Thank you for the opportunity to be with you today. I understand you had a very successful awards evening last night and I congratulate all of the winners. You do an outstanding job in caring for our precious environment.
It’s a great pleasure to be here today to acknowledge and celebrate Landcare’s 25 year anniversary. I also warmly welcome the opportunity to share with you the Australian Government’s vision for managing our natural resources.
Before I outline the government’s reforms to the National Landcare Programme, I think it’s important to look back and reflect on how far the Landcare movement has come and what’s been achieved over the past 25 years.
I am very proud to say that Landcare started here in my home state of Victoria.
The first Landcare group kicked off in 1986 at Winjallok, just outside St Arnaud, around three hours north of here.
From one small group in Winjallok in Central Victoria, Landcare has grown over the past 25 years to encompass the more than 6000 Landcare groups that you are all part of.
A key reason for this success has been Landcare’s partnership approach and ability to get all parts of the community involved in the movement.
It’s about local people – whether they’re farmers, landowners, weekend warrior blockies, environmentalist, school kids or city people – all coming together with a common cause, finding practical solutions to fix local problems.
These partnerships not only forged the Landcare movement but set the foundations for 25 successful years of caring, protecting and rehabilitating our farms, waterways, coasts, landscapes and the environment.
Where others talk, Landcarers roll up their sleeves and get on with it.
1. Clean Land
The Australian Government has an ambitious plan to create a cleaner environment for all Australians.
Under our Plan for a Cleaner Environment, the Government is committed to delivering on four environment pillars ¬¬– clean air, clean land, clean water and heritage protection. Today I am focussed on outlining our Clean Land vision as this most relevant to the important work you do.
The Clean Land Plan will help clean up and revegetate urban and rural environments, including creek and river banks, with the help of the Green Army and reforms to strengthen Landcare. The Government will also simplify environmental approvals to cut duplication and end delays, while maintaining high environmental standards.
The Government’s focus for the environment is to deliver practical change at the local level.
Central to this is our commitment to Landcare and the introduction of the National Landcare Programme, supported by a range of complementary programmes such as the Green Army, the 20 Million Trees Initiative, Working on Country and the Reef Trust.
We came to Government with a comprehensive plan of action and we have already started implementing many of our commitments including:
• simplifying arrangements
• shifting the investment focus back to local priorities
• establishing the Green Army programme on time and in partnership with local communities
• taking action to protect key urban coastal environments
• appointing a Threatened Species Commissioner; and
• reforming investment in natural resource management.
2. Putting Landcare at the heart of natural resource management
The Government is investing $2 billion in managing our natural resources, enabling communities to take practical action.
We are changing the previous investment model to create a new National Landcare Programme. This is based on three years of consultation with the natural resource management community, particularly Landcare groups and networks.
The National Landcare Programme differs from previous programmes in that we are committed to three very important principles.
Firstly, the new programme will be simple and easy to navigate so that time and investment is focussed on on-ground works, not paperwork.
Less paperwork is always a good thing.
I am pleased to report that progress is already being made. The monitoring and reporting template has been reduced from 22 pages to four pages. The application form for NRM regions has been reduced from 45 pages to 11 pages.
We are also making other changes to simplify our processes, moving from paper based to online reporting. This will make it easier for everyone to access the outcomes of the great work done by the Landcare community.
Secondly, we want to work with communities to develop lasting long-term land management solutions that ensure our natural infrastructure is well maintained and will support the prosperity of future generations.
The National Landcare Programme will support projects to take a long-term view by supporting multi-year funding mechanisms.
Under this model the Australian Government will invest more than $450 million dollars through the 56 regional NRM organisations over the next four years.
Thirdly, we want the programme to be driven by local priorities and to put Landcare and community groups back at the centre of regional land management.
I’ve never met a local Landcare group who didn’t know what’s best for their community and their local environment.
That’s why I have turned priority setting on its head. Instead of national Landcare priorities being set by Canberra, the National Landcare Programme instils a grass-roots process where communities will work with their local NRM groups to set priorities for their region that deliver outcomes in the national interest.
This will help support local communities develop the most effective ways to manage and protect their natural assets, to achieve long-term benefits not just locally but for our nation as a whole.
NRM regions will play a crucial role in helping to achieve this. They will be integral in engaging and working with their local communities, identifying and setting local priorities for environmental action and then investing for impact.
2.1 Regional delivery – 20 per cent of funding for small projects
Recently Minister Joyce and I announced that we’ve instructed regional NRM organisations to allocate a minimum of 20 per cent of their funding to small on-ground projects delivered by Landcare and other community groups.
That 20 per cent equates to $90 million over four years. On average this is more than $20 million a year available for small projects under the National Landcare Programme.
This funding will ensure that local groups are engaged in the delivery of projects across the country and are able to support their regional NRMs to deliver key outcomes for both the environment and sustainable agriculture.
The Government is investing over $2 billion in natural resource management over four years. While previously the landcare community had access to a single $10 million grants round each year, now there will be opportunities for the landcare community to gain support across a range of programmes including the National Landcare Programme, the 20 Million Trees programme and the Green Army.
