Reflections on final workshops: What have we found about landholder collaboration?

On 11 and 12 December 2017, we hosted workshops in Mudgee and Lyndhurst in the Central Tablelands. The aim of the workshops was to show how shared monitoring data can provide landscape benefits, to demystify legal frameworks for collaboration, and to facilitate learning from other locals’ experiences. This represents a culmination of our research based on the interest of local groups this year.

Thanks to the input from the earlier glider and spider workshops, the project team have been working with NSW Landcare to improve the usability of the Landcare Gateway, an online group-based mapping tool. Users can share data (such as sugar glider sightings and photos) publicly or with their group. We presented some current and future scenarios of how the tool could be used to steer activities within the groups. Although there are some concerns about how to best use the Gateway given time and technological constraints, we encourage landholders to try it out and let us know how it helps and what could be better.

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Examples of mapping data (including the Landcare Gateway) for making collaborative decisions.

We were fortunate to have Lyb Makin, a governance expert from the Australian Earth Laws Alliance, accompany us at the workshops and present her work. Along with her colleague Michelle Maloney, Lyb has created a handy guide for landholders about different types of collaboration models, ranging from informal groups to formal corporations. The guide maps out a range of issues and options groups can explore to strengthen their collaborative work. For example, Table 1 provides a snapshot of some of the advantages and disadvantages of becoming an incorporated body. Initial feedback about the guide from workshop attendees was very positive and we’re looking forward to seeing where groups go from here.

Table 1: To incorporate or not to incorporate? This table was developed by the Australian Earth Laws Alliance. Disclaimer: Information in this resource is for general educational purpose only and is not intended as legal, financial or business advice.

 

Unincorporated

Incorporated

Advantages
  • Less regulation – i.e. less paperwork
  • Less cost – e.g. compliance and reporting costs
  • Flexibility in terms of governance and decision-making
  • Limited liability of members for the debts of the corporation
  • Legal accountability of leaders (i.e. directors) to members
  • As a separate legal entity, corporations can sign contracts, take out insurances, own property and employ staff
  • Many funding bodies require incorporation
Disadvantages
  • Will not be able to open its own bank account – will need another group to auspice it, or find another way to manage any funds
  • May not be eligible for funding/grants
  • Full liability of group members for debts
  • No formal mechanisms for leader accountability to group members
  • Requires group to design its own governance and decision-making structures
  • Formal governance requirements – e.g. specific legal responsibilities for directors
  • Additional cost and regulation, including regular reporting requirements
  • Possible audit requirements and associated costs
  • Limited flexibility – legal requirements in terms of electing new directors, changing the rules etc

The participants and discussions in each workshop were quite different. At Mudgee, we had a good turn-out of landholders from the Lue road corridor who are currently working together to set up cross-property kangaroo monitoring and harvesting, combined with feral pest management. With several members of the Watershed Landcare executive also present, there were some fantastic suggestions for supporting and progressing the group’s vision. We found that there can exist a tension between what people would like to achieve through cross-property collaboration (such as improved kangaroo management), and what they need to do to achieve it (in this case, formalise the group). What this group appears to need is some kind of financial reassurance, to increase the incentive to get things going and to lower the risks of getting engaged and involved. With careful attention to the barriers of participation, we think that if governments are serious about the benefits of landholder collaboration, they should be willing to provide this financial impetus to support such groups.

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Workshop discussions at Lyndhurst.

Alternatively, the workshop at Lyndhurst (30 mins from Cowra) was attended by key representatives from four different local Landcare groups. The Central Tablelands is sprinkled with small conservation-oriented groups, which also come together to form various regional groups. In that sense, participants were each wearing ‘multiple hats’ and could compare experiences from their local groups and regional groups as well. Each local group has a strong identity but there isn’t a clear umbrella group for the region. This can make it harder to achieve the continuity of landscape-scale collaborative initiatives. Without the strong recognition of their provision of public environmental benefits securing ongoing financial support, funding changes or cuts can have a big impact on the success of groups and result in less motivation for volunteers to commit to landscape-scale work. Although the governance of K2W is currently in a state of transition, there is potential for it to become the overarching group in this region, providing that sense of cohesion and security. Regardless, it was wonderful to hear about the achievements and ambitions of each of the groups and we wish them all the very best with their ongoing activities.

We greatly thank everyone who has contributed to this project through their time, thoughts and inspiring enthusiasm.

For more information about the project, feel free to contact Emily.

Landholder Collab resources for conferences in 2017

The Landholder Collab team attended three conferences in 2017. Here, we share some of the resources we developed and presented.

