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.
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.
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.
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.