These reforms will ensure that Landcare groups have access to more funding and more influence on environmental and sustainable agriculture outcomes than was previously available.
The benefit of regions delivering this funding to their community is that they are well placed to design processes that work for local conditions. What works here in Victoria is unlikely to be appropriate in the arid lands of South Australia.
Over the next few months, my Department, with colleagues from the Department of Agriculture, will be working with regions to vary funding agreements to deliver on the new arrangements.
I expect all of the new arrangements to be in place by December.
I am very pleased that many regions are already engaging pro-actively with this reform.
Three key examples of this include:
2.1.1 Example 1: Port Phillip Western Port Catchment Management Authority
In my local region, the Port Phillip and Western Port Catchment Management Authority, I am delighted to announce that a small grants round will be opened today. $250,000 will be available for local community projects.
2.1.2 Example 2: NRM North Tasmania
By January 2015, NRM North in Tasmania will be delivering over 20 per cent of its National Landcare Program budget directly to Landcare/Bushcare/Coastcare groups and farmers or land managers involved in property management planning groups.
This will mean over $400,000 in grants will hit the ground directly for the groups to implement a range of priorities they have identified.
NRM North will provide additional funds to support these groups through Landcare and NRM facilitators. A key focus is on building on the efforts of existing groups and land managers.
NRM North will also run a devolved grants process to support actions under property management plans on agricultural land. Money will go directly to participants to undertake the works.
2.1.3 Example 3: Terrain NRM Queensland
Terrain NRM in North Queensland is already getting prepared to provide critical NRM grants to the Wet Tropics community and will start talking to key groups and organisations about their ideas on the grants process shortly.
These conversations will be aligned with the consultation currently underway for the Wet Tropics NRM Plan.
Terrain will formally announce the grants process at its Annual General Meeting to be held on Friday 28 November.
Delivery of NRM at the local level by locals is fundamental to long term stewardship of the Wet Tropics landscape.
Total funding available for small projects from Terrain NRM will be $846,046 over the next four years to June 2018.
These are excellent examples of how the National Landcare Programme will help communities Landcarers, farmers, regional environments and production systems.
To sum up, I would like the take home message of this speech to be this: Landcare groups start talking to your regional NRM groups or catchment authorities about how you can work together in delivering better Landcare outcomes for your communities.
2.2 $5 million 25th Anniversary of Landcare small grants round
Today, I’m also pleased to announce an additional one-off $5 million in grants to help celebrate 25 years of Landcare.
This grants round is open to all community groups, Landcare groups, farmers and land managers.
Grants of between $5000 and $20,000 will be available for a range of local projects including protecting and restoring local environments.
Applications are now open and I would encourage you to look up the guidelines on our website at www.nrm.gov.au, and put in an application.
Applications close on 20 October 2014.
2.3 National Landcare Advisory Committee
To ensure both myself and the Minister for Agriculture get well-rounded advice about the implementation and design of the Programme, a National Landcare Advisory Committee is being established for 12 months.
This committee will provide advice directly to Minister Joyce and me to ensure that we are creating a programme that is local, simple and long-term. The focus is also to ensure that the 20 per cent small projects funding is going out to communities for on-ground works.
I am pleased to announce today the chair of the Committee, Ms Sue Middleton. Ms Middleton has extensive experience in land management and community leadership in project development and planning.
Ms Juanita Hamparsum will fill the role of deputy chair. Ms Hamparsum comes to the Committee with 16 years experience in agriculture, accounting and finance.
The other members include:
• Professor Ron Edwards, who brings extensive board experience in the fisheries and not-for-profit sector
• Ms Melissa George, Chair of the Indigenous Advisory Committee
• Ms Tessa Jakszewicz, Chief Executive Officer of Landcare Australia Ltd
• Mr James McKee, Chief Executive Officer of NRM North, region of Tasmania
• Mr Cameron O’Neil, who works with community run natural resource management organisations across regional Queensland.
• Ms Cathy Phelps, Dairy Australia’s Natural Resource Management Programme Manager
• Mr David Walker, National Landcare Network
• Mr Allan Williams, Programme Manager at Cotton Research and Development Corporation.
The deep knowledge and experience brought to this Committee by these members will provide Minister Joyce and myself with important advice for decisions leading to a successful implementation of the National Landcare Programme.
Minister Joyce and I thank all of these members for agreeing to participate in this important role. We look forward to working with you over the next 12 months as we roll-out this new programme.
3. New Programmes providing opportunities for the Landcare movement
As I touched on earlier in this speech, the Clean Land pillar of our Plan for a Cleaner Environment features a range of programmes that will complement and enhance the work of the Landcare community across Australia.
3.1 Green Army
In early August, the Prime Minister and I announced the first round of Green Army projects set to roll out across the country. In the 2014–15 financial year we will see 2500 participants involved in 250 projects around Australia.
Over four years the programme will build to 15,000 participants engaged in 1500 projects—the largest-ever team of young Australians supporting environmental action.
These rolling teams of young people will generate real and lasting benefits for the environment.
