Management capacity is about the adequacy of resources and management processes for implementing plans and policies. With respect to biodiversity, we would expect that:
- resources are available to implement plans and policies (including financial resources, human resources and information)
- a governance system is in place that provides for appropriate stakeholder engagement, adaptive management, and transparency and accountability
- monitoring and evaluation is in place to assess whether outcomes are being achieved.
Although all jurisdictions have appropriate plans in place for managing biodiversity and the pressures on it, the adequacy of resourcing for these objectives is questionable, given that the same risks reappear in successive SoE reports and are assessed as worsening in many cases. All jurisdictions report low levels of completion of recovery plans for threatened species. Birds Australia suggests that the development and implementation of recovery plans for most threatened bird species are poorly supported by governments and do little more than help species to persist without addressing underlying problems.85
Although there have been conflicting opinions about the efficacy of the regional management model introduced in Natural Heritage Trust phases I and II and continued to a degree in Caring for our Country,169-178 there seems to be broad agreement that devolution of responsibility to regional bodies and communities was a change in the right direction (see Section 5.3). However, several recent reviews and surveys have suggested that governance processes in Australia are still too centralised, that regional communities have too little authority and resourcing to address issues that they are best positioned to address, and that many regional stakeholders feel they are not being adequately engaged in processes where they could make valuable contributions.178-179 These issues are discussed further in Chapter 5: Land. The role of Australian Government programs as catalysts of governance reform will continue to be critical, but real reform will require cooperative and coordinated action across all jurisdictions.
Concerns have also been raised about declines in numbers of skilled and experienced staff in regional environmental management organisations, and it has been suggested that this has decreased the autonomy and ability of these organisations to meet particular regional challenges.179-180 The opinion has been expressed that one contributor to these declines was the change in mechanisms for dispersing grant funds between the Natural Heritage Trust and its successor program, Caring for our Country.179-181 During this transition, core funding for regional bodies was maintained, but a greater proportion of Australian Government grant funding was allocated only for approved projects. This is an area of major concern, but addressing it requires much more than adjusting settings in Australian Government grant programs. As discussed earlier, these grant programs are a small proportion of Australia’s overall environmental investments. They receive significant attention because of their high leverage and the catalytic effects they are having on changes in environmental governance. However, again, improved governance arrangements will require cooperation and collective action across all levels of government and communities.
In July 2011, the Australian Government released its Clean Energy Future plan,182 which includes funding that is targeted at addressing many of the issues raised in Section 3, such as the need to increase the resilience of communities and ecosystems to climate change.
The plan includes around $44 million over five years to make regional natural resource management (NRM) plans ‘climate ready’, working through regional NRM organisations. The focus is to be on ‘carbon farming’, including developing detailed scenarios on climate change impacts on a regional level, and biosequestration projects to maximise the benefits for biodiversity, water and agricultural production.
An ongoing Biodiversity Fund has been allocated $946 million over six years to support projects that establish, restore, protect or manage biodiverse carbon stores. Funding will be provided for establishing mixed species plantings in targeted areas, such as areas of high conservation value including wildlife corridors, riparian zones and wetlands. The fund will also support action to prevent the spread of invasive species across connected landscapes.