The material below is an extract from the Australians and Natural Resource Management 2002 report. For ease of cross reference, figure, table and section references pertain to the chapter structure of this report. The Further Information section provides links to the full graphics version of the material below and the Australians and Natural Resource Management 2002 report.
Natural resource management decisions
An integrated approach
- Priorities cannot be set by estimates of where costs of current natural resource management practices are highest. To set priorities the effectiveness, benefit, and cost of a solution must be known and the net benefits assessed.
- Private natural resource management goals tend to focus on sustainable production and profitability. Public goals not only include these private goals but also include reducing negative off-site effects and enhancing conservation. Understanding where private and public goals are consistent and where they conflict should be a priority for policy makers.
- Even if natural resource management goals are consistent, land owners may deliver less public good than society would choose as their choice of resource management is driven by their private objectives.
- A five-step approach to assessing the net benefits of any natural resource management option is proposed. It can be used as input into the priority setting and design phases of natural resource management decision making. It provides information to help identify the best socioeconomic option for tackling a specific resource management issue.
Managing natural resources
Awareness of Australia’s natural resource management challenges
There are many goals and stakeholders in managing natural resources. Goals of private land owners include:
- maintaining sustainable profit flows from enterprises that utilise the landscape such as agriculture and tourism; and
- maintaining and improving aesthetics and landscape utility on site for the benefit of the land owner or manager.
Public goals include:
- aesthetics; and
- maintaining landscape utility that provides services such as clean water.
Driven by the precautionary principle, concerns about inter-generational equity or for ethical or other reasons, they also include protection and restoration of the environment for its own sake.
Public and private goals are not always consistent although in some areas and industries, production and conservation objectives can be delivered by the same natural resource management approach. In addition, private management decisions on site can have off-site impacts on both production and conservation in other areas. Divergence in goals and the off-site impacts present the main problems for natural resource management.
Governments, as agents of society, are increasingly concerned about perceptions of worsening resource condition. This is driven, in part, by the values that society as a whole places on the natural environment, not only due to greater recognition of the services provided by the environment, but also its intrinsic value. This is reflected in the increasing controls placed by State and Territory legislation on the use of resources on private land (e.g. restrictions on land clearing and rainfall harvesting). With society increasingly demanding the sustainable use of natural resources, private resource managers are coming under pressure to take account of the public benefits and costs and the off-site impacts of their management decisions as well as their own benefits and costs.
Deterioration in the quality of the resource base occurs for many reasons. Natural processes such as erosion are often accelerated by human disturbance, but some occur regardless of the actions of humans (e.g. soil acidity and sodicity are an inherent part of the resource base). Deterioration due to human interference can also be due to a lack of knowledge, delivering short-term needs at the cost of longer-term returns, or delivering private returns at the cost of public returns. While addressing lack of knowledge can lead to a win-win outcome, an explicit consideration of the public and private benefits and costs is required for sensible resource management where private and public interests do not align.
The scale and scope of problems with the natural resource base are described in Chapters 4 and 5, which bring together biophysical information on landscape change and economic information on the value derived from using the resource base. While economic data on future costs or profits foregone provide information about potential gains by addressing natural resource management (and some inherent) problems, it does not tell us anything about optimal management of the resource as it does not address the cost of correcting the problem. In many cases damage may not be reversible or the cost of addressing the problem may greatly outweigh the benefits—both private and public.
The cost of change in resource management practices is not just the financial cost. It includes the personal cost of making decisions, increased perceived risk and having to acquire the skills and knowledge to implement change. Where these costs are high for individual resource managers, even ‘no regrets’ solutions may not be implemented. Some of the characteristics of farmers that impact on these costs are discussed in Chapter 3.
The risks associated with change in resource management practices involve a complex interaction of agricultural practices and systems, inputs, outputs, prices, uncontrollable constraints (e.g. weather) and resource and social priorities. Ultimately all these issues must be incorporated into any natural resource management framework that takes into account varying response time frames.
