Overview of the National Landcare Program
The National Landcare Program is a key part of the Australian Government’s long-standing commitment to support natural resource management (NRM), biodiversity protection and sustainable agricultural practices. The National Landcare Program, funded through the Natural Heritage Trust, is an ongoing program with designated reviews ahead of establishing a new phase.
Under National Landcare Program Phase 1, the government invested $1 billion over four years – from 2014-15 to 2017-18. The government continued its commitment to the program with a $1.1 billion investment in Phase 2 of the National Landcare Program. Phase 2 of the program is being delivered over five years – from 2018-19 to 2022-23 – supporting a range of measures for NRM, biodiversity protection and sustainable agricultural practices. Further information on Phase 2 can be found under Current programs.
The Review of Phase 2 of the National Landcare Program
The Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment reviewed Phase 2 by examining the effectiveness of the program against its intended outcomes.
Full terms of reference used to guide the review are below.
The Australian Government is committed to improving the delivery of the National Landcare Program to ensure the health of our natural resources, sustainable agriculture and protection of Australia’s biodiversity. The National Landcare Program is the government’s primary commitment to natural resource management and, as part of the Natural Heritage Trust, is an ongoing program with reviews between each budgeted period.
The Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment, in consultation with regional Natural Resource Management (NRM) organisations, Landcare groups, farmer groups, industry bodies, research providers, key non-government organisations, Commonwealth and state agencies, will conduct this review to examine the effectiveness of the National Landcare Program phase 2 and consider design options for the next phase of the National Landcare Program that are consistent with the government’s long-term strategic policy priorities.
The review will focus on the National Landcare Program as a whole, considering the contribution from the outcomes of sub-program reviews. The review will also seek to understand and highlight the key elements of successful delivery of the National Landcare Program’s intended outcomes.
The review will report on:
- the effectiveness of the National Landcare Program phase 2 in delivering sustainable agriculture, environmental and biodiversity outcomes, and broader community benefits
- the appropriateness of the National Landcare Program phase 2 objectives, and the alignment of sub-programs, and projects with national NRM priorities
- the effectiveness and efficiency of delivery arrangements including procurements, grants, and payments to States in delivering the National Landcare Program phase 2 intended outcomes
- the effectiveness of Landcare organisations and regional NRM organisations (including Regional Land Partnerships (RLP) delivery service providers) in engaging the participation of regional communities, Indigenous communities, industry, and research institutions in delivering the National Landcare Program phase 2 intended outcomes
- the effectiveness of monitoring, reporting and evaluation in measuring progress towards, or demonstrating achievements of the National Landcare Program phase 2 intended outcomes.
Consultation on co-design of future sub-programs is out-of-scope as this would occur after government has considered the review and made decisions about the next phase of the program.
The review may consider information from the following sources:
- Current National Landcare Program phase 2 sub-program reviews, including the RLP program, the Indigenous Protected Areas program, the 20 Million Trees program and the Smart Farms program.
- A targeted on-line stakeholder survey to be conducted for the purposes of informing this review.
- A series of national and regional stakeholder meetings (formal and informal, face-to-face and virtual) which will include the regional NRM organisations (including RLP delivery service providers), Indigenous organisations, farmer groups, industry bodies, research providers (including the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation), Landcare organisations, key non-government organisations, Commonwealth and state agencies.
- Advice provided by the Expert Reference Panel, convened for the purpose and duration of this review.
- Advice provided by the Natural Heritage Ministerial Board.
- A high level Senior Executive Reference Group from the Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment convened for the purpose and duration of this review.
- Advice provided through Inter-departmental consultation.
- Available reporting data under the National Landcare Program phase 2.
- The objectives of other government initiatives directed to natural resource management. sustainable agriculture and biodiversity conservation.
- The report on the 2016 Review of the National Landcare Program.
- Other relevant sources and literature discoverable during the term of the review.
Natural Heritage Ministerial Board
The Natural Heritage Ministerial Board will provide guidance, strategic direction and organisational oversight on the operations and findings of the review.
