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National Natural Resource Management Regions’ Working Group 2014/15 Budget Overview Implications for Natural Resource Management •

• •

The 2014/15 Federal budget resulted in reduced funding for natural resource management programs from $2.1 billion over 5 years ($420 million per year) to $1.240 billion over 4 years ($310 million per year) – approximately 26% reduction in funding taking natural resource management back to 1999/2000 levels; New projects totalling $124 million were included in the allocation putting pressure on the remaining reduced funding; We assume that the Government will honour commitments made in various funding Guidelines issued in 2013/14. If that is correct, the Sustainable Environment Stream is over committed by $73.06 million while the Sustainable Agriculture Stream has $246.54 million available which balances out to $173.5 million available to the National Landcare Program over the next 4 years. Reduced funding for regional delivery, community environment and landcare grants is therefore expected as the Government proceeds with designing the new National Landcare Program; The Green Army cannot replace natural resource management programs while there may be regional NRM benefits. The Green Army will be constrained by the costs of running the program, particularly in rural and remote areas; attracting young people to these areas; the capacity of inexperienced teams;, and will be limited in providing the longer term follow-up required of tree planting, weed management, fencing etc; The lack of understanding in the Commission of Audit report and the Treasurer’s budget speech regarding the achievements of regional natural resource management reinforce the need for regional NRM bodies and their partners to be talking with Parliamentarians about the major contribution natural resource management make to improving Australia’s economic, environmental and social outcomes.

The Coalition Government’s budget was announced on Tuesday 13 May 2014. The budget was preceded by media coverage speculating on significant expenditure reductions across all programs. Which turned out to be accurate. Natural Resource Management (NRM) programs did not escape these reductions. Over the past month regional NRM bodies and Landcare organisations have been briefing local MPs and Senators on the importance of NRM programs to regional communities, farmers and the broader Australian economy in delivering economic as well as environmental outcomes. We were pleased with the Government’s election commitment that ”The full Caring for Country and Landcare budgets will be maintained and merged” and have been working closely with the Government on the design for the new National Landcare Program that would replace the former Caring for our Country and Landcare programs. In terms of analysing the impact of the budget on natural resource management programs we used as our starting point the May 2012 budget announcement of a $2.2 billion investment between 2013/14 and 2017/18. The attached table tracks the changes made since that time and identifies assumptions we have made about forward commitments. We assume that the Government will honour commitments made in various funding Guidelines issued in 2013/14. If that is correct, the Sustainable Environment Stream is over committed by

National Natural Resource Management Regions’ Working Group $73.06 million while the Sustainable Agriculture Stream has $246.54 million available which balances out to $173.5 million available to the National Landcare Program over the next 4 years. Key decisions over the past 18 months that impact on the bottom line include: •

• •

The former Government reduced funding in the 2013/14 budget by redirecting $141.5 million to support the Tasmanian Regional Forest Agreement and the Drought Reform Package, so the funds available at the start of the Caring for our Country recommitment period was $2.05 billion. The Coalition Government moved quickly to address election commitments and emerging issues. The Caring for our Country budget redirected $6.7 million towards the Royal Commission into the Home Insulation program and $10.1 million to the drought effort. Funding allocated to Caring for our Country (now the National Landcare Program) has been reduced by $423 million in the 2014/15 budget. New projects and initiatives totalling $124 million were announced as part of the budget.