The costs and benefits from natural resource management are not static. The social costs and benefits do not necessarily equal the sum of private costs and benefits. The public benefits of successful natural resource management depend on the values placed on social returns—recreation opportunities, ecosystem services and existence values—that are rising with the growing urban population and the change in social norms that favour a high quality natural environment. Falling commodity prices in real terms are reducing the private returns to natural resource management that aim to preserve the resource base for agricultural use. Private land owners will have little incentive to invest in natural resource management for society’s well being if the private returns from the investment fall short of the costs.
The role of government in natural resource management
Where all costs and benefits of natural resource management are borne by the individual (no public costs or benefits), the landholder needs to make optimal decisions in regard to natural resource management. In these cases the government has little role in directing natural resource management as, even if managers are poorly informed about the true costs and benefit, their decisions impact only on themselves. However, it is rarely the case that poor decisions will not impact beyond the ‘farm gate’. Even where off-site physical impacts such as dust storms and increased turbidity in waterways might be minimal, the socioeconomic impacts of poor longer-term profitability of the enterprises provide a role for government, industry, the community and even neighbours, in providing information and decision-making support.
Government has a more active role in preventing or mitigating externalities or off-site effects of poor management as the costs are widespread and degradation is often difficult to identify. Salinity is a clear example of actions in one area affecting many resource users downstream, albeit with a considerable time lag (e.g. the costs of salinity include reduced agricultural productivity for downstream farmers, loss of fishery resources, damage to wetlands and the environment, and higher water treatment costs). A better understanding of the services provided by the natural environment, from cleaner air and water to the services of genetic diversity, has widened the concept of externalities. The potential benefits from protecting some of the services provided by the natural environment are discussed in Chapter 5.
The challenges to achieving sustainable natural resource management stem mainly from:
- a lack of knowledge about the causes and consequences of resource use and deterioration, and hence private decision makers not being fully informed in their choices;
- some issues being inter-generational and requiring a long term view and strategy;
- externalities or spillovers where private actions impact on the quality of the natural resources available to others; and
- differences between private and public objectives, time horizons, and the public good nature of many of the ‘services’ provided by the resource base. These services include existence services such as biodiversity and landscape aesthetics.
What are the challenges to greater investment in natural resource management?
This Audit theme has focused on the capacity of individuals and rural communities to change—that is to invest more and/or more wisely in resource management. Capacity to change presupposes an awareness of current or future problems and a desire for change based on assessments of benefits and costs. Yet the four challenges discussed above as being at the heart of resource management problems explain why some desire change and why others do not.
Figure 2.1 explains how an investment decision process might work with many feedback points.
The first challenge is understanding that there is a problem. A problem is not just perceived or defined in biophysical terms. It imposes costs (e.g. loss of agricultural productivity, loss of ecosystem services and threats to ecosystem existence). These costs depend respectively on the market prices of farm production, the costs of services to replace those of the environment, and the values placed on the existence of natural ecosystems. But even recognising costs, and hence potential benefits, is not sufficient—there must also be recognised solutions. Lack of information on not only which management practices to undertake, but also on the consequences of any management practice is perhaps the biggest challenge to investment in natural resource management.
Challenges arise from conflicts between natural resource management for private and public returns and from competing uses of investment resources. The motivation to address a resource management problem comes from expected benefits exceeding expected costs. These benefits and costs include time and effort as well as financial returns, social impacts and changes in risk exposures. The discount rate that individuals and organisations apply impacts on their assessment of lifetime costs and benefits (e.g. farmers who are nearing the end of their working life and do not wish to leave the farm to the next generation may place a lower value on the longer-term benefit flow from such investments).
The challenge to investment is to overcome barriers caused by lack of capacity rather than lack of understanding or motivation. Capacity is defined here to mean physical and financial resources, skills, and institutions to implement a desired policy, program or action (e.g. investments that require large up-front cash injections, face financial constraints and/or are complex may be beyond the capacity of many landowners). Chapter 3 looks at the characteristics of individual farmers to see how they interact with the characteristics of practices and the impact on adoption.
Investment can be a reorganisation of production systems, change in land use, as well as change in land management practices. The challenge for policy makers is:
- to fully understand the nature of the problems and identify the barriers to adoption;
- to assess whether the gains from change will exceed the costs; and
- if this is the case, to design policies to reduce the barriers and promote adoption.