In this first round, Green Army projects will include:
• koala habitat restoration
• revegetating river catchments, coastal foreshores, rainforests and wetlands
• constructing boardwalks
• working closely with traditional owners and restoring culturally significant sites
• pest animal management
• upgrading walking tracks; and
• monitoring threatened species, to name just a few.
The Green Army is a complementary initiative to the National Landcare Programme. It will complement but never compete with Landcare and the Landcare movement.
Green Army will never replace the outstanding contribution that is made by the many thousands of Landcare groups and volunteers across the country.
Rather, we want to create a new generation of young people who are just as passionate about hands-on environmental protection as Landcarers. And that’s where I see there is a great opportunity for Landcarers to join forces with Green Army teams.
I see that there is an army of experienced Landcarers out there who can act as mentors to young people in the Green Army. I see it as a great opportunity to take young people under your collective wing and share your experience and passion for Landcare with a whole new generation.
Not only are you getting an extra 15,000 pairs of hands to help with the work that needs to be done, you are also giving young people in your communities an opportunity that they would not otherwise have had.
So, I would encourage you all to look for opportunities to link with Green Army projects in your region or create your own Green Army projects in the future. Go out and infect a whole new generation with your passion for Landcare.
By next year I hope to make further announcements on measures to make it even easier for Landcare groups to link with, or host their own, Green Army projects or 20 Million Trees projects.
Landcare can be a lead supporter in ensuring the Green Army is a great success.
Recently, it was my great pleasure to join Tessa Jakszewicz, CEO of Landcare Australia, to mark the 25th anniversary of the Landcare announcement. Tessa and I joined a group of passionate local Landcarers at the Mornington Peninsula Youth Enterprises Landcare project. It was great to see how Landcare is helping not just the environment but also disadvantaged young people.
This great organisation runs an Indigenous and native nursery program which is aimed at giving disadvantaged and jobless youth valuable skills and self esteem so they can enter the job market.
With the help of Landcare Australia, they are raising mangrove seedlings for Melbourne Water’s Westernport Seagrass Partnership rehabilitation programmes on Western Port Bay. This is incredibly important work. It is also an example of where the Green Army could be hugely beneficial.
3.2 20 Million Trees
The government is also delivering on its election commitment to plant 20 Million Trees by 2020, investing $50 million over four years.
This programme will help communities around the country, both in urban and regional areas, to plant native trees, plants and associated understory species to re-establish green corridors and urban forests.
The government plans to roll-out the 20 Million Trees initiatives in two ways.
First, by the end of this year we will have put out a Request for Tender seeking a National Service Provider or Providers to undertake large-scale plantings across the country.
Second, we will soon be opening a small grants programme. This component will see $8 million dollars invested over the next four years to help establish native tree plantings in urban, peri-urban and regional areas. Local groups, including Landcare groups, will be able to apply for grants of between $20,000 and $100,000 to help them undertake this very important work.
This is an important opportunity for the Landcare community; I encourage you all to consider applying as soon as it opens. This programme is also designed to link in with Green Army projects.
3.3 Emissions Reduction Fund – building healthy soils
A recent policy measure that will be of interest to those here today is our first soil carbon method, announced at the beginning of August. The soil carbon method, one of our latest Carbon Farming Initiatives, is all about enhancing soil health and is especially focused on ways to build up grazing land.
Our new method paves the way for landholders to participate in the Emissions Reduction Fund by storing carbon on grazing land. The Fund will build on the Carbon Farming Initiative, which focuses on land sector methods.
The Government worked closely with landholders, scientists and key interest groups to develop the method for building soil carbon for pastures. So we’ve been working with people who have years of experience in research and industry.
And it’s just the start. We’re rolling out further soil carbon methods for other agricultural land uses and these will be available from late 2014.
It’s a major step, because most of the world’s carbon is stored in the land.
Landholders will be able to choose from a range of activities to build soil carbon. This way, they can get on board in a way that’s tailored to their needs.
It could be changing grazing patterns or rejuvenating pastures. For example, the recently approved soil carbon methodology presents potential opportunities for the organic waste sector. Under this method, fertilisers created from waste organic products from other manufacturing processes can be added to soil and contribute towards recognised soil carbon credits.
This can provide a win, win, win situation by assisting in waste disposal, improving land productivity through enhanced organic matter and providing potential revenue streams for farmers through the sale of soil carbon credits.
At the beginning of this speech I mentioned that the very first Landcare group started at Winjallok, here in Victoria over 25 years ago. I am pleased to hear that the Winjallok Landcare group still exists and is still going strong.
Back in August 2012, past and present members of the Winjallok group celebrated their 25th anniversary by getting together for a tree-planting day on the original property where the very first Landcare group was launched.
On that day, helping to plant over a thousand plants, were some of the original members of the Winjallok Landcare group, those very first trail-blazers of the Landcare movement. Still getting involved, still getting their hands dirty.
So to those pioneers of the Landcare movement I want to say thank you. To those who have followed in their footsteps, I say thank you. To all of you who are part of the 6000 Landcare groups across the country and who continue to contribute your time, and energy and passion to the Landcare movement, thank you.
This Government will always support the incredibly important work you do.
Thank you for your time and here’s to another 25 fantastic years of Landcare.