The state government’s move to reform the management of natural resources in SA has drawn strong support from many industry stakeholders.
But, Opposition environment spokesperson Susan Close is deeply concerned about the potential loss of the Natural Resources Management Act 2004.
Late last month, Environment Minister David Speirs released a discussion paper detailing a plan to repeal the act and replace it with Landscape SA boards.
RELATED:NRM reform a step closer
It also includes capping NRM levies to about CPI and establishing a $2 million grassroots grants fund.
Landcare Association of SA chairman Gerry Butler is supportive of the plan but says “community empowerment” will be key to its success. This requires both legislation and “cultural change”.
“In the past we have seen a lot of cherry picking of farmers by the department but we need to make sure there is accountability to the whole community and the board system supports robust regional decision-making,” he said.
And while Landcare supports Mr Speirs’ integrated landscape-scale approach, Mr Butler says a wider focus than soils, water and pest plants and animals is needed.
He also strongly believes significantly more money is needed and would like to see the state government match the $30-$40m collected in NRM levies, dollar for dollar.
“In the last 10 years, funding for NRM has declined significantly despite the state budget increasing and since the loss of community grants in 2013-14, many grassroots groups are struggling to exist,” he said.
He acknowledged the state government had many priorities but without strong NRM investment he said it would be a “struggle to have productive ag and biodiversity”.
“We have lost treelines and soils have suffered – in bad years like this we can see how they could have helped us,” he said.
PPSA chairman Rob Kerin says the proposed Landscape SA boards are a fundamental step in the right direction.
“In the past NRM lost its way so this gets it back to being ‘bottom up’ and while there are some issues with native vegetation and the like, we need a good framework to work within first,” he said.
But Ms Close is concerned the changes could see environment protections go backwards.
“While local input is of great importance in managing our natural resources, not including protecting natural habitats, revegetation and sustainable agricultural practices as priorities in the reform should ring alarm bells for landowners and land carers alike.”
Members of the public are encouraged to have their say on the state government plan with the closing date for submissions October 15.
Community forums commenced on the Eyre Peninsula this week and are being held across the state until September 20.