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Natural resource management and conservation challenges

ACTING CHAIR (Senator Siewert) —Welcome. I invite you to make a brief opening statement and then we will go to questions.

Prof. Brunckhorst —It was interesting listening to the former discussion with the departmental people. I started out as a marine biologist working at AIMS in the very early eighties and at that time I had arguments with GBRMPA about managing the land for the reef’s sake, but in those days GBRMPA argued that the reef went up to the low water mark and that was it, and you were not interested in what was coming off the land. I am pleased that they have changed the tune on that. I would like to talk about the communities of interest. The land users of those areas have a community of interest, as well as a land use, which extends to those inshore waters, and the same thing happens on land.

As to the problems we have faced in NRM, I became a landscape ecologist interested in NRM policy, and by that I mean how do you do this integrated NRM stuff, how you get it into policy and then really make it work on the ground. I ended up becoming the secretary to a House of Representatives standing committee in the early nineties and ran several inquiries for them that looked at exactly the same issues. I can understand the frustrations. The departmental people were discussing the landscape approach and saying that that was the way to go. But even since I was running those inquiries in 1992 we really have not progressed very far. It is not a criticism of any government. It really needs to be a bipartisan thing. We have to move on from what keeps floating up in the policy soup, which is basically reiterations of the same thing, and I think that is where a lot of your questions were going.

What I would like to do is go back and look at some of the fundamentals of what is a region for NRM. We know a regional approach is important. We know we need to integrate what happens on the ground across property and jurisdictional boundaries to make it work, but what is the geography or right spatial context in which to start making it work at a local level, and then how do you scale that up and maintain it functioning and working well until you get the scale of producing good effects?

I started thinking about this after running those inquiries back in the early nineties through to 1993. Back then there were all the same issues with Landcare groups and catchment management groups and it was clear that the boundaries, the administrative frameworks and so on were all mismatching. On top of that, local government areas and local governments are very critical environmental planners and NRM managers that should be part of the picture. Again, what are the right geographies, scales and policies for integrating these things?

I explain that because it has been a long process in getting my head around all of this. We came down to thinking that there are basically three important characteristics that an NRM region should have. One is that it has to represent the area of interest to the local people, otherwise they will not engage or be interested. It has to be where they interact, where they talk to each other and their social networks. It has to be the ‘community of home’, the geography of their own community or the area where they are interested in engaging in civic issues. We talk a lot about participative and collaborative processes, but often we are engaging with the wrong groups that perhaps do not have a whole interest in that area.

The second important feature is that you are more or less trying to manage and implement programs on similar environment, the same sorts of soils, vegetation, rainfall, elevation and typography. Managing a similar ecological environment is important, that is, a similar kind of ecological landscape that provides efficiencies in your on-ground program, delivery and works. It is the same for local government. If a local government area matches an ecological biophysical context, that local government knows that in terms of infrastructure works, maintenance, planning provisions, and environmental plans that they are dealing with, for example, blacksoil plains, and maintenance of bridges and planning requirements. It makes good sense for local government as well.

The third important feature is that you can scale up and down. You can go from the local context to a regional context, up to a broader regional context and then to a national context. It is very obvious when you think about it, but it is obviously far more desirable to have the community that you are trying to engage with and have your on-ground programs working. It is going to be far more efficient in resources and time if your NRM region encapsulates the community of interest rather than cutting across it. You will be familiar with the ecological regions of Australia. IBRA is a very useful tool, but it is set at one scale, so you need to be able to nest down into IBRA.

Senator IAN MACDONALD —You said that we would be familiar with this map and perhaps some would, but are these the accepted ecological regions of Australia?

Prof. Brunckhorst —Yes, that is accepted. It is called IBRA, the Interim Biogeographic Regionalisation of Australia, and that is about version 5, but it has had tweaks to it.

ACTING CHAIR —It has stayed interim for a very long time.

Prof. Brunckhorst —It has been interim for a long time. That is the accepted ecological regionalisation of Australia. From a professional point of view, it is the agro-ecological regions and it ends up representing land uses because it does represent soils, rainfall and so on fairly well. I do not want this to sound like a lecture.

Senator IAN MACDONALD —It is very interesting.

