University of Tasmania
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Integrated catchment management and natural resource management: a case study of the Little Swanport catchment

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posted on 2023-05-26, 02:41 authored by Kelly, MJ
In Tasmania's Little Swanport catchment there has been 12 years of diverse effort in research, planning and implementation to progress integrated catchment management (ICM), and natural resource management (NRM). Those labours provide an opportunity to reflect upon how to improve prospects for success in the application of ICM in that catchment; the lessons gained may have wider application given the national governance framework for NRM in Australia. The present study has four aims. The first aim is to present a critical analysis of the impacts of changes in the legislative, policy and administrative frameworks of NRM at national, state and local government levels. That analysis is informed by and sympathetic to the literature on adaptive management. The second aim is to elaborate upon a case study of onground initiatives at catchment and property scales in the Little Swanport catchment that embrace specific ICM and more general NRM strategies. That case study was based on qualitative research methods and especially those indebted to my ethnographic and action-research interventions as a participant researcher working in both the catchment and broader NRM policy circles in southern Tasmania. The third aim was to take insights from the critical analysis and fold them through those gained from the empirical work to gain an appreciation of how ICM is translated from policy to ground and with what effects for those involved in the process. The rationale for this three-step approach is that the Catchment Committee I have worked with was funded by the Australian Government through one of three regional NRM organisations, NRM South, to develop a whole-of-catchment and whole-ofecosystem planning model for the Little Swanport that could be applied more widely throughout the region. Therefore, I am both a subject in and student of the process reported here. Qualitative research methods allow for this dual status. Findings suggest that stakeholders ‚Äö- federal and state governments, local councils and community members alike ‚Äö- did not fully consider a number of cultural and governance parameters and practices that are imperative to multilateral land management ‚Äö- among them trust, commitment and communication. Without such qualities being consciously present and maintained, evidence suggests that ICM processes were doomed to fail. To counteract such an outcome, my fourth aim was to identify what qualities might be necessary for the successful delivery of ICM in southern Tasmania. These include genuine commitment to ICM for a determined length of time by key stakeholders, adequate resourcing to ensure the ongoing engagement of skilled locally based professional extension staff, and on occasion independent facilitators, a clearly articulated purpose for bringing stakeholders together, the creation of a framework and culture to facilitate trust, the development of a communication strategy and processes for conflict resolution. Additionally, ICM must be informed by research efforts identified by and involving local stakeholders. Realistic actions and expectations are essential ‚Äö- ones that recognise and respect the commitment and capacity for volunteers and paid staff. Finally, successful ICM requires a conscious adaptive management approach to enable a positive collaborative process, which results in behavioural change that maintains and improves the ecological, social and economic condition of the catchment in question.


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