Implications for Natural Resource Management The funding available for essential on-ground works and the support of community volunteer effort has been substantially reduced over the next 4 years. The 2014/15 Federal budget cut the previous Government’s $2.1 billion over 5 years, that is $420 million per year to $1.240 billion over 4 years (comprising $1.03 billion for the National Landcare Program and $210 million for Working on Country) or $310 million per year – approximately 26% reduction in funding. We estimate that Commonwealth funding has been reduced to 1999/2000 levels. Over 2013/14 we know that long term contracts had been signed with a range of organisations to support the roll out of Caring for our Country stage 2. These totalled $617 million. We assume that the indicative allocations made to major components of the Caring for our Country program (Reef Rescue, Regional Delivery, Community Environment Grants and World Heritage Grants) will be met under the National Landcare Program (the Coalition Government has announced funding for Working on Country and Environmental Stewardship programs in the budget, but we have yet to be advised of funding available for other components). We have been unable to determine forward budgets for Community Landcare grants in the Agriculture stream. These commitments total $629.5 million (after adjusting for grants made over 2013/14). The key message is that indicative commitments made for funding of Caring for our Country components will need to be reviewed and revised downwards. This includes regional delivery funding. Green Army The budget contains a number of new initiatives such as the Green Army. We are working with the Government on the details of this program but it is clear that the Green Army is about providing training opportunities for young people and while it may assist with delivering NRM outcomes in some instances, it does not replace does not replace the wide suite of work with farmers, pastoralists, Indigenous groups and volunteers that is fundamental to the National Landcare Program, and to a strategic landscape approach. We recognise the value of training and employment programs and will

support them where possible but the application to NRM will be limited by: •

The financial and human resource cost of running the program;

National Natural Resource Management Regions’ Working Group • • •

Ability to attract participants outside population centres; The cost of getting to and operating in worksites in rural and remote areas, i.e. most of Australia; The low productivity of inexperienced people.

The types of activities that can be undertaken will also be limited in comparison to the work required to be done. NRM and landcare now has sophisticated suite of delivery mechanisms. Ongoing support for projects will not be available (as it is when community is involved), for example work such as projects like tree planting, weeding, fence maintenance requires follow-up without which there is likely to be a much lower success rate. The risks for the Government are that this will be seen as a program targeting the major urban areas of South East Australia, will not work in remote areas and is unlikely to produce substantial benefits on the ground. Commission of Audit The release of the Commission of Audit report adds further uncertainty to future funding for natural resource management. We believe the Audit lacked an objective understanding of how natural resource management operates through the Landcare Program and we provided the following advice to the Prime Minister and Treasurer: •

The Program provides funds for environmental and sustainable agriculture works delivered by over 6,000 Landcare and thousands of other community based groups, farming groups and individual farmers across Australia; Through regional NRM bodies the Program uses sophisticated processes to identify cost sharing based on public benefit of those works. Various reviews illustrate that farmers spend $3 to $5 for every $1 invested by government in adopting best practice and this reflects the split between public and private benefits arising from those activities. It has been our experience that many landholders do not take steps that provide environmental protection and increase biodiversity without the incentive of a grant or the technical and other support provided by project officers funded through the Program; The regional NRM approach is specifically designed to address potential overlap issues between Australian Government and State/Territory Government activities by using regional NRM bodies and their NRM plans to align Commonwealth and State/Territory investments; The NRM plans, do as the Audit suggests and direct funding to “activities with the greatest environmental externalities that do not provide sufficient private benefits for landholders to fund themselves”.

What should regional NRM organisations do? The years ahead are challenging. As the Treasurer stated this is the start of the budget repair process. Regional NRM bodies need to: •

initiate discussions (recognising that many of you have already started this process) with all Parliamentarians about the contribution farmers, community volunteer groups and regional NRM bodies are making to natural resource management and the outcomes of that work. Demonstration of on-ground works and outcomes, including productivity is essential; encourage our partner organisations to have similar discussions

National Natural Resource Management Regions’ Working Group Our message is that this is not just about regional NRM bodies, but the broad suite of natural resource management programs that are delivered through partnerships with farmers, enterprises, Indigenous organisations and community volunteer groups. These programs provide substantial benefits to Australia in terms of: • • • •

Profitable and sustainable agriculture production; Protection of biodiversity assets; Landscape repair Social and community resilience to natural disaster

Available funding over the next four years will significantly reduce the contribution farmers, landcare groups, and regional NRM organisations and others can make to the sustainability challenge. We note the joint Landcare statement released by the National Farmers Federation and the Australian Conservation Foundation in March 2014 recognising the 25 years of Landcare and calling for a recommitment to natural resource management. At the national level your National NRM Region’s Working Group we will be working with other organisations involved in natural resource management to seek their support in encouraging greater Government to investment in natural resource management.

