University Of Tasmania
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Tasmania's native vegetation policy : towards an integrated framework

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posted on 2023-05-26, 05:12 authored by Harris, S
Vegetation policy initiatives were rare throughout much of Tasmania's European history until the 1970s. Evidence of policy learning was even rarer, and no substantial policy framework existed until the proclamation of the National Parks and Wildlife Act 1970. This was the chief instrument until it was eclipsed in importance for vegetation management in 1997 by the Regional Forest Agreement. Although developed to support a sustainable forest industry, it has developed a wider importance as the principal de facto vegetation policy framework, arguably overshadowing the importance of other Acts and policies. Evaluation and learning mechanisms are built into the Regional Forest Agreement and episodic improvements at the policy level have been demonstrated as a result. Both these instruments however, are considered to fall short of a comprehensively articulated development of vegetation policy because of gaps and the limitations of their particular perspectives. From the 1980s, following the strengthening of Commonwealth control over natural resources, most policy initiatives in vegetation have originated at the national level. The state has been responsive to these initiatives developed sometimes bilaterally with the Commonwealth or often multilaterally with other states and territories and the Commonwealth. National obligations under international agreements have been the eventual impetus for a wide range of actions at the state level. While Commonwealth and state policy objectives have tended to converge, there is still a poorly coordinated policy pathway from state government level to local government and Natural Resource Management (NRM) regional bodies. The national agenda-setting over the last two decades has resulted in some policy gaps at the state level. A sub-optimal policy and process milieu exists for dealing with many vegetation issues. There has also been the construction of an excessively intricate administrative and policy delivery framework. The small size of the state and its bureaucracy, and close professional relationships of some of the actors, may have benefited the implementation of this framework. There is ample evidence that useful policy development has occurred as a result of program and project evaluation. Therefore, various policy-learning approaches do provide a productive theoretical framework to examine the development of Tasmanian vegetation policy. In the vegetation arena, review, lesson-drawing and consequent change have been evident in Tasmanian public policy. However, one shortcoming has been the apparent lack of continuity in monitoring programs and evaluation at the broadest level. Another has been the isolation in which most reviews and policy evaluation have been done. The extent to which lesson learning occurred was scant up until the 1990s. Evidence for lesson learning became apparent after the 1970s and from the 1990s the evaluation of policy became widespread. A relevant question addressed in this thesis is not so much what can be learned, but who is there to learn it? A speculative vegetation management policy framework is proposed. A Native Vegetation Act could form the central part of a framework. This would be the first ever specific Tasmanian Native Vegetation Act. This would include some of the policy measures currently contained under the Regional Forest Agreement framework but which are suggested could be migrated to the provisions of a new Act, leaving the Regional Forest Agreement and whatever may succeed it, as an industry sustainability plan. This would unburden it of needing to bear the responsibility of policy prescriptions that ought to be in place regardless. A new Act would establish requirements for a minimum native vegetation cover, research, monitoring and evaluation, information management, fire, vegetation conservation tools, measures to facilitate sustainable use of commercial products from native vegetation. An administrative framework would include high-level advisory councils for fire, information, conservation status of vegetation communities, conservation status of flora species and vegetation-based products and industries. Such a structure as proposed here is aimed at rapid adoption of program and policy lessons in a whole-of-government framework.


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