Prof. Brunckhorst —I want to try to explain how we are getting to this position. A few years ago we developed a technique to survey residents of communities in non-metropolitan areas in rural regions, and asked residents of communities to identify their community of interest, where they interacted, and where they were involved in civil affairs, local government, environment, planning and so on. When you do that people very clearly know exactly where their community of interest is. When you start mapping these they stack up like an uneven stack of pancakes. You get stacks of areas of community of interest that overlay each other. People in different areas are more or less drawing the same community of interest, and so you get this stack of areas of interest with a peak over a particular geography, which is their area of interest. Out of that community typography the valleys in that community typography are where there is least collective interest in an area. It is those valleys where you can start drawing boundaries for landscape regional resource management that minimise cutting through areas of interest to local people.

We developed this survey technique that is a fairly complicated technical technique but allows you to do this mapping fairly accurately, and we have found that there are really interesting community surrogates that sometimes represent these communities of interest. For example, in rural areas junior sports associations or the places where parents tend to take their kids for sporting events between local towns is a very good surrogate of what the community of interest is. This is an example where you have peaks of communities of interest, and in the valleys, which are just like catchments with the valleys occurring at different levels, and you can think about drawing lines around them using computerised geographic information systems. You can then do a catchment model, except in this case we are doing a catchment model of the community typography and not of the biophysical typography, and you get different levels of communities of interest.

This is what we have done for New South Wales at the request of the New South Wales government a few years ago. You get what we call level 3 areas, which are the most local area of community of interest. Those level 3 areas nest into what we call level 2 region, which then nests into a larger level 1 region. When you do the same thing for the biophysical environment, the ecological environment, and then you bring those together, the valleys in the community typography can be quite wide in areas and so that gives you options for where you can draw those boundaries without cutting people off. You can then optimise the best fit of the communities of interest with the ecological landscape and produce what we call nested eco-civic regions. These are the nested eco-civic regions for New South Wales and again you can see that they nest from level 3 regions into level 2 regions and then into level 1 regions being the broadest category.

If we go back to thinking about making sure our administrative region, our NRM region or local government region and other administrative regions that are important to NRM like planning actually encapsulates the people that you want engaged in it. You can do a simple assessment, a measure of performance, if you like, on how well administrative regions, NRM regions and other regions, capture the areas of interest of local residents. Of course, the larger the region is the more chance that you will represent the community area of interest, but what we want to do is keep these areas as small as possible with local representation while still representing the most people. As an area/region gets bigger, the more chance you have of collecting people. You can run a random curve, which looks like this line here, and with that random curve, if you randomly allocate areas, increasing the size of those areas, you would represent the communities of interest to the local people.

Local government areas were found to represent less than 10 per cent of the area of interest to local people. Catchment management areas perform even worse. Catchment management areas rarely represent either local communities of interest or the environment very well. Catchments have different soils, rainfall, local climate conditions and topography throughout their length. Catchments represent surface water flow, if you are interested in those sorts of issues, but not natural resource management, land uses and other resource and environmental planning issues, because they do not represent the environment.

Senator IAN MACDONALD —You would disagree with the arrangements currently in place for natural resource management bodies representing a catchment area? Would you say that is not the best way to do it?

Prof. Brunckhorst —No, that is not the best way to do it at all. We need a fundamental change in what we call a region for natural resource management, and that is why I am advocating this approach. We have put catchments on a pedestal over decades. We have elevated catchments to this—

Senator IAN MACDONALD —I am interrupting when I should not. Are you a voice in the wilderness or are there other people who would support your view?

Prof. Brunckhorst —No. I am not a voice in the wilderness at all. There is strong critique of catchment management areas.

Senator IAN MACDONALD —Critique or criticism?

Prof. Brunckhorst —Criticism of CMAs because they are dysfunctional and do not represent communities of interest. They end up with different communities and different land users at loggerheads with each other, as well as not representing the environment.

Senator IAN MACDONALD —Have you told the two Australian government departments this?

Prof. Brunckhorst —Yes. It is a big ask for a big policy change, but the more I have looked at it over almost a decade now the more important I think it is. We have become institutionally entrenched in thinking that catchments are the great integrator for NRM, and they are not, because they do not represent the environment ecologically very well and they do not represent communities very well.

Senator IAN MACDONALD —I would like to hear Senator Siewert’s view on that later.

