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Rural and Regional Affairs and Transport Legislation Committee
18/10/2016
Estimates
AGRICULTURE AND WATER RESOURCES PORTFOLIO
Landcare Australia Limited

Landcare Australia Limited

[16:35]

Senator BACK: Could you please give the committee a brief overview of what Landcare Australia Limited does?

Ms Jakszewicz : Landcare Australia is a not-for-profit organisation. It is independent from government. It performs a number of functions, which include awareness raising and knowledge sharing across all the Landcare groups in Australia, of which there are about 5,400. We also raise non-government funds and form partnerships with corporates in Australia to bring additional funding into the Landcare movement. We also work under a fee-for-service contract with the Department of Agriculture.

Senator BACK: What level of financial support do you get from the department?

Ms Jakszewicz : It is a four-year contract and we received $4.5 million.

Senator BACK: Per annum?

Ms Jakszewicz : No, over the four years.

Senator BACK: I tried for you. You raise funds. What sort of funding do you get in addition to that help from the government?

Ms Jakszewicz : We get about $2 million to $3 million a year on top from corporates. Importantly, we also engage their employees in Landcare and introduce them to Landcare. Last year 3,000 corporate employees volunteered in landcare activities.

Senator BACK: You have just had a biennial conference in Melbourne. I am keen to know what the outcome of that conference was, particularly in terms of raising awareness of Landcare Australia.

Ms Jakszewicz : It was about raising awareness of landcare in general, or natural resource management and sustainable agricultural practices; it was not really about raising awareness of Landcare Australia. We just run the conference. There are two main aspects. It is an opportunity for different Landcare groups to present their stories and case studies. They might be farming groups or peri-urban or urban groups. It also allows sharing and celebration of landcare, which is very important with a volunteer movement.

Senator BACK: We have a very strong imperative for increasing productivity and profitability in farming in Australia. Can you tell me where, if at all, your organisation feeds into those objectives?

Ms Jakszewicz : Landcare in general is predominantly about farmers working in groups to address issues that are common to them across properties in a local area. One of the important things is that we want to improve profitability for farmers but we also need to do that over the longer term. So looking after the soil, the water, the vegetation and so forth on that property—that is what landcare does. It supports that knowledge and enables the farmers to work more effectively.

Senator BACK: Soils are the major focus, are they?

Ms Jakszewicz : That is one focus. Also water and riparian management, revegetation of areas that have had overgrazing—that kind of thing.

Senator BACK: Are you represented on the National Landcare Advisory Committee?

Ms Jakszewicz : I am a member, yes.

Senator BACK: How many members are on that committee?

Ms Jakszewicz : I believe there are 10.

Senator BACK: You mentioned 5,400, I think.

Ms Jakszewicz : Yes.

Senator BACK: Your program requires 20 per cent of your funding to be delivered through community groups. Can you tell us whether that is happening and, if not, how much short of that you are? And can you tell me how that is helping, if at all, to deliver your activities on the ground and, for that matter, secure your funding?

Mr Thompson : There might be a little bit of confusion there. The Landcare Australia Limited contract is to deliver services related to the community Landcare network, run conferences, awards et cetera. We also have funding under the National Landcare Program, which is a joint program with the environment department. It pays money to regional NRM organisations across Australia for a range of activities related to natural resource management, and 20 per cent of their funding is tied to grants to assist the community. Ms Lauder can provide some details.

Ms Lauder : The 20 per cent for the regional NRM bodies is to assist communities through either grants or facilitators in a range of different ways to help deliver, raise awareness or extension et cetera in natural resource management. At this stage, the regional bodies have been spending more than 20 per cent on average.

Senator BACK: Two bodies are competitive for funds, competitive for people on the ground and competitive for community support. How can you convince the committee—or can you advise the committee—that we are not seeing duplication or competition for turfs, excuse the pun, while we are using limited dollars, be they from government sources, community sources or corporate sources?

Ms Jakszewicz : There are just a couple of points that I would like to make. Firstly, we are a charity or an NGO, and quite a lot of charities do fee-for-service contracts with various government departments. Secondly, in terms of some of the value that we add, which is more effective than—sorry to my colleagues—I believe government can do, there is marketing, promotion and awareness raising. We have an enormous audience reach. It was 29 million last year, and I know that is, weird because there are only—

Senator BACK: Because there are only 24 million of us.

Ms Jakszewicz : Some people see us more than once.

Senator BACK: There you go.

Ms Jakszewicz : We can do things as a separate, independent organisation. People do not tend to go to government websites and read government releases—I hate to tell you.

Senator BACK: Thank you. That is enough from me for now.

CHAIR: What I propose to do is to give Senator Rice the call for seven minutes. We will go to Labor for seven minutes. At the end of that, if they have exhausted their effort, you will be scuttling down the hallway; if not, we have got bad news for you.

Senator GALLACHER: What is the order?

CHAIR: It does not matter. You can have the first seven minutes, if you want.

Senator GALLACHER: I might not take seven minutes.

Senator RICE: I might not take seven minutes either.

CHAIR: Let's go. Senator Rice, please.

Senator RICE: I am particularly interested in the level of funding that Landcare has received from the government over the last five years, how that funding has changed and what it is looking like over the forward estimates? Can you outline the level of funding that you have got.