Natural resource management is all about investment in protecting and remediating the natural resource base and about encouraging people and communities to acquire the necessary resources to do this. And like all investments, hard decisions have to be made about how much to invest relative to other investments, and what types and levels of investment yield satisfactory returns. This chapter develops a framework to address these issues. The overwhelming conclusion of the research for this work is that there are no easy answers—but the work presented here should help guide decision-making processes as well as providing critical information to inform choices.
The institutional framework for natural resource management policy
The 1992 Intergovernmental Agreement on the Environment between the Commonwealth, States and Territories and the National Strategy for Ecologically Sustainable Development provided a framework for a cooperative approach to environmental decision making, policy development and program implementation. The Council of Australian Governments and its Ministerial Councils and the working groups reporting to these bodies have the task of coordinating natural resource management policy.
The Intergovernmental Agreement on the Environment also provided for the establishment of the National Environmental Protection Council. This statutory body is able to make law and is made up of Ministers from State, Territory and Commonwealth governments. It has responsibility for making environmental protection measures.
Constitutionally the States and Territories are responsible for land and water management. Consequently in a federal system of government, collaborative and consultative arrangements have been developed, regionally and locally, to deliver focused, action-oriented programs such as the National Landcare Program and Natural Heritage Trust.
The National Strategy for Ecologically Sustainable Development commits Australian governments to ensure that land use decision- making processes and land use allocations meet the overall goal of ecologically sustainable development and are based on a consideration of all land values, uses and flow-on effects. Under the National Strategy for Ecologically Sustainable Development, governments are working to:
- clarify and publicise policies and legislation for land access (including the conservation and heritage estate);
- promote multiple and sequential land and marine area use, while recognising that there are areas of exceptional environmental or cultural value that are not compatible with economic development;
- develop cooperative and consultative arrangements between jurisdictions; and
- continue efforts to improve understanding of Australia’s natural resource base and work towards land use planning and decision making processes which take these values into account.
In recent years the Commonwealth and the States have developed a number of strategies and plans designed to move Australia forward in relation to nationally important issues and to redress specific problems that are limiting to the productive capacity of agriculture or posing risks to the environment.
Within the framework of the National Strategy for Ecologically Sustainable Development a number of strategies and plans provide a focus for particular resource issues, including the National Greenhouse Strategy, National Strategy for the Conservation of Australia’s Biological Diversity, the National Forest Policy Statement, the National Weeds Strategy, the National Strategy for Agricultural and Veterinary Chemicals, the National Principles and Guidelines for Rangeland Management.
Initiatives also include the revised National Overview for the Decade of Landcare Plan (the main strategic plan for the National Landcare Program), the National Water Quality Management Strategy and the Council of Australian Governments Water Reform Framework.
Additional strategies and plans are being developed between the three levels of Australian governments and regional and community interest groups. These include the National Action Plan for Salinity and Water Quality, a Salinity Management Strategy for the Murray–Darling Basin and a rehabilitation strategy for the Great Artesian Basin groundwater resource. The Audit has provided benchmark information for these and other initiatives.
The complex nature of the causes of lack of sustainability within Australia and the range of participants require a mix of instruments to provide effective solutions. Therefore Australian governments are undertaking a range of measures to address sustainability issues. These measures include:
- developing partnerships across State, Territory and local governments and community groups that coordinate policies and activities to more effectively address resource degradation concerns that are nationally significant. Examples include agreements such as Regional Forestry Agreements for the management of specific types of forests and strategic management plans developed for specific regions. Initiatives such as the Natural Heritage Trust and the National Action Plan for Salinity and Water Quality are funding a wide range of activities to address high priority natural resource degradation issues;
- supporting research and enhanced access to information by landholders and community groups, such as the National Land and Water Resources Audit (information) and National Dryland Salinity Program (research);
- introducing regulatory approaches, such as restrictions on land clearing and capping water allocations in the Murray–Darling Basin;
- creating market-based mechanisms to encourage sustainable and economically viable natural resource management such as water pricing;
- conducting comprehensive environmental impact assessments by Commonwealth and State/Territory agencies of proposals (e.g. for mining developments in environmentally significant areas) that ensure that possible impacts on biodiversity, water resources and fragile ecosystems are taken into account;
- seeking, in accordance with the Council of Australian Governments (COAG) Water Reform Framework, to ensure the provision of environmental water allocations necessary to maintain biodiversity and ecosystem services; and
- supporting traditional owners in sustainable land use methods in national parks (Agenda 21—Australia).
