In March 2018, the newly elected Liberal government in South Australia launched a significant reform program to change the way natural resources are managed. A central part of this reform will be the establishment of the new Landscape South Australia Act, replacing the Natural Resources Management Act 2004. The new government wanted to have the reform informed by the people who spend their lives working in the environment and acknowledged that it can only be achieved through meaningful engagement and the establishment of long-term delivery partnerships.
Between July and October 2018, Becky Hirst Consulting undertook vast engagement with over 1,000 people across South Australia to gather input to help shape the future of natural resource management. For this project our team included three facilitators and one administrator.
The team worked with the Minister for the Environment and Water and staff from the Department for Environment and Water to lead on the design of a robust engagement plan.
The team designed and independently facilitated over 60 highly participatory meetings around the state, engaging with over 800 people in face-to-face conversations about the natural resource management system in South Australia. The meetings were designed to provide opportunity for participants to hear more about the proposed reform, share their own priorities for reform, notify the Minister of what they felt was already working well and shouldn’t be lost in the reform process, and to give feedback on the Guiding Principles of the reform process, and a set of key reform proposals.
We ran early engagement meetings with the Statewide Native Title Group Forum, Presiding Members, Primary Producers NRM Committee, the SA Regional Organisation of Councils and Conservation Council Member Groups to help inform the design of the engagement process and to seek early input in to the reform.
Over a period of 8 weeks we facilitated 25 community forums involving over 800 people in a highly participatory dialogue process about their priorities for natural resource management. These community forums were held across the state, including metro, regional and outback locations and attended by a good mix of land managers, volunteer groups, industry experts, Aboriginal nations, primary producers, other tiers of government and advocacy organisations. The forums were held in Port Lincoln, Ceduna, Port Augusta, Victor Harbor, McLaren vale, Murray Bridge, Kingscote, Clare, Glenunga, Mawson Lakes, Gawler, Coober Pedy, Mount Barker, Yunta, Leigh Creek, Nepabunna, Marree, Grange, Scotdesco, Mount Gambier and Meningie.
The 8 existing NRM boards were met with to seek their knowledge and expertise around the existing natural resource management system, seeking input around the same key reform proposals that were shared with the community. These board meetings included Kangaroo Island NRM Board, Eyre Peninsula NRM Board, South Australia Arid Lands NRM Board, Northern and Yorke NRM Board, SA Murray-Darling Basin NRM Board, South East NRM Board, Adelaide and Mount Lofty Ranges NRM Board, and the Alinytljara Wiluṟara NRM Board.
Towards the end of the engagement process focussed conversations were facilitated with Aboriginal Nations, and stakeholders including local government and young people to share with them what had been said during the engagement process to enable deeper conversation to occur. Concurrent sessions with the Primary Production and Conservation sectors were also held, bringing them together for a combined workshop afterwards. Towards the end of the engagement process, the NRM Partners met again, providing opportunity to debrief on what had been heard during the engagement process. Focussed conversations undertaken included the Local Government Planning and Environment Forum, APY Lands Management, Youth and Community in Conservation Action (Willunga), Primary Producers organisations, Conservation organisations, Combined Primary Producers, Conservation organisations and NRM Partners, NRM Partners debrief and a Native Titles Services meeting.
Alongside the public engagement process, internal engagement with over 360 staff was undertaken via 11 facilitated staff sessions across the state, based on the same key proposals. An engagement template was designed to enable an additional 4 sessions to be facilitated by staff, for staff. An internal iShare page was developed to provide staff with further information about the reforms and how they can could get involved and provide their feedback. Staff could choose to provide anonymous feedback based on the Discussion Paper via a secure online form. Alternatively, group submissions could also be made from branches or teams by emailing the Landscape Reform inbox. Some staff also made written submissions.
The face-to-face engagement was complemented with the opportunity for online commentary. A page was set up on the state governments YourSAy portal with opportunity to learn about the reform via video, a Discussion Paper, aDiscussion Paper Summary, and an FAQ document. Members of the public were able to make comment on the page and these comments were included in the final report. The opportunity to comment online was promoted in the Discussion paper, in letters to stakeholders, via social media and in local newspaper adverts. There were 8,473 unique views of the Managing our Landscapes page on YourSAy during the engagement period. The Discussion Paper was downloaded 754 times and 64 people participated in the online discussion.
We received 194 written submissions from interested individuals and organisations in the community, and a further 60 submissions from staff.
Summary reports were prepared for each of the 60 meetings held during the engagement period and were provided to the Department for ongoing review. The engagement process concluded with 134 page summary report called What we heard being prepared, including a series of recommendations. The appendices of this report contained notes from all of the meetings held during the engagement process (including raw data provided by participants), written submissions, and online commentary. A separate report called What we heard from staff was also prepared and provided to the Minister for consideration.