Wednesday, 27 March 2013

Betrayal of Trust - Part 3

Continuing on from Betrayal of Trust – Part 1
                             Betrayal of Trust – Part 2 

Impacts on the Landcare movement

The approach by the Qld Government has not changed in its dealings with landowners from the time of the above quoted article in 2003. State Government has learnt little to improve its relationship with those closest to the land itself. This is illustrated by the quote below following the announcement of proposed vegetation regrowth laws in this article from September 2009 called, Bligh to move on regrowth.

“Injune landholder Wally Peart said he felt betrayed by government.

Mr Peart - who was the inaugural chairman of Landcare in Queensland - said the landholders who had developed their land in the most sustainable and appropriate ways were the ones being suffering the greatest penalties.

"Under Landcare we encouraged people to leave scrub, retain shade-lines and leave country untouched," said Mr Peart.

"But the people who cleared their country wall to wall are the ones in the best position.

"I feel absolutely betrayed."

In the above quote a very prominent member of the founders of the Landcare ethos in this nation, Mr Wally Peart, has come out publicly and has said in effect that the principles of Landcare have been betrayed. What has happened to cause this betrayal on the most successful conservation programs that was willingly embraced by the majority of Australian land managers; that is farmers and graziers?  

This following passage is quoted from a paper written by Brisbane academic, James Whelan. Written in 2005 the present day issues were already well apparent; the paper is called, Six Reasons Not to Engage: Compromise, Confrontation and the Commons

“A third explanation for community sector reservation about community engagement is that this discourse has been applied to decision-making processes that fall well short of the democratic ideals appropriately associated with community engagement. At times, expressions such as community engagement, consultation, partnership and collaboration are used to describe top-down, decide-announce-defend approaches to environmental management. Community engagement activities are frequently conducted after political support for specific outcomes has already been announced. The expression ‘partnership’ is applied to governance arrangements that clearly maintain or entrench power differentials between government agencies and non government organisations.

The evolution of the Natural Heritage Trust, one of the nation’s most significant exercises in community engagement and regionalisation, highlights the potential for a mismatch between rhetoric, actions and consequences. During the first five years of this environmental fund, recipients of government support were selected by panels with strong community representation (NNRMTF 1999, p. 30). The second phase of the scheme relies on regional organisations to determine priority natural resource management interventions. Although the scheme is consistently described by the state and national funding agencies as ‘community-led’, the bilateral agreements between these two levels of government make it clear that while significant responsibility for NRM has been devolved to community-based organisations, this is accompanied by only limited power. Under these arrangements, government bodies retain the authority to endorse and fund regional plans.

Furthermore, the transition from the first phase of this scheme to the second involved a lengthy hiatus during which community groups that had relied on government funding languished. Many of these groups, including extensive networks of ‘carers’ (landcare, bushcare and waterwatch groups), no longer have the capacity to engage meaningfully in either decision making or on-ground environmental projects. Government failure to genuinely share power with regional NRM organisations, or to maintain funding for groups that facilitate community engagement in environmental governance, suggests a lack of “credible commitment” to sustainability that would entail a “demonstrable agenda of appropriate and believable reforms within policy and institutional systems” (Dovers 2003, p. 16).”

The implication for local Landcare groups from a change in Government attitudes towards land managers resulted in changes to guidelines and funding for local community Landcare groups and Greening Australia.

There were detrimental impacts such as funding is no longer given directly to local community Landcare groups but under current funding arrangements is distributed to a structure of Regional Bodies. The original concept was for the regional bodies to have a small staff and they were to outsource office and on groundwork with farmers to Landcare groups, Greening Australia and other consultants. These regional bodies have become bloated bureaucracies, absorbing most of the funding, will not work with individual farmers and have effectively cut off the majority of funding to community Landcare groups. These Regional Bodies must be made to comply with guidelines established early in 2003.

In some States these Regional Bodies have now been called Catchment Management Authority’s (CMA’s) and have been given additional powers of reporting and the prosecution of landowners. Such arrangements must not be allowed to disguise themselves as part of the Landcare philosophy; this has been an evolution into a completely different beast
Later published

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