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Regional Capacity

Regional Capacity

Invasive species coordinator Matt Kennewell and students from the South China Agriculture University, Guangzhou. South Coast NRM hosted the students on behalf of the University of Western Australia Extension, taking them on a day trip to Castle Rock, one of our region's natural wonders.

REGIONAL capacity is the combination of commitment and skills to build on strengths within the community to address problems and respond to opportunities. Regional capacity is often over-extended, as it is typical for small numbers of people to take on more work than they can handle with limited resources.

Regional capacity building is also a means to an end by which individuals, groups and communities further develop their understanding, ability and motivation to undertake actions leading to sustainable natural resource management. It should not be considered in isolation from on-ground actions, but should specifically support effective implementation and uptake of practices.

Given that strategic natural resource management outcomes can only be achieved in the longer term, regional capacity building provides important short to medium term outcomes related to attitude, behaviour and practice change and increased engagement in sustainable NRM
Consulting and engaging with the community and supporting it to undertake priority NRM activities, together with celebrating its achievements are good principles for building capacity. In this instance community refers to landowners and managers, all levels of government and any organisations with an interest in NRM.

The full range of capacity building activities can be considered under the broad headings of awareness raising, information and knowledge, skills and training and facilitation and support. These areas aim to build people's ability to act, as well as their motivation to act and this should contribute to greater and more effective community engagement in the development and implementation of regional NRM plans.



AWARENESS promotes behaviour change and uptake of environmental best practice, because to be in a position to take action, individuals need to be aware of NRM issues and understand the links between them, a community's long-term viability and the region’s natural resources.

An increased effort in raising awareness of NRM issues helps to persuade more people to become involved, create cohesion and ensure the environment is not just left to the dedicated few.

Awareness-raising is particularly important in urban areas, where higher populations have the greatest potential to ensure NRM becomes a more urgent issue at all levels of politics.

Building better understanding and awareness and highlighting the causes and costs created through environmental degradation is essential for us to achieve the changes needed to maintain the region’s natural resources.

Information, knowledge and support

PEOPLE need to access the necessary information, data and best practice methodology to make healthy environmental decisions, while reliable collection, storage and dissemination of information allows them to measure their success and fine-tune future efforts.

A review of Southern Prospects 2004-2009, showed the overall regional community had acquired a heightened awareness of natural resource management issues since the previous strategy.

However, there are still gaps in our knowledge base and ways of making information easily accessible to people. Integrating and distributing collected information over a wide variety of media has proven difficult.Aboriginal knowledge is being increasingly recognised, accessed and valued, but the development of general and technical support to regional and local groups is needed.

Mechanisms to support full participation by all community members, including Aboriginal people, local governments and industry bodies needs to be progressed. The community needs to expand, by reaching out beyond those who are already involved and committed in environmental work.Managers and users often require training in the planning, technical and management skills needed to participate in sustainable NRM at property, local and regional levels. These skills can be gained in our region through the University of Western Australia and the Great Southern Institute of Technology, both of which have departments dedicated to NRM, as well as through programs developed by South Coast NRM and Green Skills.

The provision of adequate government and non-government support is acknowledged as a serious and widening gap. One of the most valued support mechanisms is the employment of locally-based NRM officers under secure employment contracts. Of equal value, support to local groups for administrative functions helps to keep people’s energies directed to on-ground actions, rather than being consumed by bureaucratic procedures.

The role of community-based organisations in building and maintaining social cohesion in rural and regional communities should not be underestimated. Protocols and other arrangements for respectfully sharing that knowledge are needed. Current support systems need to be continued and additional systems identified and expanded to ensure.



Friends of the Porongurups Range volunteer Klaus Braun talks to a group of Brazilian students about forest regrowth at Castle Rock. South Coast NRM hosted the students on behalf of UWA.

DURING the initial consultation development period for Southern Prospects 2011-2016, it was agreed solutions need to be found for natural resource management problems, which could include looking at problem-solving in other sectors or cultures or facilitating events to encourage more creative or lateral thinking amongst the community.