ACTING CHAIR —We have 35 minutes left. I am wondering how much more of your presentation you have before we can ask you questions.

Prof. Brunckhorst —I am almost done. We can amalgamate local government areas into larger areas, for example, planning regions. But local government areas do not represent community or environment very well, and they never perform better than a random allocation. Again, this is why we really need to do a fundamental rethinking of how we integrate.

What we are suggesting is that at the most local level of an eco-civic region there should be local government areas across Australia. They can then nest into the next level, which is the level 2 region for regional NRM, but then you can have local landscape-scale planning and on-ground programs, and you can get local government to match their environmental planning and management to those things. You can then nest up to more regional levels to deal with externalities when you cannot deal with it at the local level.

The community institutions that surround those things will be far more effectively built and more robust because they are representing the areas of interest to local communities and because it will be clear where there is an externality that the local community cannot deal with. It might be a water externality. For example, with the Murray-Darling Basin issues you might nest downstream to deal with externalities that relate to water allocation, pollution or whatever it might be that is going down the catchment. You can nest in different ways to deal with the externalities that might occur. One of the great problems with the Murray-Darling Basin management over the years, apart from getting the states to work together, is the fact that nobody can really own it because it is all over the place. It does not represent the communities of land users, their environment or the communities of interaction.

I know it is a big ask, but I think that after decades of going around in circles and basically the same thing floating up in the policy soup, it is time for a fairly radical change in how we do landscape regional NRM and get local communities involved. I know it sounds radical, but we have been out surveying people on the ground and this is what they are saying they want. Politically it is a win-win. People want local government reform if the boundaries will end up around their communities of interest, where they are interested in local government issues and civic engagement. It is the same for NRM. What they do not like is ad-hoc amalgamations where the boundaries are still in the wrong place and not representing their interests or the environment.

Senator HURLEY —What you were saying conforms with what I heard when I talked to some of the far-north areas of South Australia. They were concerned about the way the previous NRM had operated and were worried about how it would be reconfigured, because they saw themselves as a region across that whole of the top of South Australia, that broad pastoral outback area, and they were concerned that it would be split up into local government areas, which would not allow the people who do have broad-ranging interests across that area to have proper management of that area. That was their problem. They saw it as becoming smaller than they would like. Basically, they wanted it left as a bigger area because people in that area do see the whole of the outback area as their patch.

Prof. Brunckhorst —Yes, that is right. Even though we want to keep bottom up, as local and as representative as possible—and that is something on which people argue against local government reform—you are right in that we are not in the horse and buggy days where local government boundaries were first formed. We interact and communicate more widely even within our own little community and travel more widely amongst our community, and that is why they feel like that.

I do not want to put words in their mouths, but the National Farmers Federation, the Productivity Commission and the Minerals Council of Australia are all aware of this approach, and as far as I know are quite supportive of that approach. From their perspective, when they interact with farmers or communities about, for example, a new mining proposal—and we have this problem in northern New South Wales at the moment—they want to know who to deal with. They want to know what the community of interest is, too. They want to know what the underlying resource base of that community of interest is. It actually helps both parties work out what they should do or how they should negotiate.

Senator HURLEY —You said that you have been looking at this for 10 years, but in that time have you looked at how dynamic those community areas of interest are? Do they change regularly?

Prof. Brunckhorst —That is a very good question. I have sociologists and psychologists on my staff, and I have asked them to look into that question. It is hard to give a finite answer. For example, in very fast developing coastal regions these boundaries might shift with greater/rapid demographic change in the sea change areas. In more inland rural areas that change is likely to be a lot slower. The guesstimate, if you like, from the sociologists is that it is probably good for two generations—perhaps 40 years at best—but less than that in fast growing coastal areas.

Again, I would not say that this should be stuck in concrete, but it should be reviewed maybe every 10 years. If you are implementing an NRM program from a national level, I would say that NRM programs should have a 10-year horizon rather than a three- or four-year horizon, and that in its review process you would want to be reviewing this as well. Again, we do not want to have it stuck on a pedestal like the catchment management regions have done.

ACTING CHAIR —Senator Macdonald?

Senator IAN MACDONALD —I would rather follow you. I draw inspiration from you. As someone who has been totally involved in this for a long time, I am curious about your view on this, although you are not here giving evidence.

