Published on November 27, 2008
Managing Australian Soils a policy discussion paper Andrew Campbell www.triplehelix.com.au 1 Outline • Introduction • Vision & objectives • Policy Context • Suggested improvements • The way ahead 2 1
Strategic Options 1. New omnibus national NRM framework — as part of a rethink of Federal machinery of govt 2. Stand alone National Soils Strategy 3. Improving soils literacy and delivery within the current system 3 Structure & Contents Introduction 1 Vision & Guiding Principles 3 The policy context 8 Improving the policy & delivery framework 17 rebuilding commitment 18 rebuilding the knowledge base 24 rebuilding capacity 29 soils within the regional model 32 A way forward (specific ideas) 34 APPENDIX A. Summary of relevant Australian policies 41 APPENDIX B. International developments in soil policy 4 2
Commitment, Knowledge and Capacity • The ultimate goal is more sustainable soil management • This paper looks at soil science, policy and info from a demand perspective • In order to get better soil management on the ground, people need to want to do it, know how to do it, and be able to do it • i.e. the three key ingredients are commitment, knowledge and capacity 5 Guiding principles Soil is a crucial natural resource, soil degradation is serious, and good soil management is important — prevention is much better value than cure; SO 1. It behoves people, communities, industries and governments not to knowingly degrade soil resources; 2. Soil management and policy decisions at all levels should be based on the best available knowledge; 3. Sustainable soil management is most likely to be achieved through integrated approaches to sustainable agriculture and NRM where long term soil condition is built in as a core consideration; 4. Governments have a responsibility to provide an institutional framework that encourages and supports sustainable management of soil resources; 6 3
Guiding principles (2) 5. Governments also have a responsibility to provide an institutional framework that constrains and discourages unsustainable management of soil resources; 6. Industries that depend on soils have a responsibility to inform themselves about their impact on soil condition, and to promote and support sustainable soil management practices within their industry; 7. With the right to own, manage and use land and soil, landholders accept a duty of care to prevent soil degradation, and to implement management practices that maintain or improve soil condition and productive capacity; 8. Sustainable management of soil resources across the country requires coordination, cooperation and collaboration among all levels of government in partnership with industry, land and water managers and the community, regardless of land tenure. 7 Policy context - the basic problem • Soils seem to have fallen off the NRM map; • a lack of recognition of the linkages between soil management and climate, water and food security; • general decline in dedicated soils initiatives; • depreciation of the knowledge base and the monitoring effort; • moribund soils profession (recruitment problems). 8 4
Rebuilding commitment • We need a new narrative around the importance of better soil management in Australia, and the measures needed to achieve that; – significant national investment would maximise returns from existing investments in water and carbon accounting, and deliver benefits in terms of food, water, biodiversity, greenhouse gas abatement and carbon sequestration – we need credible numbers on the value of well-managed soils to Australia, quantifying potential water and carbon implications, and the costs to the national economy (and specific sectors) of soil degradation • These messages then need a targeted communication effort, focused on the value proposition 9 Rebuilding the knowledge base • We need better knowledge in order to make better decisions, to foment innovation and to learn as we go along; • McKenzie et al have documented deficiencies in the soils mapping base and monitoring effort, and why: – it is difficult, long term, not sexy; – staffing is a challenge with institutional flux and high turnover; – a fragmented, patchy overall effort across many agencies; – short term funding needs predominate. 10 5
Rebuilding capacity • multi-faceted education and training approach: – at tertiary levels within degrees such as agriculture, forestry, geography, water, climate and generalist environmental science; – opportunities for post-graduate training and research; – in-service adult education (combining face to face and web-based teaching) for policy staff, planners, community group leaders and interested landholders; and – “Train the trainer” workshops to assist the 4000 extension staff and people working for catchment bodies to use and extend soil assessment, mapping and monitoring tools. • Re-energise soil conservation extension – including infrastructure and profession – with a full suite of complementary policy instruments 11 Soils and the regional model • The bilaterals are effectively finalised – May be scope to insert more soils emphasis if new govt revisits, but doubtful; – Program priorities more prospective, and National Landcare Program is the most likely; • CMOs are an extremely important target audience; – Could develop generic RCTs and MATs for soils; – And exemplar on-ground investment projects; – Incorporated in training modules for CMO staff. • As for other audiences, we must nail the ‘why?’ question: – Why invest in soils? – Why are soils so important? 12 6
The way ahead - specific ideas • Answer the ‘why?’ question: – targeted desk-top economic analyses of the costs of soil degradation and the potential returns from investment in prevention – quantify and articulate the linkages between better soil management and reducing net greenhouse emissions, and improvements in water quality and quantity; – quantify the soil carbon store & potential changes in it; – Must be able to refute the drivers behind the market failure in soils data. 13 The way ahead - specific ideas • develop and promote: – generic resource condition targets (RCTs) for soils that regions could use as a template in refining their regional NRM plans; – decision support tools tailored for catchment and regional bodies that assist them to work out the main soil management issues and opportunities within their region; – generic management action targets (MATs) for soils, perhaps for each agro-ecological zone; and – exemplar on-ground soils projects from across the regions, showing how catchment bodies and/or industry groups are working to improve soil management. 14 7
The way ahead - specific ideas • Some fixes for the soils knowledge base: – A permanent monitoring agency; – Formalise the expert panels; – Fix up ASRIS so that it can receive and report on data from monitoring programs; – A network of long term research and monitoring sites; – contextual datasets that characterise the drivers of soil change; – R&D to improve methods for monitoring soil condition; – Link local scale and broad scale monitoring 15 Next Steps • Finalise first draft in response to feedback from NCST and AAC • Consultation with key stakeholders • Communication products early 2008 • NRPPC circulation in February • Consideration at May 08 NRPPC 16 8
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