Alternative land use, mostly based on the commercial usage of locally-native plant species, is being explored by Greening Australia (WA) and the Centre for Excellence in NRM. High value-adding ventures under trial in parts of the region include truffle farming, inland aquaculture and commercial saw log production for specialised uses such as furniture making. Developing business and entrepreneurial skills to identify industry and market potential is as important as developing technical skills required for a particular land or water use and management.

In 2002 the steering group on Incentives for Private Conservation, a coalition of the Australian Bush Heritage Fund, Greening Australia and the Trust for Nature (Victoria) commissioned the Allen Consulting Group to produce Building a Stronger Social Coalition: a discussion paper proposing measures to encourage increased philanthropy to benefit the environment and create a stronger civic culture in Australia. The paper was partly commissioned in response to the Federal Coalition's 2001 announcement that it would further investigate tax options in the then current parliament to promote philanthropy, including 'living bequests'. Tapping into new and different opportunities will provide more flexibility for resourcing NRM activities to ensure positive outcomes.

Nature-based tourism has the ability to raise awareness about NRM while supporting the local economy. Many people visit our region to experience its natural assets and while these visitors are welcomed, their activities sometimes introduce environmental challenges, especially in fragile areas. Because of this, there is a need for the region to work together and promote innovation by creating visitor experiences benefiting natural resource management.

WA has a nature-based tourism strategy which provides direction for government and tourism industry practitioners, including the promotion of innovative product development, support of Aboriginal tourism product development and accreditation schemes, fostering of strategic research, facilitation of education and training and the pursuit of marketing opportunities. This has been complemented by a pilot program funded by Southern Prospects 2011-2016 to develop sustainability indicators for the tourism industry.

Target Development

A SURVEY of stakeholders undertaken by Hub Marketing Communication in 2009 indicated several starting points for the development of targets for building regional capacity, these were:

  • Gauge the level of awareness, interest and engagement of stakeholders relating to NRM activity in the region.
  • Identify what the South Coast community perceives NRM to be and the real and perceived barriers to becoming engaged in activity.
  • Identify current and potential audiences and ways to engage them.
  • Determine target audiences knowledge and skills gaps in relation to NRM and associated activity.
  • Assess communication gaps and identify areas in which there is room for improvement.
  • Develop marketing and communication strategies for raising awareness, interest and involvement of target audiences.
  • Identify additional strategies for implementing a targeted education strategy through different South Coast NRM theme sectors.

Local Government Authorities (LGAs)

DUE to local planning responsibilities Local Government Authorities (LGAs) have the ability to influence NRM outcomes as much as State and Federal governments.

They are the most visible level of government in regional rural areas, with councils often being made up of land managers and others most affected by and involved with NRM. Some of the region’s LGAs either have a small rate base, decreasing populations and/or large areas to service.

Local governments have had differing levels and methods of involvement in NRM, but most provide some level of support for NRM officers based in their areas. Some LGAs such as the City of Albany and shires of Denmark and Esperance have NRM related officers, but the level of integration with other local government functions is variable.

Most of the region’s LGAs have expressed a desire to be more involved with decision-making and the implementation of NRM, but are concerned about taking on additional responsibilities without the necessary resources. Some LGAs share their personnel and other resources such as NRM officers.

A mechanism to engage and build capacity for NRM in LGAs would assist in the identification of the abilities, requirements and responsibilities, particularly in relation to the maintenance of roadside vegetation, drainage and infrastructure impacts of changed catchment hydrology, invasive species identification and management, coastal and vegetation planning and management, fire management services and information needs, access and technical analysis.

Threats to Regional Capacity

REAL threats to the success of regional capacity area lack of appreciation, knowledge and involvement in NRM by the broader community.

This is compounded by inadequate or uncertain funding for development and excessive dependence upon volunteers, due to burn out’ in enthusiasm and the fragility of community groups.

