Journal article

'Crying for our Country': eight ways in which 'Caring for our Country' has undermined Australia's regional model for natural resource management

Sustainability Public sector Australia

The Australian Government's 'Caring for our Country' program has undermined Australia's 'regional model' for natural resource management, and eroded gains made under the precursor Natural Heritage Trust and related programs, in eight significant ways. Contrary to expectations that Caring for our Country, established in 2008, would build on the foundations established by the Natural Heritage Trust, it has adopted a narrower agenda, increased central government control, and compromised buy-in by state and territory governments. In reaction to the difficulty of assessing the cost-effectiveness of natural resource management program investments, priority has been given to discrete projects capable of demonstrating short-term, measurable outputs. Implementation of Caring for our Country has failed to realise the aspirations of regional organisations for core funding, substantially increased transaction costs and diminished success rates under competitive funding arrangements, and prejudiced the goodwill of many in the natural resource management community. Commitment to local community natural resource management movements like Landcare has been inconsistent, and largely unsuccessful. Retracting investment in relevant research and development, notably the termination of Land and Water Australia in 2009, has severely limited knowledge creation and sharing to inform and strengthen the regional model. We contend that the Australian Government should revisit its strategy for enabling and sustaining natural resource management investment, and that there is a substantial body of evidence in favour of approaches based on the regional model.

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