Programme 1.2: Sustainable management—natural resources
The programme objectives for 2014–15 were to:
- strengthen the capacity for primary producers to use sustainable natural resource management (NRM) practices to increase their on-farm profitability and competitiveness
- strengthen the national approach to weed and pest animal management to reduce the impact of invasive species on agricultural production.
The department provides policy advice and manages programmes aimed at improving farm productivity through sustainable agricultural production. This includes the National Landcare Programme, which we administer jointly with the Department of the Environment.
We also work with other agencies and stakeholders to support national approaches to environmental and natural resource management practices, including sustainable agriculture, soil, water and native vegetation policies.
|Key performance indicator||2014–15 target||Performance|
|Effective policies, programmes and regulations that contribute to enhanced productivity, profitability, competitiveness and sustainability||Accurate and timely advice provided a||Met||–||–|
|In collaboration with other stakeholders, contribute to cross-sectoral policy development, e.g. for priorities identified in national strategies for weeds or pest animals, the research, development and extension (RD&E) strategy on soil and the RD&E strategy on water use in agriculture||Accurate and timely advice provided a||Met||–||–|
|National Landcare Programme implemented||100% of funds for this financial year contracted a||Met||–||–|
|Administer ongoing projects according to Commonwealth Grants Guideline requirements for payments and acquittals by June 2018||100% of contracted milestones for financial year met a||Met||–||–|
|Coordination of reporting by the Soil Advocate provided to the government in accordance with the Soil Advocate’s contract milestones to June 2015||100% based on milestones in the Soil Advocate’s contract a||Partially met||–||–|
|Available national data used in policy development and reporting to June 2018||100% of available data used a||Met||–||–|
|Underpinning research, advice, forecast, projects, products and data services meet stakeholder expectations, and are delivered within agreed timelines||85% b||Met||Met||Met|
a New performance indicator. b Client satisfaction as measured by an annual survey of ABARES clients.
Delivering sustainable resource management
Implementing the National Landcare Programme
We worked with the Department of the Environment to deliver the National Landcare Programme in its first year, on time and to a high standard, to enable funding recipients to implement their projects successfully.
In 2014–15, the programme delivered the 25th Anniversary Landcare Grants programme, the Australian Government Reef Programme, and regional funding for natural resource management organisations, and weeds and pest animal initiatives.
The Landcare Small Grants 2014–15 round provided funding of $2.6 million for 154 agriculture-focused projects. These projects will help farmers better manage the natural resource base through improved knowledge, skills and practices. Activities funded include managing feral pigs on Kangaroo Island, improving agricultural practices along Tasmania’s Derwent River and implementing sustainable farming and grazing practices on farms in the New South Wales Central Tablelands.
As part of the Australian Government’s deregulation agenda, we continued work with the Department of the Environment to streamline the programme’s administrative processes.
We worked with the Department of the Environment to deliver the Australian Government Reef Programme, part of the government’s Reef 2050 long-term sustainability plan. Projects are continuing work to improve the quality of water flowing into the Great Barrier Reef lagoon and to enhance the reef’s resilience to the threats posed by climate change and nutrient, pesticide and sediment runoff.
We conducted a tender process to provide financial incentives to sugar cane farmers in the Wet Tropics Natural Resource Management Region to improve nitrogen management practices on their farms and to reduce the threat of nitrogen run-off into the reef lagoon.
We continued to promote best-practice harvesting and help increase long-term returns to Australian fishers through work to enhance fish habitats and improve water quality in estuaries and coastal marine environments through support for OceanWatch.
In 2014–15, the government recognised OceanWatch as a new NRM regional body. More information about the company’s work is available at oceanwatch.org.au.
Supporting national approaches
Managing pests and diseases
In 2014–15, we provided $3.8 million to implement nationally agreed strategies for pest animal management in drought-affected areas of New South Wales, Queensland, South Australia and Western Australia. The partnership funding will help reduce the impact on grazing animals by controlling and managing pest and feral animal numbers.
Funding under the National Landcare Programme supported the eradication of pests and diseases under the national cost-shared emergency response arrangements (see Programme 2.2).
Supporting national soil policy
In 2015, Australia is participating in the International Year of Soils. Following the launch of the National Soil Research Development and Extension Strategy, we provided funding to the CSIRO to lead its implementation. The implementation committee held its first meeting in Canberra in February 2015. The department also sponsored the International Year of Soils magazine.