ACTING CHAIR —Yes. I am interested to see how you think it would work. The reason that we have chosen catchment boundaries in the past is that it was a topographical basis on which to work, and that then provides an area of interest rather than a community of interest. What you have said is that that does not work; what we are dealing with are ecological issues?

Prof. Brunckhorst —Yes. A catchment is really a physical area and just a watershed to one point. They very rarely represent communities of interest or land uses and they very rarely represent all the other ecological attributes even within that catchment. As you are aware, catchments flow from high areas, usually down some form of escarpment and then on to a coastal plain—a bit of a generalisation—and already that is three very different environments that they pass through, with different soils, rainfall and other ecological attributes. That is reflected in different land uses in different communities as well. Some of the successful Landcare catchment management areas—and there are a couple in Western Australia—by chance are very small catchment areas, which have less of those physical attributes, and because they are small they happen to also coincide with communities of land users and the environment.

ACTING CHAIR —How big would a community of interest be in terms of coverage? There are certain administrative reasons why regional boundaries were picked. Within a regional group at the moment what you are saying is that you have various communities of interest; is that a correct understanding?

Prof. Brunckhorst —Yes.

ACTING CHAIR —How big is a community of interest?

Prof. Brunckhorst —It varies. That is not the answer you want, but it varies. One thing that we have found is that it varies with your demography characteristics so that in coastal rural areas where you have closer settlement patterns and so on your communities of interest will be smaller than they are inland. Communities of interest will tend to be larger inland because settlements, towns, service centres and so on are further apart and people have got used to travelling longer distances between them. The expansion in size of communities of interest is fairly clear from our work, as you go from the coast inland, but it is self-defining. The community of interest, whether it is smaller coastal or broader inland, is where local residents are already happy to travel and communicate within.

ACTING CHAIR —What evidence is there to suggest that will work and deliver better NRM outcomes than the existing model?

Prof. Brunckhorst —There is an enormous amount of evidence from the NRM science literature, sociology and community dynamics literature, and the institutional economics literature which says that there are efficiencies in having people that know, trust and understand each other and have common interests of land use and so on working together in institutionalising cooperative practices.

ACTING CHAIR —What evidence is there to suggest that that would result in the landscape-scale change that we need? We are talking about landscape-scale change. If we are talking about small communities of interest, then that does not necessarily cover the landscape-scale change that we are talking about. How do you go from that small community of interest to landscape-scale change? What evidence is there to suggest that will work better? I am not defending the current model, but if we are going to throw everything up in the air I want to make sure that we are going to gain from the pain.

Prof. Brunckhorst —There is plenty of evidence in Australia and overseas. I would say that a relatively small proportion of Landcare groups that have been successful have been ones that have been working well together at a small scale and beyond their boundaries with other neighbouring groups. There is good evidence already of that, and there is certainly evidence from overseas.

ACTING CHAIR —Could you provide some evidence to committee to show that that has in fact been working?

Prof. Brunckhorst —I would need to think about that.

ACTING CHAIR —You can take that on notice.

Prof. Brunckhorst —I think it would be hard to find concrete evidence of a direct relationship that is causal to that arrangement. It would be hard to tease out the difference and the reason why it was not successful. I can probably provide the committee with some evidence from Graham Marshall and David Pannell’s work that shows that those levels of collaboration produce better outcomes for the environment. They are also critics of catchment management systems. The contrary evidence is clear in that we have these huge catchment management regions where, for example, in northern New South Wales we have cotton growing/cropping communities at loggerheads with grazing communities across the CMA region. It is totally dysfunctional. They have different needs and the environment has different needs.

ACTING CHAIR —I understand that. My concern is that, with the land management issues, you will need to provide a forum. Having cotton growers working with cotton growers, and graziers working with graziers is not necessarily going to solve those big land use management issues. How would you foresee those two groups working individually together would then come together to solve those land use management issues? You would be as aware as I am that some of those really significant issues are major land use decision-making issues. For example, graziers are very critical of the huge diversions of water, if we are talking about northern New South Wales, and you cannot just have those two groups working over here on their land management issues without them talking. What forum would you foresee that would deal with those issues?

