Friday, 25 September 2015

Let's create ways to cooperate in environmental action

When the first consultations took place a month ago for the new MRSC Environmental Strategy, RCL sent a comment to the MRSC Officer managing the Strategy development, as follows:

Our members are cautious about MRSC’s invitation to contribute their ideas to another Environmental Strategy. They see the potential, but they want this to be different form last time, when good ideas weren’t acted on, and the Council did not build a partnership with the community around its knowledge, its preferences or what it is already doing.
Community members quite likely contribute in monetary value, considerably more than MRSC does or ever could invest. That’s the nature of the situation – landholders’ investment capacity combined is enormous. Macedon Ranges is a peri-urban community, with remnant and new squattocracy. People have capital to spend on the place they love. Why not engage that interest and partner with that capacity?

What is beyond belief is that MRSC has a history of making its contribution without working with those community environmental groups that have their shoulder to the wheel month by month, year by year, on the things that Council can’t so easily do.

We want a partnership, where the Shire brings and integrates into the work of community groups its own necessary contribution. We want leadership as well, in articulating direction, and the current round of consultation is a way to draw in the community’s direction. But we have been here before, not just with MRSC, but with other strategies, of which there are dozens in the environmental space, all begging for community input (aka My Free Time).

Plenty of talk and a good measure of receptivity up front in forming the Strategy, and when it gets to implementation, zip!

We ask that in the strategy development period, Council staff and members of community environment groups in the Shire work out together to develop a process by which the principles and high order goals of the Strategy will be implemented, so that decisions in different localities, across public and private ownership, use the best of what community and Council can do. We passed a motion at RCL CoM:

“we demand that the environment strategy develop a specific implementation strategy for the involvement of community environmental groups in setting specific priorities for each ward and for allocation of the council’s environment budget.”

We are ready to work with Council on the design of that Implementation Strategy.
By raising the matter of the budget and its allocation, we mean to say that we are interested in the process right to the point where expenditure decisions are made. Granted, those decisions will be made by authorised positions – Council, CEO, line manager. However, there’s plenty of room, we believe, to take account of the opinions of those acting on the responsibilities that come with care for land.

Here's an update as of 25/09/15:

RCL President Ross Colliver spoke with Silvana Predebon, MRSC Enviro Strategy, this Thursday about pathways towards improved collaboration betweeen community environment groups and Council. Silvan thought that sharing decisions making on budget allocation was unlikely to be supported by Council, and that they had in mind points of engagement futher down the participation spectrum, like "Information" and "Consultation."  We came up with a “low cost/high yield” start to Council working better with the community that goes like this: 

What? information sharing session between all those with an interest in each of the Strategy’s three areas of concern – Climate change, Biodiversity and Catchment Management. 

Why? There’s a lot happening that community groups don’t know about. Let’s start with a time to find out about that, and work out where there are opportunities for collaborate better. 

How? Convene a gathering of community groups and agencies with an interest in a theme. People break into discussion groups around specific issues where they see potential for collaboration. Each small group reviews action underway and picks where there’s opportunity for collaboration, between community groups, with Council, or with other agencies. Short report back, and those with an interest proceed with that collaboration as they choose.

Look for that idea in the draft Strategy when it comes out, and say what you think about it.