Australia-wide legislation also provides tools for facilitating and implementing a sustainable approach to natural resource management. The Environmental Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act1999 (Cwlth) has six objectives.
- To provide for the protection of the environment, especially those aspects of national environmental significance.
- To promote ecologically sustainable development through the conservation and ecologically sustainable use of natural resources.
- To promote the conservation of biodiversity.
- To promote a cooperative approach to the protection and management of the environment involving governments, the community, landholders and Indigenous people.
- To recognise the role of Indigenous people in the conservation and ecologically sustainable use of Australia’s biodiversity.
- To promote the use of Indigenous people’s knowledge of biodiversity with the involvement of and in cooperation with the owners of that knowledge.
This Act also includes mandatory reporting requirements on environmentally sustainable development for Australian government agencies, including the extent to which environmentally sustainable development principles are applied in decision making.
Returns to natural resource management and how they might be assessed
The natural resource base:
- prioritises direct inputs into industries which deliver income and employment benefits;
- delivers supporting services for industries and households (e.g. clean air and water); and
- provides opportunities for recreation and enjoyment.
By its very existence it infers benefits. These benefits are enhanced by management to protect and restore the natural resource. Some of these benefits are discussed below to provide a perspective on how they might be assessed.
- Agriculture uses about 60% of the land base and approximately 80% of the water used in Australia. It contributes about 3% to gross domestic product. Management that protects the inherent productivity of the resource base (e.g. maintaining soil nutrients and structure and providing high quality water for irrigation and stock) delivers higher yields and/or lower input costs than would otherwise be the case. The net value of the resource base to agriculture is estimated to be between $6 and $7 billion (Chapter 1). Chapter 4 provides a baseline estimate of the potential benefit if a specific set of resource problems—inherent, induced and off-farm—were corrected.
- Fisheries and forestry rely mainly on harvesting native stocks although aquaculture and timber from plantations are increasing. These industries currently contribute around 0.2% of gross domestic product. Although increasingly these products are farmed, sustainable harvesting of naturally occurring stocks has been a major resource management issue for some time. Despite management policies, most native forests and fisheries resources have been declining, partly from:
- conscious decisions such as land clearing for agriculture;
- failure to control extraction rates; and
- lack of knowledge of the size and vulnerability of the resource to natural and human-induced changes.
Socially optimal rates of harvest tend to be below economically optimal rates as society places greater value on existence and has a lower discount rate (i.e. a lower rate of trading off future consumption for consumption now). Estimates of sustainable harvest rates also vary depending on uncertainty about stocks and replacement rates.
- The landscape and ecosystems play a major role in supporting tourism both directly, through the provision of natural attractions, and indirectly, through the provision of viable country towns with cultural heritage. Visitors to Australia are attracted by pristine beaches, coral reefs and ‘wilderness’, as well as ecotourism. Yet the benefit to the tourism industry of good resource management is rarely considered as it is hard to establish how many tourists would visit and what their rate of spending would be with and without good resource management.
- Viable, prosperous country communities are a valued asset. Estimates of these values, based on a ‘choice modelling’ study, are given in Chapter 5.
- Recreation, from bushwalking to swimming, fishing and sailing, benefits from good resource management as little of this activity is conducted in the market economy. Establishing the value of management is difficult. Some of the non-market use value of the environment was captured in the choice modelling estimates of environmental values in Chapter 5. Other approaches to estimating these values are travel cost methods and contingent valuation surveys.