Prof. Brunckhorst —That is right. That is when you need to be able to nest up to the next scale of integration. One of the important principles that we are putting forward is being able to nest up from one lot of groups to another lot of groups to deal with externalities that might occur from whatever one group is dealing with. In terms of economic efficiencies, as well as efficiencies of interactions and collaboration, it is far better if you can have decision making at the smallest possible level where you can do something about the problem. If you have local-level of cotton growers or whoever working together at that level they can deal with the problem that is facing them. They can then make decisions about that and they have some expert advice and so on. That is the most efficient way to deal with that. In order to get to your other landscape levels, when there is a problem that they cannot deal with in terms of making a decision, and on-ground action, they need to be able to nest up or go upscale with whatever group or area that is affected by the externality coming from them.

ACTING CHAIR —I do see where you are coming from. In my home state of Western Australia, which I know better than some of the other states, down the bottom of the catchment you have a Landcare group. We all know that salinity is caused by the water management practices up the catchment. It does not matter what they do down there. We have learned this from experience in planting trees; in the end they die because they are treating the symptom and not the cause. They cannot work on those issues. There may be other issues that they can work on, but on that issue they cannot deal with their problem unless they are talking to the people up catchment. It seems to me that we already know in Western Australia that that is not going to work. I am reluctant to go back to that small group of community of interest if we know from experience that you have to be working at that landscape scale. We know that. We have learnt by experience over decades. While I do accept the issues around what you are saying about the community of interest in working together and being better off in small groups, I am wondering if there is a way that we can compromise where, instead of throwing everything up in the air again, we can downscale the regional approach. Maybe it is a throwing the baby out with the bathwater in losing some of those local groups in the interests of the bigger regional groups. I am wondering whether there is a halfway point that we can get to.

Prof. Brunckhorst —Absolutely. I think we are saying the same thing. I agree that some of that needs to come back to a more local level. There might be ground water issues coming from the side and other places as well, but wherever it is coming from, that group that is being affected needs to be able to go to this group as a collective—they are going to have a lot more collective strength together—and say, ‘Look, hang on. We’ve got to do something about this. You’re affecting all of us down here.’ That is exactly why catchment management is not working. In the example you are giving it is a catchment problem, which is not being dealt with. Even the catchment arrangements are not dealing with it, because the communities of interest and their particular land uses are not being represented in the deliberative processes of the catchment decisions.


Prof. Brunckhorst —You are saying that they are being affected by salinity from the catchment land uses higher up, and they are not able to engage in changing those decisions.

ACTING CHAIR —I am saying that, if there is just a small group down here, they cannot do anything unless there is a dialogue across the catchment.

Prof. Brunckhorst —Yes, that is right. At the moment they are caught up in a whole catchment management body that is not taking account of or understanding their particular local context?

ACTING CHAIR —I will ask some of the catchment management groups. I do not think that is the case in Western Australia. There is probably not enough money to go around so they are prioritising. There is a whole series of catchments within the regional body in the broader whole of catchment. There are smaller catchment bodies that operate within the regional body. I presume that is the same in other states, but I do not know.

Prof. Brunckhorst —Some of those work quite well. I have a post-doc working over there on some of those and looking at the nesting within some of those NRM regional groups. While they may not be perfect, it demonstrates what we are talking about, that it is important to be able to nest down and up—it obviously goes both ways—so that you do get the right levels of representation for decision making. I am not saying catchments are totally wrong. If it is a catchment issue, like the one that you describe, then the nesting needs to occur within that context to deal with the issue. Often there are adjacent land uses that are similar but in a different catchment that also might need to be looked at, nested towards, or having an NRM related planning issue.

Senator IAN MACDONALD —I am a well-meaning amateur in these areas and I lived through it in a different capacity when we changed to catchment management groups, with the federal government, and some prejudice against that at the time. But over the time I became convinced that catchments were probably the right way to go for the reason that you and Senator Siewert have been talking about. It is pointless doing something at the mouth of the catchment if you are doing something different up at the headwaters. I come from Northern Queensland where we have the Burdekin Dry Tropics, which has the very large provincial city of Townsville running right out to behind the range, the headwaters of the Burdekin and Herbert rivers, and then right down south into the mining areas. There is no community of interest, although they did have subcatchment groups that all fed into the other one. I am not sure whether you are familiar with the area. This is a long preamble to my question, I might say. Then again, I am also familiar with the Northern Gulf Catchment Management Group, which does seem to bring all of the pieces together in one group. Do you have a map of where you think governments should be managing natural resources from and in what sort of components?