Other big issues leading to a negative impact are the administrative and financial burden on sub-regional NRM groups, the disparity between Australian and State governments’ regional priorities and interests, staff turnover causing loss of experience, skills and knowledge and the lack of succession planning for effective leadership.

The following issues need to be addressed if community capacity is to be strengthened and gain wider recognition:

  • Funding and human resources are needed to increase capacity beyond planning and assessment to adaption and/or implementation.

  • Achieve more consistent results, NRM issues need to be considered in strategic and statutory planning.

  • Information needs to be more readily available across the region, through collation and dissemination of data, reports and information.

  • LGAs capacity must be increased in NRM planning and implementation, especially in inland areas.

  • Increase community understanding through the preparation of concise ‘state of the environment’ reports for South Coast NRM themes and raise awareness in urban areas where there is a higher percentage of the population.

  • Increasing community capacity through knowledge and skill-building is crucial to the effective implementation of NRM activities.



Volunteers from a number of our community partner groups helped with the first phase of planting at Albany's Yakamia Creek.

REGIONAL capacity achievements through community partnerships include:

  • An improvement of urban and peri-urban residents involvement.

  • Volunteers have commenced and/or continued involvement in NRM projects.

  • Our community has played a vital role in the determination of NRM investment throughout the region via reference and technical advisory groups, the NRM Committee and the South Coast NRM board of management.

  • Strategic Catchment projects have developed partnerships, plans and on-ground works to address identified needs, with people contributing significant time, energy and effort to plan and implement these works at local level.

  • From 2005 to 2007, applications for small grants have increased by more than 100 per cent, demonstrating increased community involvement in on-ground works outside strategic catchments. Since 2007, devolved grants have funded a diverse range of on-ground activities including biodiversity, waterway protection, coastal, soil health, land initiatives and weed management for land holders and community groups.

  • The number of Aboriginal people involved in on-ground projects is increasing. This includes Elders who are now working more closely with mainstream educational initiatives and project planning.

  • Local community updates have been held to provide broader access to South Coast NRM staff and projects and opportunities to be involved in NRM issues.

  • UWA has launched a sustainability foundation to promote research into sustainability issues.

  • The Denmark Education and Innovation Centre and Green Skills Inc. have been instrumental in developing the Centre for Sustainable Living in Denmark and other regional initiatives towards sustainable futures.

  • Development and implementation of the South Coast NRM Communications and Community Engagement Plan 2009 - 2010 included a review of community engagement procedures. Stakeholder needs and perceptions have been assessed and targets set for non-traditional NRM activities and new target audiences. Tracking perceptions and achievements in identified areas can now occur to provide direction for future strategies and projects.  

  • Development of the NRM Learning Centre at South Coast NRM Albany offices has provided a hub for information dissemination and possible co-location for community groups.

  • A complete re-design of the South Coast NRM website and the monthly production of an e-news bulletin.

  • A roadshow visiting Ravensthorpe, Esperance, Bremer Bay, Cranbrook, Albany, Mt Barker, Denmark and Borden fostered community engagement and gathered valuable feedback on NRM activities in each sub-region.

  • Engagement of the business sector such as events with Albany Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

  • Community groups are increasingly using the South Coast NRM offices for meetings, lectures and AGMs.

  • Networking and collaboration via the South Coast Management Group and the Government Officers Technical Advisory Group.

Aspirations - 25+ years

To create healthy, resilient and sustainable communities which share a strong sense of place and responsibility and provide a legacy of a vigorous natural environment for future generations.

⦁    Awareness of the region’s natural resources and their values, understanding of management required and a demonstrated willingness for behaviour change.

⦁    A community with capacity, resilience and a willingness to adapt to change with confidence in its future.

⦁    A diverse range of individuals, groups and organisations who are informed and engaged in NRM activities through strong partnerships with support systems

⦁    Increased knowledge base shared between all involved people and organisations

⦁    Equitable decision-making which considers all stakeholders.

⦁    An Aboriginal community with the capacity to engage in all areas of NRM

⦁    Businesses/industries and residents utilising and promoting sustainable management.