Ms Jakszewicz : I can only talk for Landcare Australia. More general comments on the whole National Landcare Program, I think, are better directed to the government. In terms of Landcare Australia, I mentioned the level of funding that we received over a four-year period. That ends, at this point, in June 2017. At this point, I am not sure about future funding, partly because the National Landcare Program is under review. It comes to an end in its current form in financial year 2018. There are some discussions around a new version of the National Landcare Program, but I do not have any more information than that, sorry.

Senator RICE: What has your funding done over the last five years?

Ms Jakszewicz : I would say that it has reduced somewhat.

Senator RICE: The government funding has somewhat reduced. You are at about $1 million a year at the moment?

Ms Jakszewicz : Yes. I have only been in the role 3½ years but I do recall it being somewhat greater.

Senator RICE: What impact is that lack of certainly of not knowing if you have got funding after June next year doing to the organisation?

Ms Jakszewicz : Obviously, like any organisation, it makes it difficult to plan. You have challenges around staff retention and retaining know-how in your organisation. I guess it is similar to a lot of organisations these days and a lot of commercial organisations, but it makes it easier to do more and to do it more effectively the longer you know that you have funding.

Senator RICE: Absolutely. How many staff do you have?

Ms Jakszewicz : I have 25.

Senator RICE: Are you already losing staff because you have not got certainty of funding beyond the middle of next year?

Ms Jakszewicz : No, not at this point.

Senator RICE: At what stage will you need to make some decisions about your staffing cohort?

Ms Jakszewicz : It is a bit hard to say, but usually about six months out I would need to reduce staff.

Senator RICE: What is the time line that the government is currently saying that you will know whether you have got funding beyond June next year?

Ms Jakszewicz : I think that is a question for government. I do not have an answer.

Senator RICE: So they have not told you?

Ms Jakszewicz : Not yet.

Senator RICE: You have not got a consultation process or a—

Ms Jakszewicz : We have had some discussions but nothing definitive.

Senator GALLACHER: You have partnered up with Manpower Australia as a service provider for the Green Army Program. What does Landcare do? You provide the thoughts or the sites or something, do you?

Ms Jakszewicz : I am sorry; I just could not quite hear.

Senator GALLACHER: What do you provide? What does Landcare do?

Ms Jakszewicz : Landcare Australia, our organisation?

Senator GALLACHER: Yes.

Ms Jakszewicz : We do a number of things.

Senator GALLACHER: No—in relation to this Green Army.

Ms Jakszewicz : Yes. In relation to this Green Army Program, with our partnership with Manpower, we play different roles. We bring different expertise. The expertise that Landcare Australia brings is that we assist in working with the project hosts, or the project sponsors, to assist them in developing their applications. So we bring our knowledge of the environment and resource management into play. Also, if we are successful in receiving a particular project, we work with the project host to establish the initial project agreement before Green Army participants start the project.

Senator GALLACHER: How many successful things have you been involved in?

Ms Jakszewicz : We just completed—which is different from how many jobs we have received—our 100th project.

Senator GALLACHER: Over what time frame?

Ms Jakszewicz : Sorry; you have just caught me. I might have to confirm it with you, but it is about three years. But there are a lot more projects that are in the pipeline. They take six months to complete, but they also take longer to prepare.

Senator GALLACHER: With the 100 projects, how many Green Army participants would have been involved?

Ms Jakszewicz : Typically there are nine participants and one team leader.

Senator GALLACHER: And you have done 100 of those successfully?

Ms Jakszewicz : Correct.

Senator GALLACHER: Geographically spread?

Ms Jakszewicz : Correct, but we do not work in the Northern Territory.

Senator GALLACHER: Is there any state that is doing it better or is it evenly spread around the country?

Ms Jakszewicz : There are some in all states that we operate in.

Senator GALLACHER: So we would take that on geography or population? How would you work it?

Ms Jakszewicz : I cannot give you the exact numbers.

Senator GALLACHER: Have you got 12 in each state?

Ms Jakszewicz : No. It would not be equal by state. Some states have got larger than others.

Senator GALLACHER: Perhaps on notice you could just give us the geographical spread of it. Is there one area that is more successful than others and is that in line with what you expected when this program started? An 'army' indicates more than nine people and a team leader 100 times. An army would be several thousand, I would have thought.

Ms Jakszewicz : Obviously the program is bigger than Landcare Australia and Manpower, but from our perspective we are quite happy with our progress.

Senator GALLACHER: Do you take just the regional areas?

Ms Jakszewicz : No, not just regional.

Senator GALLACHER: Do you do 50 per cent of the work in this area?

Ms Jakszewicz : Fifty per cent of? Sorry?

Senator GALLACHER: You say you are not the only participant. Are you the largest?

Ms Jakszewicz : No.

Senator GALLACHER: The smallest?

Ms Jakszewicz : No, we are not the smallest. We are the second largest.

Senator GALLACHER: Thank you.

CHAIR: As there are no other questions, you are free to go and we thank you for your attendance. Please have safe travel home.

Ms Jakszewicz : Thank you so much and thank you to Dairy Australia.

CHAIR: That is a given too. Could Dairy Australia come back, please.