Restore Regenerate Revegetate Conference

A Conference on Restoring Ecological Processes, Ecosystems and Landscapes in a Changing World
5-9 February 2017
Armidale
Conference website

Landscape scale conservation: incentives for cross-property action
P. Ampt, A. Baumber, E. Berry, T. Cox, R Cross, G. Metternicht & H. Pfeiffer

Abstract:
Production landscapes are critical for biodiversity conservation. Individual landholders can contribute but the real challenge is coordinated cross-property action at a landscape scale. This paper describes 2 projects through which we have attempted to better understand that challenge. The ‘Communities in Landscapes’ project (Caring for Our Country 2009-2012) provided coordinated advice and training to develop cross-property biodiversity plans and $70k for each of 7 landholder groups for the initial phase of the implementation. The project generated collaboration on landscape scale biodiversity conservation, but without ongoing support the benefits achieved could be soon lost. The ‘Increasing landholder collaboration for landscape scale conservation’ project (NSW Environmental Trust 2016-2017) is exploring the nature and extent of collaboration, and the opportunities provided by collaboration for public and private benefit. The vision is for landholders to develop ‘Landscape Corporations’ which are the vehicle for integrating production and conservation for landholders sharing the same landscape.

Download the conference proceedings here. Watch the presentation here.

Institute of Australian Geographers Conference

Geography Counts
11-14 July 2017
Brisbane
Conference website

Identifying opportunities for cross-property landholder collaboration for conservation and production
R. Cross, A. Baumber, P. Ampt, G. Metternicht, & E. Berry

Abstract:
Cross-property collaborations offer novel solutions for dealing with complex, multi-scalar issues and fortifying long-term landscape-scale conservation and increasing viability of production systems.  This type of coordinated action has the potential to manifest a range of innovative, capital building ventures.  This paper reports on a NSW Environmental Trust funded project ‘Increasing landholder collaboration for landscape scale conservation’, focused on the NSW Central West and Central Tablelands.  To explore opportunities, a participatory rural appraisal (PRA), an interviewing process which utilises local people as researchers and involves a series of workshops, was conducted and 55 landholders were interviewed.
Evidence of cross-property collaboration included biodiversity management, vegetation plantings, fire safety and management, pest and weed control (e.g. dog baiting groups), informal sharing/trading of equipment, labour and transport, and informal grazing arrangements.  Major barriers to collaboration were lack of time, reluctance to drive collaboration, individualistic mentalities, social dynamics, lack of contact (especially with absentee landholders), lack of perceived benefit from collaborating, and apprehension about personal liability versus group liability.  Opportunities for increased collaboration include habitat connectivity, shared costs for pest and weed management, goat and kangaroo harvesting, shared branding and place-marketing, small-scale mobile production, and eco-tourism for recreation, cultural experience and nature-watching.  To enable collaboration, realising synergies with neighbours, being able to discuss novel ideas in an online forum, and learning first-hand from other successful collaborators were identified as initiating steps.

Download the presentation here.

Developing online tools for increased landholder collaboration in landscape scale conservation and production
G. Metternicht, A. Baumber, P. Ampt, R. Cross, & E. Berry

Abstract:
Cross-property collaboration has the potential to enhance the viability of environmental actions and enterprise options that extend beyond individual property boundaries. On the environmental front, issues such as habitat connectivity, riparian management, soil erosion and weed and pest control could benefit from increased collaboration, while collaborative commercial activities could potentially include ecotourism, agroforestry, biobanking, carbon farming and kangaroo management.
Recent developments around online spatial tools have shown to offer enhanced opportunities for collaboration by enabling landholders to connect with one another, to identify landscape-scale opportunities for environmental or commercial collaboration, and to act as a repository of user-generated spatial data including monitoring results and case studies.  This paper reports on the work of a two-years multi-stakeholder Landholder Collaboration project on the Central Tablelands of NSW that is now entering its final phase, with spatial analysis and the development of a GIS-based online tool being key tasks to be completed. Social research with two pilot landholder groups has identified a lack of reliable internet access as a major barrier for access and adoption of this kind of instrument for many landholders, and data security as a key priority. Leading natural resource management issues identified for inclusion in the pilot testing phase of the tool in 2017 include weed and pest management, landscape-scale revegetation corridors and ecotourism.

Download the poster here.

