Australia’s NRM Governance System

Governance – the manner in which something is governed or influenced (Oxford English Dictionary) – is about how society organises itself to achieve its goals. Governments play a major role, but many people and organisations outside government are involved. Natural resource management (NRM) governance is about the mechanisms all these people and organisations use to influence decisions about the sustainable use of Australia’s lands, seas and waters.

Accompanying a growing awareness of the decline in natural resources that is allied with increasing use, the number and complexity of NRM governance mechanisms in Australia has magnified in recent years. No one has examined the impact this has on the effectiveness of NRM governance as a whole.

In 2010 NRM Regions Australia commissioned the development of a discussion paper to provide an introduction to thinking about NRM governance across Australia as a connected system of social organisation set within a linked social-ecological system. Particular characteristics of Australia that need to shape its NRM governance design include: a variable rainfall and slow ecosystem repeat cycles; high ecosystem diversity; a range of social and political systems; local rules and customs; and a low rural population density.

The discussion paper, Australia’s NRM Governance System: Foundations and principles for meeting future challenges can be downloaded here: NRM Governance in Australia

NRM Planning

Regional Natural Resource Management (NRM) planning is a core responsibility of regional NRM organisations and as an initiative that began less than fifteen years ago, its practice is still evolving. But what is NRM planning? How is it done? Why is it important? How does it relate to other land and NRM planning processes?  What are its strengths and what are the challenges?  And how should regional NRM planning develop over the next decade so that it can be of more value, either alone or in conjunction with other planning mechanisms.

NRM Regions Australia produced a discussion paper in 2014 that explored these questions and proposed:

  1. the core objectives and characteristics that define regional NRM plans (Section :WHAT IS A REGIONAL NRM PLAN?)
  2. a set of best practice principles that underpin good performance of NRM planning (Section: BEST PRACTICE PRINCIPLES) and
  3. future directions for regional NRM planning in Australia. (Section: FUTURE DIRECTIONS)

Our aim was not to suggest standardising the process of regional NRM planning or the structure of the resultant plans (which in any case are matters for state governments), but to articulate their defining characteristics and the practices that have made them work well, while still being responsive to state and regional diversity.

A copy of the discussion paper can be found here: Regional NRM Planning final draft February 2014

Organisational Performance Excellence

At the 2011 National NRM Chairs’ Forum, the Chairs acknowledged the value of performance excellence reviews of regional NRM bodies and agreed to support the adoption of this approach as a means of improving capability of regional NRM bodies and the NRM sector as a whole. They set a target of 85% of all regional NRM bodies undertaking the review by 2013. This target was met with the financial support of Australian Government that has encouraged and supported some 22 regional bodies to undertake performance excellence reviews during this period.

At the 2013 National NRM Chairs Forum in Mandurah WA, Chairs reinforced the importance of this project and asked the National NRM Regions’ Working Group to ensure sufficient resources for its on-going implementation.

A report was provided to the Australian Government in August 2013 on the outcomes of the project to that time: Enhancing Organisational Performance Project Report_15 August 2013