In 2014, Major-General the Hon. Michael Jeffery AC AO (Mil) CVO MC (Retd) was reappointed as the national Advocate for Soil Health. The advocate is expected to provide his report to the Prime Minister later in 2015, outlining recommendations for future soil policy and management in Australia.
The department’s target for this key performance indicator was ‘partially met’ in 2014–15. The advocate’s reporting requirements were changed following the Prime Minister’s decision to extend this appointment to the end of 2015.
Assisting farmers in drought areas
We provided $13.2 million to supplement government emergency water infrastructure programmes in New South Wales and Queensland. The additional funding went towards providing water for emergency animal welfare requirements and improving the resilience of farm businesses in drought-affected areas.
The department was the lead agency supporting the Water Infrastructure Ministerial Working Group, chaired by the minister. The department coordinated policy advice on accelerating development processes and investment in water infrastructure.
This culminated in the release in October 2014 of an options paper that identified 63 potential projects, and a roundtable meeting with stakeholders to discuss barriers to water infrastructure development and the roles of governments and the private sector.
We continued to support Australia’s network of Regional Landcare Facilitators (RLF), including through a national RLF forum in September 2014. A range of forums brought facilitators together to discuss how they can help regional communities implement natural resource management to achieve agricultural outcomes.
We helped Landcare Australia Limited undertake a range of services that included publishing the Landcare In Focus newspaper and technical supplements. These services provide information about land management changes and encourage the adoption of, and innovation in, sustainable agricultural practices.
The September 2014 National Landcare Conference included the announcement of the National Landcare Awards. Each of the 69 finalists for the awards were recognised for their work and their dedication to Landcare and sustainable agriculture.
The 2014 Bob Hawke Landcare Award was awarded to New South Wales farmer Colin Seis. Mr Seis is a pioneer of pasture cropping and his innovative practice has been widely adopted throughout Australia and the world.
More information on the National Landcare Awards is available on the Landcare Australia website.
National Landcare Advisory Committee
The National Landcare Advisory Committee (NLAC) was established by the Natural Heritage Ministerial Board in 2014–15 as a non-statutory body to advise on the development and implementation of the National Landcare Programme. The departments of Agriculture and the Environment provide administrative support to the committee.
The NLAC met three times during 2014–15 to identify opportunities for further business reform and to improve communication around the benefits of Landcare and NRM for different sectors and stakeholders.
More information is available in the department's website.
Engaging the community
We continued to support initiatives to increase the leadership and representative capacity of target groups in agricultural communities including young people, women, the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and people from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds.
We funded the Rural Industries Research and Development Corporation Rural (RIRDC) Women’s Award. The award provides a $10 000 bursary to each state and territory winner to develop their ideas into a project or initiative that will benefit primary industries and rural Australia.
More information is available on the RIRDC website–Rural Women’s Award.
We also provided scholarship support to the Australian Rural Leadership Foundation to develop participants’ leadership skills in sustainable agriculture and NRM.
We continued support to engage young people in agricultural communities through the ABC’s Heywire competition. The winners of the competition take part in the Heywire Regional Youth Summit, where participants work together to develop ideas for positive change in their communities.
More information is available on the ABC Heywire website.
Scientific and economic research
Mapping Australia’s land use
ABARES released updated national and catchment scale land use maps of Australia.
The maps are developed with the states and territories through the Australian Collaborative Land Use and Management Programme (ACLUMP). We used the information for a range of purposes, which included mapping the outbreaks of Panama disease in bananas and the cucumber green mottle mosaic virus.
The maps can be downloaded on the department's website.
Monitoring the land
ABARES delivered customised Australian Bureau of Statistics data on land management practice trends through The Monitor website to support the Landcare community. The dataset focuses on practices that are expected to improve soil condition in the broadacre cropping, grazing, horticulture and dairy industries.
The Monitor is available on the department's website.
ABARES also worked with states and the CSIRO to enable monitoring of ground cover—green and non-green vegetation and bare soil—using time-series satellite imagery to support improved natural resource management.
Ground cover information is provided in regional analyses on The Monitor and in the New South Wales Government’s Dustwatch reports.