Prof. Brunckhorst —Not for the whole of Australia. It is quite a big job to do that.

Senator IAN MACDONALD —Are you New South Wales based?

Prof. Brunckhorst —Yes.

Senator IAN MACDONALD —Do you have it for New South Wales?

Prof. Brunckhorst —These are the results for New South Wales.

Senator IAN MACDONALD —Is that under your principles?

Prof. Brunckhorst —Yes.

Senator IAN MACDONALD —Do you have an overlay of how it compares with the current catchment management arrangements?

Prof. Brunckhorst —I do, but not with me.

Senator IAN MACDONALD —I am not familiar with New South Wales and perhaps I should be, but can you draw some broad circles on your map for where they currently are, just so I can see how they cut across what you are proposing?

Prof. Brunckhorst —Can you see my little arrow here?

Senator IAN MACDONALD —Yes, I can.

Prof. Brunckhorst —The Northern Rivers Catchment Management area cuts around here with all these. The border-Gwydir cuts across all of these. The Namoi cuts across these. The Hunter is probably not too bad, but it does go up into the tablelands. I used to live in Townsville when I was at AIMS and there is a similar problem that you have with the Burdekin and what we were talking about before in terms of Western Australia. The people up the top of the Burdekin do not identify with what is happening down on the coastal plains or on to the reef necessarily, and that is why that whole catchment context does not work. It cuts across communities of interest, land uses and their various inputs. We are not able to deal with the externalities coming from, for example, high up in the catchment, if that is where the sediment and so on is coming from. We are not able to deal effectively and efficiently with those externalities that are then going out of the area of land use and interest and affecting the environment and other people elsewhere.

Senator IAN MACDONALD —I have two questions, with one being very important. I had forgotten that you were from AIMS, but the name is familiar. Are you related to Marcia?

Prof. Brunckhorst —I am not sure. Probably.

Senator IAN MACDONALD —When I was five I went to school in Stanthorpe and my sister had a friend called Marcia Brunckhorst. That is hugely important to this discussion.

Prof. Brunckhorst —We would be related, because my family comes from Stanthorpe originally.

Senator IAN MACDONALD —I have a feeling I might have had this conversation with you. When were you at AIMS?

Prof. Brunckhorst —From 1979 to 1986.

Senator IAN MACDONALD —You said before, when I interrupted you in your initial presentation, that you had spoken to departmental people. I do not want to blame them, but my understanding was when we went to this catchment management arrangement it was on advice from the department. I do not want you to get into an argument with them based on my third-hand, but do they concede that there is perhaps a better way than catchment management arrangements for NR management?

Prof. Brunckhorst —Many do, certainly. As you said, it is not necessarily their fault. The whole idea of catchment watershed management came out of America, and Australia latched on to it fairly quickly. I have a summary of that in the paper I tabled before. It became entrenched in policy and it has stuck there. My criticism, and a lot of other criticism that has been emerging over the last decade but especially in recent years, is that we have stuck on this same framework without questioning the principles that support it, and when is it useful and when is it not. We have stuck on it and just kept reinventing these programs, tinkering around the edges, and the delivery is still bad.

Senator IAN MACDONALD —One of the things that this inquiry is all about is perhaps trying to do that, although whether we are the best people to do that I am not absolutely sure. Just say you are the secretary of the combined Department of Agriculture and Environment or the minister—but heaven forbid allowing a minister to arrange these things—what would you do, bearing in mind what successive governments have wanted to, obviously the best, in managing our natural resources? I have not had a chance to read your paper, but do you have a better way that you would implement if you had all the levers in your hands?

Prof. Brunckhorst —Implementing a national nested eco-civic framework for NRM, and dare I say local government, I would go down that path. If I could be a fairy godmother I would convince the minister, the Prime Minister and the opposition. It would not worry me who was in government.

Senator IAN MACDONALD —Would that be based on local authority boundaries?

Prof. Brunckhorst —I would want to convince them that it is in our interest to redraw the boundaries. It is the old real estate thing—location. It is where the boundaries are, so what you are encapsulating, that is really important.

