. This will be in part facilitated by the Goulburn Broken CMA and will icnlude a review of existing sub-strategies, including the Community Landcare Support Strategy (Draft) (GB CMA 2010) to identify the actions required to achieve this.
Planning at the SES scale will assist in achieving this aim as actions can be tailored specifically to community strengths and needs. As the state of Landcare, Conservation Management Networks and other community based natural resource groups improves, they will continue to be a valued part of the achievement of NRM objectives across the Catchment.