- The values of the services provided by ecosystems, including clean water and air, are starting to be recognised, but are not easy to establish. One approach is to look at the cost of fixing the problems caused by less than clean air and water—used to assess the cost of poor water quality for urban infrastructure in Chapter 5. Another approach is to estimate the value of the service as the price of preventing problems by using alternative technology—used where there is a preventive mechanism such as water treatment systems for urban water.
- Preserving the natural environment for inter-generational equity, for the option to use later and for precautionary principles forms an additional set of benefits from natural resource management. These values can only be revealed indirectly as there is no market to establish a ‘price’ and they are essentially public goods—they are available to all and not excludable. The value placed by the public on these benefits can be estimated through revealed-preference techniques such as choice modelling, contingent valuation and hedonic pricing methods. The choice modelling technique is used in Chapter 5 to estimate values for native species protection.
The benefits referred to in Figure 2.2 are gross benefits. Against these must be set the costs of maintaining or enhancing our natural resources—implementing resource management—which include direct costs of putting the practice in place and indirect costs in terms of foregone benefits if use of resources is restricted as a result of the practice. Benefits derived also depend on the success of resource management in achieving restoration and protection outcomes. There is still much to learn about effective management options.
A decision framework for policy makers
Who has responsibility for resource management?
Resource managers fall into a hierarchy:
- managers who undertake investment on their own or on others’ behalf.
- groups who provide guidance or set rules at an industry, catchment or regional level,
- managers at State and national levels providing guidance, setting rules and allocating resources to the middle level (Figure 2.3).
Constitutionally, the States and Territories are responsible for land and water management. Consequently in a federal system of government, collaborative and consultative arrangements have been developed through programs such as the National Landcare Program, Natural Heritage Trust and National Action Plan for Salinity and Water Quality.
Figure 2.2 illustrates some of the sources of benefits which accrue from our natural resources.
What are the problems facing policy makers?
Policy makers need to know—what to do, how to do it and how to fund it. Given limited resources policy makers must establish priorities. They need to determine:
- size and location of the problem and economic, environmental and social costs if it is not addressed—this will depend on the number of people impacted, the economic importance of the activity affected, the nature of environmental damage and the vulnerability of the group to a shock and, hence, the social costs;
- timing and type of actions imperative for addressing the problem—will the situation deteriorate quickly if not addressed? and
- who is, or should be, addressing the problem—is there a role for government due to market failure, lack of information or divergence between private and social goals and objectives?
These three issues seek to establish a baseline showing what will happen under an operating environment of ‘business as usual’. However, where baseline trends suggest priority the most important piece of information for the policy maker is whether there is a feasible alternative outcome. In particular the:
- availability of solutions and benefits that will flow from successful implementation; and
- cost of successfully implementing options, relative to the benefits.
Figure 2.4 sets out the four phases in natural resource management decision making and some of the key issues facing the policy maker.
Business as usual
Business as usual is a continuation of current policies, on-farm and off-farm management practices, similar levels of adoption and adaptation, access to knowledge and information; current trends in markets or environmental variability assumed consistent with current agricultural productivity trends.
A rapid assessment framework
A rapid assessment framework, that combines environmental, social and economic aspects of natural resource assessment into the natural resource management decision-making process (Figure 2.4), was established. The five step rapid assessment framework described in this section primarily supports the Priorities Phase (Phase I) in the decision making process.
Steps to assessment
The five basic steps to assessing priorities for action (Phase I in Figure 2.4) are applicable at the level of the policy maker, catchment committee, community group and individual land manager. They aim to set out a process for estimating the total net benefit of undertaking any policy or practice. Those with the highest net benefits should take priority. Measurement of costs and benefits in dollar terms is a convenience as it allows for easy comparison across space and time. While environmental and social impacts are difficult to quantify, failure to do so may lead to their being left out of the assessment. Hence even if dollar assessments are not made, comparable quantification of the physical outcomes is advised. These can then be included in decision rules (e.g. establishing minimum acceptable change levels as one criterion).
- Step 1—establish a baseline—what will happen if nothing is done beyond current measures to address deterioration in the resource base?
