The Council of Australian Governments (COAG) meets tomorrow (Friday) in Canberra. On the agenda is the need for an intergovernmental agreement on native vegetation.
This follows on from the findings of an August 2004 Productivity Commission Report on ‘The Impacts of Vegetation Management and Biodiversity Regulations’ which concluded that much of the legislation enacted to protect native vegetation has actually become an impediment to native vegetation protection.
A report by James Whelan and Kristen Lyons titled ‘Rethinking deliberative governance: dissecting the Queensland landclearing campaign’ gives some insight into what drove the campaigning in Queensland that drove the legislation in Queensland. (It would be great if the Queensland Conservation Council made the entire report accessible from their website as it is a fascinating read.) And I quote from their report:
Firstly, it (the legislation) represents a significant shift in Queensland, and indeed Australian history, by establishing a framework for the regulation of land use on both leasehold and freehold land. This represents a significant departure from dominant ideologies that accept private landowners retain sovereignty over land management.
Secondly, it indicates conditional support for regional governance processes by conservationists. In this case they were unwilling to support those with limited or flawed terms of reference despite acknowledging the potential for collaborative natural resource management to foster civil society, social capital and democratic legitimacy of land management decisions. These outcomes are important prerequisites for the implementation of regulation. However, the macro settings for these consultative processes attracted strident critique from the conservation movement. Regional processes, were identified as a “business as usual” approach to land use, which established a narrow framework for policy setting that limited the possibility of achieving significant positive conservation outcomes. Many ENGOs were consequently highly critical of these so-called collaborative models, and refused to participate.
The third insight to emerge from this landclearing campaign related to concerned the powerful impact of community action and political contestation by ENGOs. Rather than relying on partnership models of governance which may have been conducive to local ownership of management decisions and enhance social capital, the landclearing campaign was resolved through conflict and contestation. Rather than directing energies into collaborating within a flawed framework, and risk being captured by a process with a narrow and restricted agenda, ENGOs engaged in a diverse range of campaign strategies to pressure government to govern. Importantly, the landclearing case demonstrates the determination of the conservation movement to hold government accountable for responsible natural resource management, rather than deferring to problematic consultative processes. In conclusion, the success of this campaign suggests that the emphasis placed on a narrowly defined set of social capital indicators in prevailing natural resource management arrangements may overlook the broader range of political and social strategies that can effect social change.
Some western Queensland landholders will meet tomorrow to consider their options, their campaign, to get the legislation changed. They believe that in its current form it is impractical, and concurr with the Productivity Commission report that it is also an impediment to environmental protection. I will be a speaker at the meeting to be held at 2.00pm in the Memorial Sports Club, Blackall. BBQ and drinks to follow. All welcome.