Governments must work with Landcare

Not a day goes by that we are not bombarded by the depressing narrative that leads us to believe we are fighting a losing battle in the protection of our natural environment - climate change, loss of biodiversity, soil and waterway degradation, loss of agricultural productivity - the list goes on.

As populations grow, the need for food, energy and raw materials accelerates, placing the natural capital that underpins farm production and ecosystems under increasing pressure.

These issues are complex and can only be addressed by finding solutions that are co-designed, co-managed and co-delivered by communities working collaboratively with relevant stakeholders, including government.

Landcare is critically important to our collective need to find solutions to these complex problems. While Landcare was formed 30 years ago, it is more relevant, powerful and effective today than it was in 1989.

The Landcare movement in Australia has over 100,000 volunteers organised into more than 6000 groups operating in our rural and regional areas and major cities. Landcare has the social capital, intimate local knowledge, expertise and volunteer resources that allows for implementation of on-ground solutions. The value Landcare provides to the Australian economy is immense. A recent study indicated that Landcare in NSW generates over $500 million per year to the state's economy.

Governments invest billions of taxpayers' money, employing top-down program design and implementation to find solutions to environmental and farming challenges. When one considers that the majority of Australia is privately owned, it is obvious that solutions to environmental and agricultural issues require the engagement of landowners. It is therefore no surprise that top-down government programs fail to deliver.

Landcare is a unique vehicle for the design and delivery of government programs that relate to environmental protection and farm sustainability. Government needs to understand that they have a unique opportunity to partner with community Landcare to co-design, co-deliver and co-manage on-ground environmental and agricultural programs that deliver long term results.

By working with Landcare, government will ensure its programs adequately consider key facets of the local landscape and cultural practices, and leverage Landcare's immense social capital at the local level, ensuring buy-in by farmers and landowners.

Dr Adrian Zammit CEO Landcare NSW