- Step 2—identify potential solutions (options) and their expected outcome—what are the benefits that flow from an action? These outcomes need to be described in terms of their economic, environmental and social impacts. An estimate of the uncertainty over these outcomes is also required. The potential benefit estimate should reflect expected adoption and/or effectiveness rates and not assume 100% adoption or effectiveness.
- Step 3—identify the direct and indirect costs of the potential solutions or options—what are the financial costs, the costs of foregone production (less any reduction in input costs) and the unintended environmental costs (if any) and social costs of the change?
- Step 4—net benefit assessment—net benefits are realised when the discounted benefits that were estimated in identification of potential solutions (Step 2) relative to the baseline costs (Step 1) are greater than the discounted direct and indirect costs of the potential solutions estimated in Step 3. Key issues are:
the appropriate discount rate to use will vary between private and public decisions;
private net returns where benefits flow on to others; and
for the public decision maker, the comparison of the return on the natural resource management investment relative to other investments.
- Step 5—assessment of other constraints and policy effectiveness—are there other constraints to the investment in resource management? How effective are the policy tools available at overcoming these constraints? These assessments need to feed back into Step 2—the likelihood of achieving the desired outcomes, and into Step 3—the cost of the option. The reason this step comes last is that there need to be at least two rounds from Steps 2 to 5. The first round establishes priorities—which requires an assessment of feasibility, the second round pays more attention to design, market cost and effectiveness estimates. Figure 2.5 summarises the framework with regard to public and private costs and benefits.
In this report, an appropriate discount rate for public long-term investments is assumed to be 2–5%. This is an acceptable rate of time preference for evaluating potentially large benefits and costs that accrue across multiple generations. Where private investments are referred to, the discount rate chosen is 10% reflecting a more realistic opportunity cost for private investor funds over a shorter time period.
A rapid assessment process
Undertaking a full benefit–cost analysis of options to address resource management problems is expensive. The Audit’s four salinity case studies (Chapter 6) took several years to do, with much of the time taken up in characterising the biophysical outcomes of the various options. Clearly such a detailed level of analysis should only be undertaken in areas identified as priority areas. Yet the broad scale data available will only provide the first layer of information needed for priority setting. We need an assessment of the costs and likely benefits of options on a case by case basis.
While the Audit work does not claim to do this beyond a few case studies, the projects undertaken provide some guidance on how to proceed. A rapid assessment process is one approach.
The options canvassed in the four salinity case studies were planting trees, switching from annual to perennial pasture, planting deep-rooted perennials such as lucerne and ‘living with the salt’. These case studies showed that local information was critical for assessment—and this is as true with a rapid assessment as with a detailed assessment process. This is because a critical piece of information in at least one of the case studies was only available at the local level—lucerne did not grow in the local soil type in the area, eliminating the option that looked viable on a salinity impact and economic return basis. Rapid assessment must be done at the relevant scale for the problem and the proposed solution.
An example of a set of guidelines for a rapid assessment process is given in Table 2.1. As a general guide a large number of answers in the first column would imply that there is more benefit to addressing these potential problems than if most answers were in the last column. There is considerable interaction between the answers and a simple evaluation of them can provide a guide on the most fruitful way to proceed.
Such guidelines require further development and must be tailored for different situations. Development of guides and ground-truthing using existing detailed case studies is suggested as a follow-up activity to support regional planning such as that under way as part of the National Action Plan for Salinity and Water Quality.
Widening the scope of benefit–cost assessment to include environmental and social costs and benefits
Many texts outline how to undertake a benefit–cost assessment (e.g. CIE 1997). The methods for applying discount rates, estimating net present values and calculating internal rates of return are straightforward. So too, are methods for estimating the sensitivity of the return estimates to variations in key parameters. What is difficult is the clear identification of option costs (including unintended costs), changes resulting from them and an estimation of the often complex impact of these changes. Here, the changes from an option are relative to what would have happened without the option and excluding the impact of any other sources of change. Much progress has been achieved in ensuring that the feedback effects of changes in demand and supply on prices, and quantities of goods and services produced and consumed, are taken into account in estimating benefits and costs.