Australian Rangeland Society – 19th Biennial Conference

Transition to Transformation
25-28 September 2017
Port Augusta
Conference website

Lessons and best practice of landholder collaboration for landscape-scale conservation and production
H. Pfeiffer, P. Ampt, A. Baumber, R. Cross, E. Berry & G. Metternicht

Abstract:
Tensions between production and natural resource management objectives, often perceived as mutually opposing, are increasing as technological, political, social changes and climatic variability continue to shape Australian rural landscapes. This paper explores enablers and barriers for landholder collaboration to bridge this gap, and to facilitate transitioning to new industries. Through key informant interviews we identified nine central themes that need be considered for enhanced understanding of the complexities and contextual nature of landholder collaboration. These include models of collaboration; the role of government and funding; the role of industry; the role of education; marketing strategies; the importance of social cohesion; community involvement; succession of collaboration; and integrating production and conservation. Social analysis of key informants provided lessons to address barriers for achieving desired outcomes within past and present models of landholder collaboration.
Our findings suggest that when transitioning to new industries on a landscape-based scale:
a) A one-size-fits-all approach to collaboration is inappropriate due to the highly contextualised nature of elements that make or break attempts to collaborate.
b) The complexity of the topic affects the role of government and industry on the effectiveness and potential of outcomes generated through collaboration.
c) Education and communication through common language are key enabling factors for the success of cohesive landholder groups.
Potential enablers to collaboration between actors at the landscape scale included: social cohesion and generation of relationships based on trust, as was the role of whole community involvement in providing support structures and generating environments conducive to effective collaboration. Themes of ownership, leadership and motivation fuelled by common interest were highlighted as key stabilising factors that contributed to the resilience of groups to survive internal and external shocks. Finally, models that demonstrated the integration of production and conservation initiatives were suggested as providing the best chance for successful cross-property collaboration.

Download the conference proceedings here.

Developing online tools for increased landholder collaboration in landscape scale conservation and production
G. Metternicht, A. Baumber, P. Ampt, R. Cross, & E. Berry

Download the poster here.

Summary report on absentee landholder research

Alongside our research about landholder collaboration for conservation and sustainable production in the Central Tablelands, we’ve also been investigating the impacts and motivations of absentee landholders. A better understanding of absentee landholders’ behaviours and interests, and improved ways to reach and engage them, can be used to tailor collaborations on landscape-scale initiatives between rural residents and absentee landholders.

Hermann Kam (MPhil student, UNSW) has prepared a summarised report of his literature review and survey findings from 88 respondents. The results show that the surveyed absentees were conservation-oriented and mainly interested in owning a block of land for recreational and/or lifestyle purposes. The report also discusses the absentees’ various values and interests, connection to the land and local community, perception of their land management knowledge, and preferred sources of information.

We hope you find this research interesting and informative.
Download the absentees report here.

Landholder Collaboration Project – final workshops!

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Starting and maintaining the momentum of a local group can be daunting and hard work. It helps to draw insight from others and receive good guidance along the way. In these workshops, we’ll facilitate discussions on:

  • Learning from local experiences: get inspired by the progress, achievements and aspirations of local groups in your area
  • Demystifying legal frameworks: invited legal experts will help you figure out what is right for you (free user-friendly guides available)
  • Sharing monitoring data for landscape benefits: using the revamped Landcare Gateway group sites, and how GIS mapping info can help

Join in at the Mudgee or Lyndhurst workshop:

Where: CWA Hall, 48 Market St, Mudgee
When: Monday 11 December, 5:30 – 7:30 pm
RSVP:  https://goo.gl/vk6psN

Where: Soldiers’ Memorial Hall, 8 Russart St, Lyndhurst
When: Tuesday 12 December, 11:00 am – 1:00 pm
RSVP: https://goo.gl/HpXNnU

Light refreshments included | RSVP via link by 4 December
or contact Emily Berry on 0432 174 850 / e.berry@unsw.edu.au

Are you an absentee landholder?

Better understanding the views and interests of absentee landholders towards collaborating on cross-property conservation and production initiatives is becoming more important.

If you are an absentee landholder, please complete this 10-minute survey before 29th September 2017!  Link to survey: https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/3HD7QXH

Having your say is valuable to us. You will help our research understand the impacts absentee landholders have on production and conservation initiatives, and identify ways to facilitate collaboration between resident and absentee landholders on these initiatives.

For more information, please contact: Hermann Kam or Alex Baumber

Update on our collaboration workshops for gliders and spiders

Last month we held our first two workshops to facilitate wider collaboration based on a particular topic of interest, specifically gliders in the Central Tablelands and spiders in the region around Mudgee. These workshops are the second stage of our research project, building on the ideas we found from talking with local landholders last year (see overview). We aimed to find the potential for greater landscape-scale conservation gains through facilitating collaboration, and to introduce an improved trial version of the Landcare Gateway as a potential way to support this.

