The Caring for our Country program is an ill-thought-out rush-job, more designed to quieten the unrest of regional communities and environment groups than to target the conservation and resource management needs of Australia's future.
This is not strategic approach, it is a grab-bag of ad-hoc election commitments and icon issues, and there is no new money here. This is a slight of hand with environmental and natural resource management funding by Peter Garrett. It is not at all clear from this announcement which other existing programs are being cut.
I am extremely concerned that what we're seeing here is an ill-disguised cutting of funding to natural resource management and the environment. The Minister needs to come clean with a list of which existing programs are being cut. What will happen for instance to our marine programs or the Community Water Grants program?
While the program claims to bring a range of existing programs into a one-stop-shop, what is missing is the planning framework and longer term investment strategies to ensure projects are integrated and targeted to deliver. Far from reducing the number of scattered and isolated projects this approach will magnify the problems outlined by the audit office. It fails to build on the lessons learned from the decades of conservation and land management programs. The effect of this on funding will be to spread the vegemite even thinner.
It undermines regional natural resource management groups and catchment management organisations and returns to the bad old days of direct funding of individuals and groups for short-term projects. This is a backward step for the environment.