Landcare – The 2012 Budget
A few weeks ago, NIRRA sent out an email contact inviting NIRRA members to comment on the rumoured decrease in Federal Government support for Landcare Australia for the 2012 Budget (see responses below). Media reports had suggested (e.g. Canberra Times, 21/4/12, view source) that regional Landcare groups were ‘primed to expect cuts’, and that funding for Landcare Programs was expected to end next year.
In the 2012 13 Budget released this week, the Government ‘committed to another five years of the Caring for our Country Program’. From July 2013 Caring for our Country will be delivered through two streams — 'national sustainable environment' and 'national sustainable agriculture'.” (http://www.budget.gov.au view source).
What does this mean? “Funding of over $500.0 million over five years, plus $200.0 million already provided for Landcare from 2013, has been provided to the 'national sustainable agriculture' stream (overseen by DAFF), for a mix of grants and partnerships with regional and industry groups” (http://www.budget.gov.au view source).
However, the Budget overview is not very clear on what funding is directed to the ‘national sustainable environment’ stream. Media reports have suggested that the Government has not extended funding for the flagship $200m Great Barrier Reef Rescue program (Canberra Times, 10/5/12 view source). However, a DAFF source has refuted this, stating that the Reef Rescue will be part of the next phase, and no decision nor announcement has been made that it is ending.
Thus, while it seems rumours of a straight-out cut are inaccurate, the restructuring of Landcare and Caring for our Country raises interesting questions about the nature of conservation initiatives in Australia. DAFF recognises that it is important that a consultation process be implemented before this program is finalised. This process will inform the five-year outcomes of the program and delivery mechanisms which are a core part of this restructuring initiative. DAFF advises to stand by for further announcements in the coming weeks.
Synopsis of input from NIRRA members prior to the Budget:
- Landcare as an institution has problems: administration costs are debilitating, benefits not easily discernible and unrealistic expectations are placed on the people that run Landcare on the ground. ‘Re-designing’ is necessary.
- Market-based instruments don’t support the collaboration essential for proper biodiversity conservation
- While the Federal Government promotes Landcare as our ‘home-grown world’s best-practice’, the program it-self fails to find support here.
- Landcare has limitations, but it is not correct to say it hasn’t achieved anything beyond raising awareness. The programs which were brought in to replace Landcare are not addressing its real limitations; rather they are replacing it with ‘unsubstantiated faith in the superiority of market instruments’.