Senator IAN MACDONALD —Very often local government boundaries are drawn by politicians for all the wrong reasons. You would not just adopt them. You are saying that you would also review local government boundaries to get them into a more civic management arrangement?

Prof. Brunckhorst —And a more environmental arrangement, because local government is so important in an environment management for NRM.

Senator IAN MACDONALD —Absolutely.

Prof. Brunckhorst —I would make our most local level of eco-civic regions—our smallest ones—local government areas, and the next nesting of those would be the NRM regions. I would make those that best represent the broader community of interest and environment the NRM regions. As Senator Siewert was hinting at before, that would not preclude nesting those local NRM areas in different directions where you need to deal with other NRM or planning issues. I would also make that second level a planning region so that you are dealing in a more integrated way with planning regions. Within that framework you can really start doing what we have all been talking about for years about integration. You can really start integrating and coordinating.

Senator IAN MACDONALD —This is really a repeat of a question that I asked before. I am not being offensive in the light-hearted way I ask this, but would other academics or people with your skills consider you a crackpot? I am not being offensive. I am just asking: is this a widely shared view or is it just the thought of one group of people who are not quite in the mainstream in these areas?

Prof. Brunckhorst —The criticisms of CMAs and regional service delivery for NRM are widely-held views. This is, if you like, my research’s groups opinion of a very good solution for that and it has a lot of support from a lot of academics, but not necessarily every academic.

Senator IAN MACDONALD —Would we find another academic who would sit in the next chair and say, ‘Professor Brunckhorst was just mad. He’s wrong for all these reasons and what you are doing is right’? Is there a different school of thought that would argue with you more strongly?

Prof. Brunckhorst —Certainly. There are the academics that are stuck in the catchment model, if I can put it that way.

Senator IAN MACDONALD —You were going to say a time warp, weren’t you?

ACTING CHAIR —Can I intervene?

Senator IAN MACDONALD —I am finished.

ACTING CHAIR —I would like to ask a question. Some academics also do not like the regional groups at all. David Pannell was very critical of the regional group approach.

Prof. Brunckhorst —Yes, he likes this.

ACTING CHAIR —He does not just criticise the catchment approach. He questions whether the regional delivery model is the way to go at some levels.

Prof. Brunckhorst —It was based on catchments and NAP regions.

Senator IAN MACDONALD —Are you saying that he does not like local control?

ACTING CHAIR —No. I am paraphrasing him here, and he will probably have a heart attack hearing me, but whether there has been a strategic delivery through that model of resources to address the issues that we are talking about. If I understand him correctly, he questions the approach that has been taken in allocation of resources as to whether it has hit the mark. We were talking about this at the inquiry last week. He has a framework that has been built up over years to look at how you make strategic allocation. I do not take him to say, ‘Get rid of your regional approach’, but he has been very critical of it overall. I do not get the impression that it is just because of the catchment management approach.

Senator IAN MACDONALD —Is that because someone cleverer can sit in a central position and say, ‘Now I know what needs to be done for Australia so I will direct it that way’?

ACTING CHAIR —No, I do not think so. I have watched Professor Pannell’s work and been part of it for a long time and he is taking an approach working with the regional groups. He has been working with Victorian groups and groups in Western Australia. It is coming from a different perspective as well, and I think he is more broadly critical of the regional approach than perhaps you are, Professor.

Prof. Brunckhorst —I do not want to put words in Professor Pannell’s mouth, either, but I think he has been critical of the catchment approach.

ACTING CHAIR —Yes, he has.

Prof. Brunckhorst —I am coming from a landscape ecology perspective, but Professor Pannell is coming from an economic perspective of efficiencies. He sees efficiencies, better delivery, et cetera, in what we are proposing. We are on parallel pathways, if I can put it like that, and his interests are more closely focused on, ‘When you get these groups in the right place representing the right part of the environment, their collective interests and so on, what are the institutional arrangements within the collaborative and accountability stuff and so on that contribute further to that efficiency and effectiveness, while still maintaining the local bottom-up part of it?’

ACTING CHAIR —Thank you very much, Professor Brunckhorst. It has been very interesting and useful.

Prof. Brunckhorst —Thank you.

[12.35 pm]