Senior Executive Reference Group
The review will be conducted by the Department of Agriculture, Water, and the Environment. A high level Senior Executive Reference Group made up of relevant Division and Branch heads will provide guidance, strategic direction and organisational oversight on the operations and findings of the review.
Expert Reference Panel
A panel of scientists and natural resource management practitioners will be engaged during the Review to ensure that expert scientific and technical advice is available on key issues, practice and implementation barriers relevant to the review. The Expert Reference Panel will provide advice to the Review through the Senior Executive Reference Group. The Expert Reference Panel may be drawn from universities, NRM organisations and government institutions.
The Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment will consult with other Australian Government Departments including the National Indigenous Australians Agency, the Treasury, the Department of Finance, the Bureau of Meteorology and the Department of Industry, Science, Energy and Resources. The outcomes from inter-departmental consultation will be provided to the Senior Executive Reference Group for consideration.
The review will present its findings and recommendations to the government by November 2021.
The review was conducted in consultation with regional NRM organisations, Landcare groups, farmer groups, industry bodies, Indigenous groups and research providers.
Review Aims and Scope
The review of the National Landcare Program Phase 2 aimed to give stakeholders the opportunity to provide government with their views on the effectiveness of the program and its delivery arrangements.
Stakeholders were able to share their experiences with the National Landcare Program (including its sub-programs), which informed the review findings and potential options for the next phase of the program.
The review also investigated what changes in the operating environment (such as other relevant programs), markets and community expectations are likely to have on the National Landcare Program moving forward, and how future phases of the National Landcare Program may improve the strategic alignment of government and non-government investments into NRM.
The review reported on the:
- effectiveness of the National Landcare Program Phase 2 in delivering sustainable agriculture, environmental and biodiversity outcomes, and broader community benefits
- appropriateness of the National Landcare Program Phase 2 objectives, and the alignment of sub-programs, and projects with national NRM priorities
- effectiveness and efficiency of delivery arrangements including procurements, grants, and payments to states in delivering the National Landcare Program Phase 2 intended outcomes
- effectiveness of Landcare organisations and regional NRM organisations (including Regional Land Partnerships (RLP) delivery service providers) in engaging the participation of regional communities, Indigenous communities, industry, and research institutions in delivering the National Landcare Program Phase 2 intended outcomes
- effectiveness of monitoring, reporting and evaluation in measuring progress towards, or demonstrating achievements of the National Landcare Program Phase 2 intended outcomes.
The review was guided by an Expert Reference Panel (ERP), consisting of scientists, NRM practitioners and farming group representatives to advise on matters relating to the delivery of the review.
The ERP contributed expert knowledge to guide the consultation process and provided advice on how the National Landcare Program is using current research and delivering best practice on-ground.
The review drew on extensive stakeholder consultation designed to ensure as many views and perspectives as possible were considered. Stakeholder consultation ran from mid-September to October 2021 and saw 449 points of engagement, including:
- 14 focus group workshops with 202 participants representing every state and territory. The discussions held in theses workshops covered Phase 2 objectives and priorities, in accordance with the review’s Terms of Reference.
- An online public Have your say survey saw 225 responses including 36 written submissions and provided an opportunity for groups and individuals to share their written feedback on the effectiveness of the National Landcare Program in protecting the environment and enhancing NRM and sustainable agriculture, and identify what is working well and what can be improved.
- 22 targeted interviews which interrogated the key themes and issues identified in the workshops and survey responses.
Due to COVID-19 restrictions all stakeholder consultation was undertaken virtually.
Phase 2 Sub-program Reviews
The review focused on Phase 2 as a whole and considered the contribution from the outcomes of sub-program reviews. Further details of reviews conducted on specific sub-programs run under the National Landcare Program can be found below.
Regional Land Partnerships
Regional Land Partnerships (RLP) is the $450 million flagship program of the Australian Government’s National Landcare Program Phase Two (NLP2), being delivered over 5 years to June 2023.