National Natural Resource Management Regions’ Working Group Attachment Analysis of the National Landcare Program Budget as of May 2014

Environment Agriculture ($m) ($m)

May 2012 announcement

May 2013 Budget



2013 -14 Mid-Year Economic and Fiscal Outlook May 2014 Budget Funding commitments announced over 2013/14

-6.70 -423.10

Regional Delivery Funding Community Environment Grants Target Area Grants Community Landcare Reef Rescue Water Quality Grants Reef Rescue - Partnership Grants Reef Rescue - System Repair and urban Water Quality Grants Sustainable Agriculture Innovation Grants

-312.80 -2.70 -36.70 -44.62 -3.22 -17.23





-10.70 -22.38

-8.64 -21.20

Funds available ($m)




Agriculture's funding includes $200 m for the former Landcare program Funding was for five years from 2013/14 to 2017/18 Contribution to Tasmanian Forest Agreement and Drought Reform

Environment PBS 2013-14 page 24 2013/14 Budget Paper 2 Expense Measures

2,069.80 1,586.00

Contribution to the Royal Commission into Home Insulation Program Budget savings

2013/14 MYEFO Appendix a Policy Decisions since 2013-14 Budget 2014/15 Budget Paper 2

1,136.30 1,133.60 1,096.90 1,086.20 1,019.20 1,015.98

Funding for 5 years - 80% in the last 3 years. 2013/14 Round Funding over 5 years Assume this is for 2014/14 only 2013/14 projects 2013/14 projects

NRM Web-site NRM Web-site NRM Web-site NRM Web-site NRM Web-site NRM Web-site


990.11 968.91

2013/14 projects

NRM Web-site Agriculture Web-site

National Natural Resource Management Regions’ Working Group Environment Agriculture ($m) ($m) Government initiatives to be funded from the Landcare Budget 20 Million Trees Coastal River Recovery Initiatives Greater Western Sydney – Cumberland Conservation Corridor Dandenong Ranges Wildlife Recovery, Weed Management and Fuel Reduction Programme Whale and Dolphin Protection Plan Keep Australia Beautiful and Clean Up Australia contribution Kimberley Cane Toad Clean Up Drought water infrastructure funding Reef Trust Recognise OceanWatch as a Natural Resource Management Group Commitments to Caring for our Country component programs either announced in the budget or in the program funding guidelines

Funds available ($m)


-50.00 -9.30

918.91 909.61

Environment PBS 2014/15 Environment PBS 2014/15



Environment PBS 2014/15

-2.00 -2.00

900.11 898.11

Environment PBS 2014/15 Environment PBS 2014/15

-0.60 -0.50

897.51 897.01 886.88 846.88

Environment PBS 2014/15 Environment PBS 2014/15 Environment PBS 2014/15 Environment PBS 2014/15

-10.13 -40.00 -2.40





Regional Delivery Funding




Community Environment Grants



World Heritage Grants



Reef Rescue


$200 million commitment less the funding announced in 2013/14 $667 million commitment less the $449 million funding announced in 2013/14 $25 million less the $$2.7 million funding announced in 2013/14 $40 million commitment – a call for applications closed in June

Regional Delivery Applicant Guidelines Community Environment Grant Guidelines World Heritage Grants Guidelines

National Natural Resource Management Regions’ Working Group Environment Agriculture ($m) ($m)

Working on Country


Environmental Stewardship Program Bottom Line

-41.54 -73.06

Funds available ($m)



173.48 173.48

Notes 2013 - outcome uncertain Funding commitment made in 2013/14 - $244.25 million over 4 years from 2013. 2014/15 budget announced $210.2 million transferred to the Prime Minister’s Department Fund announced in the 2014/15 budget – reduced from previous levels


NRM Web-site Environment PBS 2014/15

2014 budget implications for regional nrm final (2)