The focus of most assessments has largely been on the economic impacts. Social impacts are usually included only to the extent that the change in consumer and producer welfare is separately identified. Non-market environmental impacts are rarely included. The framework for estimating benefits and costs allows for incorporation of environmental and social benefits and costs wherever a sensible value can be estimated. This is a significant challenge for social assessment—in terms of method and available data.
Table 2.1 Guidelines for a rapid assessment.
|Biophysical change anticipated|
|What is the area impacted or likely to be impacted by
deterioration in the resource base?
|< 1000 ha||1 m < > 1000 ha||> 1 million ha|
|What is the time profile of the biophysical change anticipated?||>25 years||10 < > 25 years||< 10 years|
|Current resource use values|
|What is the land use(s)? And their gross margin per hectare?||< $500||$5000 < > $500||> $5000|
|How much water is used per hectare?||< 0.5 ML||0.5 ML < > 3 ML||> 3 ML|
|What is the gross value of production per ML of water?||< $50||$500 < > $50||> $500|
|Anticipated impact on land use|
|What proportion of current land use will be able to continue?||> 90%||90% < > 50%||< 50%|
|What is the anticipated reduction in gross margin due to
declining yields/increased inputs on continued current use?
|< 2%||20% < > 2%||> 20%|
|What is the gross margin of the next best alternative
land use given the problem?
|> $5000||$500 < > $5000||< $500|
|What is the estimated cost of repairs/additional depreciation
on public infrastructure affected in the local area?
|< $50 000||$1m < > $50 000||> $1m|
|What is the change in salt and sediment loads in major
downstream river flows?
|< 1%||5% < > 1%||> 5% increase|
|Are there wetlands or other sensitive areas impacted?||No||Yes—minor||Yes—extensive|
|Costs and effectiveness of options|
|Are the current problems reversible?||< 10%||50% < > 10%||> 50%|
|What is the cost of achieving this per hectare?||< $10||$100 < > $10||> $100|
|What is the time profile for these outcomes?years||> 25 years||10 < > 25 years||< 10|
|Is further deterioration preventable?||< 40%||90% < > 40%||> 90%|
|What is the cost of achieving this per hectare?||> $100||$100 < > $10||< $10|
|What is the time profile for these outcomes? years||> 25 years||10 < > 25 years||< 10|
How does the work in the Audit’s assessment support this process?
The Audit work has the greatest applicability to Phase I of the natural resource management decision making process (Figure 2.4) It provides input to establishing priorities for public expenditure on natural resource management.
- Chapters 4 and 5 help establish a baseline trend in ‘costs’ of decline in resource condition for agriculture and infrastructure—Step 1 in Phase I. The information can also be used to establish gross benefits of reversing trends—Step 2 in Phase I.
- The section in Chapter 5 on impacts of land and water degradation on environmental values can be used to establish the potential benefits from natural resource management options —Step 2 in Phase I, but also Phase II.
- Chapter 3 provides information on the problems, costs and issues of implementing options and the adoption of sustainable management practices—Step 3 in Phase I. This information is also relevant to likely constraints and policy effectiveness—Step 5 in Phase I.
- The examples in Chapter 6 demonstrate use of benefit–cost analysis to assess options—Phases I and II.
Chapter 7 draws on regional case studies to inform Step 5 in Phase I. Figure 2.6 summarises the five-step approach of Phase I.
How can the Audit information be used to develop priorities?
The Audit has provided considerable information on the biophysical status and trends of the natural resource base. This information cannot be turned into policy priorities per se, but forms a starting point. Policy priority areas are those where economic, environmental and social net benefits of changing landscapes are high and there is insufficient motivation for and/or capacity among private land managers to address the problem. These are usually problems with substantial public spillovers.
This report is of considerable value in creating a baseline—where we are now and where we are heading under a ‘business as usual’ scenario (Phase I in Figure 2.4). The benefits of addressing problems in agriculture accrue largely to farmers and will largely be undertaken by farmers. A baseline can also be developed that provides a ceiling on the potential public benefits from farmers’ and other land managers’ actions.
