Assessing the capacity of local government to conduct environmental and sustainability management

24th October, 2018

Local government authorities (LGAs) play a significant role in environmental and sustainability management in Western Australia.

Together with the Natural Resource Management organisations (NRMs) they contribute greatly to state, national and international initiatives in conservation of natural areas and implementation of programs on climate change and soil, waste and water management.

Perth NRM and WALGA formed a partnership, in 2017, to better understand the issues facing LGAs including availability of financial and human resources, and their strengths across 50 skills and knowledge areas in five management categories. The five categories include;

1) Urban planning and climate change,
2) Natural area management (NAM),
3) Water management,
4) Soil and waste management, and
5) Organisational sustainability.

Thirty-six local government entities participated in the 2017 survey, 26 from the Perth NRM Region, and 10 from south-west shires; including the major regional cities of Bunbury and Albany. The Local Government Environment and Sustainability Capacity Assessment Survey 2017 is available on the Perth NRM website.

Adoption of best practice by LGA staff was evident in the natural area management reporting. Respondents were confident in their ability to undertake bushfire risk management, bushland restoration and biodiversity conservation, including the field-based work of identifying flora and fauna. In recent years Perth NRM and WALGA have focused on building knowledge in these operational areas and coordinated workshops, seminars and developed decision-making tools to build capacity in LGAs.

Key findings from the survey
• There is support for a regular, joint environmental management and sustainability survey of local governments by WALGA and NRM organisations
• Natural areas management is a competent skill and knowledge area in local government and reported some of the highest scores for the adoption of best practice
• Prominent capacity gaps were identified in the areas of State of the Environment monitoring and reporting and changing community behaviour
• Current levels of financial and human resources limit the ability of local government to effectively conduct environmental management and sustainability programs
• Direct financial support, together with investment in skills development, could leverage the current knowledge and commitment of staff to more effectively manage the State’s natural resources
• Resources provided by WALGA and Western Australia’s seven NRM organisations are highly valued.

“The partnership between Perth NRM and WALGA is critical to facilitating the exchange of knowledge and skills between land managers, experts and local government staff”, said Paul Bodlovich, CEO Perth NRM.

“We look forward to continuing our partnership, to coordinate information workshops for emerging issues and support implementation of leading practices and discussion on policy and strategy areas that require a greater focus.”

Importantly, the LGA participants acknowledged the role of the community in sustainable living practices and conservation of the environment. They were aware that the interested community is now much wider than the traditionally engaged friends’ groups and those directly involved in managing our natural environment.

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