Goals – 10+ years

Goal R1: Monitoring, evaluation, reporting and improvement: Support regional capacity by improving monitoring, evaluation and condition reporting using quadruple bottom line principles.

Goal R2: Leadership and advocacy: Community to have strong leadership and advocacy in and outside our region to influence funding, policy and legislation

Goal R3: Integration and partnership: Integration and partnership of NRM across local, State and Australian governments and community groups to implement 80 cross-organisation projects for sustainable management of NRM resources by 2020

Goal R4: Awareness and recognition of significant assets: Raise the profile and awareness of the value of NRM assets through South Coast NRM themes across our region and in State, federal and international spheres by 2015.

Goal R5: Change management and innovation: Building the community’s capacity, willingness and resilience to meet future challenges through adaptation and innovation.

Goal R6: Regional sustainability: Support the development (by 2015) and implementation of a regional sustainability strategy by 2020.

Goal R7: Governance: Maintain a network of responsive, well governed NRM organisations across the region to ensure active participation in decision making and implementation of works.

Goal R8: Retention of knowledge: Facilitate ongoing research and retain brains’ trust for benefit of the community and on-ground implementation

Goal R9: Education and training: Develop and implement an NRM education and training framework (integrated across themes) and develop biannually reviewed education and training strategies by 2020.

Outcomes 1 – 5 years

Measures and monitoring

Outcome R1: Set Social and economic targets within an environmental sustainability framework: Set regional social and economic targets relating to NRM by 2012. To be reviewed by 2015 with key targets reported to community as a report card every two years.

On-ground actions

Outcome R2: Supported sustainable NRM industries and businesses: Identify and support key businesses of all sizes to incorporate environmental sustainability into their practices (National Industry Standards, Environmental Management Systems) and encourage quadruple bottom line reporting of 10 per cent of key sectors by 2015.

Capacity building

Outcome R3: Improved governance: Provide continued support for sub-regional and community NRM groups with governance structures for funding, administration, insurance, human resource management and executive support reviewed annually.

Outcome R4: Facilitated change management: Assist South Coast community to identify, plan and implement changes to address climate change and other key challenges on a landscape scale by 2015.

Outcome R5: Increased self-reliance: Increase self-reliance for funding, resourcing, energy and community capacity by 10 per cent across the region by 2013.

Outcome R6: Develop and implement an education and training framework: Develop regional NRM education and training framework by 2012. Review and support the development of educational and training tools for education institutions, the rural sector, LGA’s and the community to increase knowledge, awareness and best practice management of natural resources. Sustainability principles to be taught in 80 per cent of educational institutions across the region by 2015.

Outcome R7: Improved community engagement and leadership: Demonstrate and support leadership, increase awareness and involvement of key audiences including youth, seniors, rural, urban and peri-urban landholders, business owners and Aboriginal community - reviewed annually.

Planning and policy framework

Outcome R8: Review of agreements: Review of existing and development of new partnership agreements and/or memorandums of understanding between South Coast NRM, regional offices of State Government agencies, Local Government Authorities, Regional Development Commissions, Aboriginal land managers and other regional organisations outlining roles, responsibilities, processes for consultation and integration of planning outcomes by 2012.


COORDINATION and integration are essential, but require time and resources are spent on communication and planning across sectors and geographical areas.

As the complexity of issues increase and more people and organisations become involved in NRM, the time spent in coordinating and integrating their efforts can seem overwhelming and lead to the perception that these activities are an end in themselves.

Southern Prospects 2011-2016 has identified proposed actions under the categories of measuring and monitoring; on-ground actions; capacity building and planning and policy frameworks so conscious community decisions can be made about the relative effort made in each area. A balance between types of activities and particularly between planning and on-ground management, needs to be addressed during the development of the investment and action plan and reviewed during implementation of Southern Prospects 2011-2016.

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Opening hours
Mon – Fri 9am – 3pm
Contact details:
Tel: (08) 9845 8537
Fax: (08) 9845 8538

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