Gliders were the topic of the first workshop, held at the somewhat hard to find but lovely DPI conference venue in Cowra. As the partnership facilitator of the K2W and its Glideways program, Mary Bonet gave a fantastic introduction to Glideways, including why protecting and reconnecting glider habitat is important and some of the achievements they have made so far. This set an inspiring context for further collaboration. Roger Lembit, one of Glideways’ ecological experts, spoke about the fascinating work he has been doing to monitor vegetation transects that are appropriate for gliders, as well as some helpful information about the different needs for hollows and diets of sugar gliders and squirrel gliders. The workshop group provided us with an insightful discussion about the desired capability and potential uses for the online tool, which will feed into its ongoing development.

collage

Collaboration workshop for gliders

The spider monitoring workshop at the Mudgee golf club had a great turn out – thanks to Agness Knapik (co-facilitator of Watershed Landcare) for helping to spread the news. Spider diversity can act as a sign of ecosystem health and are natural insect predators, beneficial for conservation and sustainable production. Participants shared their experiences in local collaboration as we eagerly awaited the arrival of our rockstar presenter Dr Mary Whitehouse, a CSIRO spider researcher based in Narrabri. Mary captivated the audience with her inexhaustible knowledge about spiders and showed how different groups of spiders can be identified. The Mudgee Microscope Group, part of Watershed Landcare, will be carrying on the focus on spiders over the next few months and welcome anyone who would like to join in.

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Collaboration workshop for spiders

We were also very grateful to have Michelle Maloney and Lyb Makin from the Australian Earth Laws Alliance come along with us and meet the workshop participants. After absorbing the needs and wants of the groups we are working with, they will be helping to provide some legal guidelines for group governance and collaboration models. They will share this information in our follow up workshops at the end of the year.

The level of interest in the workshops was thrilling. It shows that conservation is recognised as important for the communities, despite the pressures and competing priorities of being a landholder. Interestingly, there were many new faces at the workshops who we hadn’t met or been in contact with previously for the initial stage of research. We’re looking forward to meeting and working with groups for kangaroo monitoring and revegetation in the Capertee Valley too.

Over the coming months, participants who have signed up for the trial of the online tool will be going out and trying out some of the monitoring techniques. They will upload the information they find onto their private group page in the Landcare Gateway and start building up a greater picture of the area. We’ll be checking in to see how it goes and offer any help as needed. In early December, we will host some follow up workshops to learn from the process, share some more guidance, and talk about ‘where to from here?’  – and everyone is welcome to attend.

For more information about the project, please contact Emily.

Workshop resources:

Mudgee Spider Monitoring Workshop – TUESDAY AUGUST 8

Click here to read more about this event and RSVP today to secure your spot – all welcome!

This workshop will cover:
· How to identify and monitor spiders on your property
· How spiders respond to good land management
· Why working together on spider monitoring is beneficial
· How to upload the information onto an online collaborative tool
· How to use this data to make more informed land management decisions

 

Workshop Background: Trialling an Online Collaboration Tool for Landholders
  • Are you part of a group interested in conservation or sustainable production?
  • Would you like to use map-based information to help you plan collaborative activities?
  • Do you want to achieve landscape-scale change?

What is the online tool?

We are giving the NSW Landcare Gateway program a make-over to become more user-friendly and useful for local communities. The tool will help groups communicate, plan and make decisions for a range of coordinated activities, including revegetation corridors, pest and weed management, goat and kangaroo harvesting, shared branding and ecotourism.

Functions of the tool include:
 Uploading point- and area-specific data
 Sharing information within a private group
 Viewing activities of other local groups
 Accessing GIS info in one location
 Simple interface for slow Internet speeds
 Use on your computer, phone or tablet

How can you participate?
Participation involves attending a local workshop with your group in August to learn more about how to use the online tool and how it can benefit you and the group in particular. You will then be requested to pilot-test the tool, including adding monitoring data and information of interest, over the following 3-4 months. Finally, there will be a follow-up workshop at the end of the year, giving you an opportunity to provide feedback and talk with invited professional experts about where your group can go from there.

If you are not part of a group but would still like to be involved in the trial, please contact us.

Who are we?
We are a team of researchers from the University of New South Wales, University of Sydney, and University of Technology, Sydney. These workshops are part of the second stage of the research project funded by the NSW Environmental Trust, in partnership with Landcare NSW (and Watershed, Hovells Creek and Little River Landcare), Local Land Services (Central West, Central Tablelands and Greater Sydney), Great Eastern Ranges Initiative and Stipa Native Grasses Association.

For more information, please contact:
Emily Berry (e.berry@unsw.edu.au; 0432 174 850)
Alex Baumber (alex.baumber@uts.edu.au; 02 9514 4671)