Some information presented in the report is relevant to the other three phases in Figure 2.4 but detailed benefit–cost assessments are mostly applicable to particular regions, catchments or even smaller areas. This requires detailed information at those levels.
View other Audit assessments by clicking the links below:
- Australian Water Resources Assessment 2000
- Australian Dryland Salinity Assessment 2000
- Australian Native Vegetation Assessment 2001
- Rangelands - tracking changes: Australian Collaborative Rangeland Information System
- Australian Agriculture Assessment 2001
- Australian Catchment, River and Estuary Assessment 2002
- Australian Terrestrial Biodiversity Assessment 2002
View "Natural Resource Economics" project and technical reports:
A project report has been prepared by CSIRO Land and Water Policy and Economic Research Unit in the development of this work:
- "Values of returns to land and water and costs of degradation" Edited by S.A. Hajkowicz and M.D. Young (PDF - 2.8 MB)
The technical appendices of "Values of returns to land and water and costs of degradation" report contain detailed descriptions of the methods used in this work:
- "Values of returns to land and water and costs of degradation" Edited by S.A. Hajkowicz and M.D. Young (PDF - 2.8 MB)
The technical appendices of "Values of returns to land and water and costs of degradation" report also includes a number of component project reports. These report may be viewed separately:
- "Ex-situ Costs of Australian Land and Water Resources Degradation to non-Agricultural Industries, Infrastructure and Households - REPORT A: EX-SITU COSTS OF SALINITY " by J.F.Thomas, The Resource Economic Unit, PPK Environment & Infrastructure (PPK) (PDF - 400 KB)
- "Ex-situ Costs of Australian Land and Water Resources Degradation to non-Agricultural Industries, Infrastructure and Households - REPORT B: EX-SITU COSTS OF EROSION AND SEDIMENTATION " by J.F.Thomas, The Resource Economic Unit, PPK Environment & Infrastructure (PPK) (PDF - 300 KB)
- "Ex-situ Costs of Australian Land and Water Resources Degradation to non-Agricultural Industries, Infrastructure and Households - REPORT C: TOTAL EX-SITU DAMAGE COST ESTIMATES FOR SALINITY, WATER TURBIDITY, AND EROSION" by by J.F.Thomas, The Resource Economic Unit (PDF - 40 KB)
- "The Ex-Situ Impacts to Industrial and Commercial Water Users Due to Degradation in the Quality of Water Resources" by PPK Environment Infrastructure Pty Ltd (PDF - 200 KB)
- "Estimating community values for land and water degradation impacts" Martin van Bueren and Jeff Bennett (PDF - 1.5 MB)
Case study: View or download a technical report and appendices on dryland salinity:
- Capacity to change - Case studies of dryland salinity and watertable control by Mike Read. (PDF - 1.2 MB)
- Capacity to change - Case studies of dryland salinity and watertable control - APPENDICES by Mike Read. (PDF - 1.9 MB)
View "People" project and technical reports:
- "Framework and Review of Capacity and Motivation for Change to Sustainable Management Practices" by D. Mark Fenton, Colin MacGregor and John Cary (PDF - 410 KB)
- *"Human and social aspects capacity to change to sustainable management practices" by John Cary, Neil Barr, Heather Aslin, Trevor Webb and Shannon Kelson (PDF - 707 KB)
This report does not contain maps and needs to be read in conjunction with:
- Full report of "Social Atlas for sustainable management - a social and economic database" by John Cary, Shannon Kelson and Heather Aslin. (PDF - 165 KB)
- Image files for the "Social Atlas for sustainable management - a social and economic database" report by John Cary, Shannon Kelson and Heather Aslin (Zip - 7.8 MB)
- "Structural change in Australian agriculture: implications for natural resource management" by Neil Barr (PDF - 1.8 MB)
- "Structural change in Australian agriculture: implications for natural resource management - APPENDICES" by Neil Barr (PDF - 4.3 MB)
Link to the Map Maker to view economic data.
Link to the Australian Natural Resources Data Library - to download economic and social data
Some documents on this website are available as PDF files. Adobe Acrobat Reader is required to view PDF files.
Links to an another web site
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