SoE 2016 considers the effectiveness of management of Australia’s environment from a national perspective. For a number of reasons, including a lack of nationally aggregated data, it does not assess the outcomes achieved from individual policies and programs, or from management at the state and territory level. High-level overviews of management responses are described in each thematic report and assessed according to 6 elements—understanding, planning, inputs, processes, outputs and outcomes— and the impacts of those efforts on reducing pressures and improving environmental outcomes.
The following sections examine key management and governance arrangements for different aspects of the environment since 2011. Note that management and governance do not occur in isolation—they occur in a policy context that drives and supports particular approaches and activities. Where possible, policy frameworks are also examined.
For some themes examined in SoE 2016 (most notably, land and inland water), stable management arrangements, a mature policy framework based on good knowledge and understanding, and good governance arrangements have allowed an increased focus on policy, and the development of effective strategies that have improved outcomes for the environment and people. Examples include the following:
- Australia’s water management and policy framework, and use of market approaches to move water to higher-value use, are well recognised internationally. Throughout the past decade, the National Water Initiative has driven reforms within Australia that have delivered benefits for all Australians and for the environment, such as including environmental watering arrangements within water plans (NWC 2014). For example, environmental water allocations in the Macquarie catchment help to support river and wetland health, while simultaneously linking water management with cultural values and activities.
- The Murray–Darling Basin Plan was finalised late in 2012. Elements of implementation of the plan are producing and encouraging efficient water use, and positive economic, social and environmental outcomes, whereas other elements and associated implementation are having negative impacts on economies and communities in the Basin.
All themes have also identified challenges that continue to hamper effective, coordinated management that addresses long-term problems for the Australian environment. This is explored under ‘Challenges to effective management’, with possible solutions discussed under ‘Improving management effectiveness’.