What is NRM?

Natural Resource Management (NRM) is the integrated management of the natural resources that make up Australia’s natural landscapes, such as land, water, soil, plants and animals. That is, our land, water and biodiversity assets.

Effectively managing these resources requires a landscape or catchment approach that coordinates a range of land, water and biodiversity programs – in conjunction with local communities, State/Territory Governments and the Australian Government.  Australia’s environment provides cultural and spiritual sustenance and is the foundation of our national identity, lifestyle and economy. We rely on our environment for essential services such as food, water and clean air – alongside other crucial ecosystem services such as climate regulation, absorbing and transforming wastes, preventing disease and providing the genetic resources that are the basis for many medicines.

Australia derives a significant proportion of the nation’s economic wealth from its environmental assets, including through agriculture, mining and tourism.

There will be significant costs to the Australian economy and the welfare of all Australians if these assets are allowed to degrade. They are very expensive, or often impossible, to replace.

While most ecosystem services have not been assigned a monetary value under our economic model, we can calculate figures for some areas. The Great Barrier Reef, for example, adds more than $5 billion to the Australian economy each year. Annual food exports – which depend on productive soils and water resources – are worth about $24 billion, although annual production losses due to environmental degradation are about $1.2 billion.

Australia’s vastness means that natural resource management policies must be agile enough to support diverse and different ecosystems and communities through different partnerships across Australia.

NRM organisations and their diverse partners provide this support.

History of Natural Resource Management

Our national integrated NRM and Landcare system has been developing for several decades, even prior to the Decade of Landcare, through River Trusts, the soil conservation service, Potter farms and the like. We have built upon the knowledge and principles established over the decades, learning from experience and research. In the early 2000s, regionalisation was extended across the country. The system has grown in sophistication and is now a unique social and organisational infrastructure delivering outcomes for the Australian Government, State and Territory governments, local communities and land managers. It has the potential to do more. We can further help the Australian Government deliver on its legislative requirements while supporting communities across Australia.

Landcare and regional organisations have fundamentally changed how Australians participate in practical on-ground activities to reverse the decline of our natural resources. Farmers, families, and communities from urban and rural Australia deliver activities that are important to them, their communities, their catchments and the nation. It is bottom up while guided by strategic regional plans that integrate national and local priorities. NRM is as diverse as the Australian landscape and the Australians who participate in it, yet is always working to improve our natural resources.

  1. Principles of Integrated Natural Resource Management – Australia’s NRM and Landcare system is based upon a set of principles that underpin our success and remain relevant. We believe that these principles must inform any program in order to be successful and to address the very problems this system was developed to manage. There are many versions of these principles documented in regional plans, State policies, academic literature and the Australian Government’s own program design.
  2. Builds environmental, economic and social capital – Just as NRM links productivity and environmental goals it also produces much broader outcomes – multiple benefits – such as community resilience, employment, health and well-being.
  3. Localism – Community ownership in all aspects of NRM is fundamental to success. It requires participation in governance, planning, decision-making and implementation.
  4. Strategic and integrated regional planning (aligning National, State, Regional and local planning) – Regional planning has developed over time to improve effectiveness. It integrates across landscapes, stakeholders, and issues; works across scales, paddock to national; and links between national, State/Territory, regional and local needs and goals.
  5. Knowledge-based and innovative – drawing upon all forms of evidence including science-based, Indigenous and local; encourages innovation and responsiveness.
  6. Sound governance and performance systems – accountable and transparent systems at all levels with processes for evaluation, oversight and continuous improvement in place.
  7. Diversity of approaches – understanding that conditions are different across Australia (no one size will ever fit all). Acknowledging that even in one area multiple pathways and delivery mechanisms are necessary to address different issues, stakeholders, land-tenures etc. from volunteerism to market based instruments, small landholder grants to large strategic partnerships.

This explanation has been drawn from content provided by the National Landcare Programme.