Australia Climate action and sustainable development

Collaborating for better outcomes: managing our natural assets and urban landscapes

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BYOC Community engagement

Recent commitments made by the Australian Government include the Kunming-Montreal Biodiversity Framework, which requires that 30% of damaged ecosystems be under restoration by 2030. This commitment will not only require large-scale and reliable funding, but also effective collaboration between all levels of government, the private sector, community groups, and environmental organisations.

Australia’s environmental organisations play an important role in the protection, restoration, and sustainable management of natural environments. They engage in advocacy for improvements to government legislation and funding programs, with the objective of achieving better outcomes for natural environments. They commission and undertake valuable research. They generally work in collaboration with community groups and First Nations People on ecosystem restoration and management, and often engage with professional organisations to promote pro bono work to facilitate projects and programs.

The valuable physical and mental health benefits provided to individuals and communities by healthy natural environments is now well understood, along with the environmental services provided they provide.

There is an urgent need for adequate funding and resources to become available to local governments to sustainably manage natural assets in public open spaces and urban landscapes. Not-for-profit environmental organisations can play an important role, working in collaboration with local government and community groups, helping plan and implement projects to restore and maintain healthy natural environments.

The Landscape Foundation of Australia (LFA) was recently established as a registered not-for-profit environmental organisation committed to the protection, restoration, and sustainable management of natural environments in and around Australian cities and towns. This focus on urban areas was in response to a perceived gap in the range of activities of existing environmental organisations, which are largely located in non-urban areas.

LFA has defined three strategic priorities:

  • Investing in Knowledge – funding education and research to build capacity and skills.
  • Enabling Communities – working with community groups to achieve local impact.
  • Valuing Nature – influencing policy to reflect the true value of natural assets.

Investing in knowledge

The LFA is committed to funding education and research programs that support individuals and other not-for-profit organisations involved in the protection, restoration, and sustainable management of natural environments in Australia’s urban landscapes. Current programs include:

LFA Fellowship: An annual award to an early-career professional in a landscape-related field, providing $10,000 to research an area of knowledge of personal interest that also aligns with the goals of LFA. Over the next three years, LFA aims to award up to three Fellowships per year and to make available the research output of each LFA Fellow.

Landscape Performance Case Studies (LPCS) Program: This collaboration with the USA-based Landscape Architecture Foundation (LAF) involves assessment of the performance of selected projects that have been established for at least two years. The LPCS Program is adapting the well-established LAF Case Study Investigation program, which has, to date, assessed eight projects in Australia in addition to hundreds of projects in the USA. Results of the performance assessment are publicly available to assist project planning and design to achieve higher quality nature-positive outcomes in future projects.

Other Research and Education Projects: LFA will expand its Investing in Knowledge programs by funding individuals and teams to undertake focused research or education-focused projects that generate new knowledge to inform policy and decision-making that aligns with the purpose of LFA. Research support will be provided in collaboration with academic institutions, other not-for-profit organisations, private organisations, consultancies, and local governments.

Enabling communities

This strategic priority involves LFA working with community groups to help them plan and implement projects that aim to protect, restore, and sustainably manage healthy natural environments in Australian towns and cities. In most instances, LFA only supports projects that have been identified by and promoted by a community group. LFA often acts as a facilitator between community groups and local governments to enable the project to proceed. Examples of projects supported by LFA include:

‘Keeping Uralla Cool’: This project was funded by the NAB Foundation and involved LFA working in collaboration with the not-for-profit community group ZNET Uralla. LFA facilitated three community workshops and prepared a project report that addressed issues associated with increasing severe heat events associated with climate change. It included the development of an Action Plan to implement mitigation measures that will increase community health and improve the livability of Uralla township.

B&B Highway, School Pollinator Gardens: LFA is working in collaboration with PlantingSeeds – another not-for-profit organization – to facilitate the establishment of pollinator gardens at more than 120 schools in Sydney, Brisbane, and Melbourne. The project includes an education module to introduce pupils to the importance of pollinators and nature more generally. They are introduced to citizen science through monitoring of biodiversity at the school. LFA is facilitating the supply of surplus plants from wholesale nurseries for use in the pollinator gardens.

Source: Noel Corkery, Landscape Foundation of Australia

Uralla Racecourse Lagoon Reserve Ecological Restoration: LFA assisted Uralla Shire Council and ZNET Uralla in preparing a successful grant application to the NSW Environmental Trust, which is funding the restoration of the endangered New England Woodland vegetation community on a former racecourse site.

Valuing nature

The failure of the market-based global economic system to properly account for the value of nature is resulting in its continued degradation. To address this issue, LFA supports research and the development of tools, standards, guidelines, training, and case studies to facilitate natural asset management. The goal is to help local governments develop policies and practices to identify, measure, value, and sustainably manage their natural assets within their asset management system.

LFA also advocates for the development of funding mechanisms that can generate the large amount of capital required to fund the effective and sustainable restoration of natural environments and ecosystems across Australia. LFA is a member of the Restoration Decade Alliance between 21 national environmental organisations that are committed to supporting the UN Decade of Ecosystem Restoration. The Alliance advocates for the establishment of a National Restoration Plan to provide the framework for a coordinated program of ecosystem restoration across Australia.

More information on ‘Valuing Nature’ is available in this LGIU briefing: Alternative approaches to valuing nature.

Source: Noel Corkery, Landscape Foundation of Australia

Conclusion

Closer collaboration between local governments and not-for-profit environmental organisations offers many opportunities to achieve healthier and more sustainable natural environments within Australian towns and cities. Not-for-profits can often act as a bridge between community groups and local governments to assist in defining, planning, and implementing projects that achieve shared goals.

The LFA demonstrates how a not-for-profit can play a positive role in facilitating community engagement and encouraging collaboration with local governments. By providing expertise and knowledge working with community groups and local governments, the Foundation is helping to achieve better and more inclusive outcomes for projects in Australian towns and cities.

If your council would like to explore collaboration opportunities with the Landscape Foundation of Australia, please email [email protected].



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