Client: Department of Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities
The Department of Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities is an Australian Government department responsible for advising the Australian Government on its policies for protecting the environment and water resources, administering environment and heritage laws, managing the Australian Government’s main environment and heritage programs, implementing an effective response to climate change and representing the Australian Government in international environmental agreements related to the environment and Antarctica.
Key issues prevailing at commencement
- The Australian Government has invested in significant policy and program activities that have focussed on Weeds of National Significance (WoNS). Australia now has 32 weeds that the Australian and state and territory governments agree are WoNS. These are weeds that have been impacting on Australia’s economic and environmental assets based on their invasiveness, potential for further spread and ongoing cost and threat.
- In terms of policy, the National Weeds Strategy was agreed between the Commonwealth and states/territories in 1997. This was revised as the Australian Weeds Strategy in 2006. Over that time and to the present, WoNS management has been targeted through Australian Government investment under the Natural Heritage Trust (1996 to 2008) and from 2008-09, Caring for our Country.
- Commonwealth support for weeds focussed R&D has been provided through two Cooperative Research Centres from 1995 to 2008, the Defeating the Weeds Menace program from 2004 to 2008 and the National Weeds and Productivity Research Program from 2008 to 2012.
- Ongoing weeds research is supported through CSIRO, universities and rural Research and Development Corporations.
- With the conclusion of the first phase of Caring for our Country on 30 June 2013, the Australian GovernmentLand and Coasts of the Department of Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities and Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry sought independent advice on the effectiveness of current WoNS management activities funded through the first five years of Caring for our Country.
Key services provided by Inovact
- Inovact Consulting developed a Program Logic Outcomes Framework for Caring for our Country WoNS management activities. The framework identifies the links between essential foundational management activities; first level outputs and outcomes; intermediate management activities and outcomes; and long-term impacts. It provided the basis for the evaluation.
- Inovact reviewed a sample comprising 24 projects which were funded through the Caring for our Country open call rounds of funding and from regional base level funding which had WoNS objectives. The sample represented nearly $52.5m of Caring for our Country investment over the three financial years examined across a range of investment targets including WoNS.
- Research conducted for the evaluation included extensive desktop research of Caring for our Country grants and their reports, a literature review of current scientific and research findings, and interactions with recipients of the grants and the national WoNS coordinators.
Outcomes and value to date
- Inovact identified the main attributes of effective WoNS investments as:
a) Reducing the impact and threat of WoNS on Australia’s biodiversity (native flora, fauna and ecosystems), protect threatened species and ecological communities, enhance habitat condition and connectivity, and strengthen ecological resilience and productive capacity;
b) Identifying and maintaining containment lines around core infestations, eradicating or controlling outlier infestations through early detection and rapid response, bringing core infestations under management control and eradicating where feasible and appropriate;
c) Building Australia’s capacity to address weed problems and improving weed management based on risk management and prioritisation of key assets for protection;
d) Monitoring and evaluating the before and after (management intervention) condition of targeted WoNS and biodiversity;
e) Generating data (with spatial attribution where appropriate) that identifies the progress of reducing the impact of WoNS on Australia’s biodiversity.
- We produced a comprehensive evidence-based report for the Department on the effectiveness of Caring for our Country WoNS management activities that are illustrated by the 24 project assessments and four case studies.
- The report identified five priority areas and made nine recommendations for improving investments in WoNS management activities during the second phase of Caring for our Country beginning on 1 July 2013.