In late 2021, the Department conducted an internal review of the program to assess how the program is tracking 3 years into its 5 year delivery and to identify learnings that may assist in the design and planning of future programs post June 2023.
The review found the program has remained consistent with its original program design and successfully establishing a procurement based Natural Resource Management delivery program. While the procurement model is supported, there is a desire to reduce administrative burden. In addition, the ANAO Performance Audit of the program identified the procurement processes supported the achievement of value for money.
RLP is contributing to national priorities at the regional level through 4 environment and 2 sustainable agriculture outcomes. At the 3-year point, it has supported 225 projects in 54 Management units across Australia investing in 25 Ramsar wetlands, 58 threatened species, 8 world heritage properties, 20 threatened ecological communities and contributing to significant progress towards medium-term outcomes. In addition, the program has established 54 Regional Agriculture Landcare Facilitator positions to support farmers, industry and community groups (including Landcare Groups) to adopt new and innovative sustainable agriculture practices. Key statistics and achievements of the program as at 30 June 2021 are available in the RLP achievements snapshot.
In late 2021, PricewaterhouseCoopers undertook a mid-term review of the Smart Farms Program (all three elements) for the department. The following consultation was undertaken for the review:
- A survey of Smart Farms participants which received 112 responses from proponents across all three elements
- broader consultation with eight non-proponent industry and other stakeholders from across states and territories on their experiences and interactions with program participants
The review considers the Smart Farms program against its established program logic, including assessments of appropriateness, efficiency and effectiveness in achieving the stated short, medium and long-term outcomes. It also aims to identify gaps in program design and delivery and any potential future improvements to address those gaps regarding Smart Farms or any potential future program. The findings in the review, in conjunction with other feedback, will inform future program designs.
Indigenous Protected Areas Program
The evaluation of the Indigenous Protected Areas (IPA) Program has started.
The IPA Program has been helping Indigenous communities voluntarily dedicate their land or sea country as IPAs since 1997. IPAs combine traditional and contemporary knowledge into a framework to leverage partnerships with conservation and commercial organisations and provide employment, education and training opportunities for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.
The National Indigenous Australians Agency (NIAA) and the Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment (DAWE) are overseeing an evaluation of the IPA Program.
The evaluation will assess the extent to which program objectives and associated environmental, cultural, social and economic outcomes are being achieved. It will also guide continuous improvement in future program design.
On 12 November 2021, the NIAA engaged the services of Ninti One Limited to design and carry out the evaluation.
The evaluation will be conducted in two phases:
- In Phase 1, Ninti One will carry out a desktop review of existing information to guide the collection of new data during Phase 2.
- In Phase 2, new data will be collected and analysed to produce an evaluation report. This will include direct engagement with IPA managers through site visits to 10 IPAs. The evaluation report will make recommendations to the NIAA and DAWE about how to strengthen future program delivery and outcomes.
Ninti One will start contacting IPA managers and key external stakeholders from mid-February 2022 to test their interest in participating in Phase 2 of the evaluation. Phase 2 is anticipated to start following ethics clearance by the Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies.
20 Million Trees Program
The 20 Million Trees Program was initiated in 2014 to re-establish green corridors, urban forests and threatened ecological communities. The department took an innovative approach to delivering the program by using 3 delivery streams: competitive grants; service provider procurement; and non-competitive discretionary grants.
The program has been reviewed, finding that it met its 4 strategic objectives by establishing 20 million trees by 2020, improving native vegetation supporting native species, working cooperatively with the community and contributing to Australia’s carbon sequestration. The program established 29,508,062 trees and 4,061,837 understorey plants through 235 projects. The program spent $61.775 million of its just over $62 million revised budget, which was reduced from the original $70 million budget in line with expected achievement of program objectives.
The 20 Million Trees Program review, released December 2021, used quantitative and qualitative data available at 30 June 2021, from the department’s online Monitoring Evaluation Reporting and Improvement Tool. The Australian Government Department of Industry, Science, Energy and Resources supplied information regarding the contribution of the program to carbon abatement in Australia.