Environmental Trust - Linking landscapes through local action
The Linking Landscapes through Local Action project was part of the NSW Government’s Green Corridors Program aimed to increase the condition, functional connectivity and resilience of landscapes and ecosystems in the Sydney Basin bioregion.
The project was funded by the Environmental Trust and delivered by the then NSW Office of Environment and Heritage. This funding aimed at protecting and managing conservation values by establishing biobank sites on public land.
Between 2012 and 2015, the Office of Environment and Heritage selected and established BioBanking agreements for seven council-owned sites. These agreements provided ongoing funding for councils to develop and implement long-term management plans to maintain and improve environmental values at the sites.
The Environmental Trust asked the Commission to evaluate the effectiveness of this project and identify lessons for future funding of similar projects.
In July 2018, we provided a final report to the Trust.
We found the project to be effective in achieving its primary objective. Establishing BioBanking agreements resulted in increased on-ground management at all sites, which led to improvements in site condition.
However, we found a large variation in cost effectiveness across sites. Due to differences in the initial condition of sites, the funding allocated to each site varied widely, both in total and on a per hectare basis. Two of the sites needed relatively large investments of funds to improve or maintain their condition in the short-term, with low prospects of being restored to a resilient state in the long-term even with in-perpetuity funding.
While the project had positive impacts at the site scale, we consider it is unlikely to have a material impact at the landscape scale. Councils face considerable challenges in addressing future threats and pressures on biodiversity values at the landscape scale. More effectively ‘linking’ landscapes in the Sydney Basin bioregion requires improved coordination between councils, supported by additional investment in bushland management.
We made recommendations to improve project delivery and effectiveness. The primary recommendation was to improve selection criteria and carry out regular performance reviews to ensure environmental outcomes are cost-effective and can be sustained in the longer term.
In November 2018, the Trust provided a response and accepted all of our recommendations. In December 2018, the Office of Environment and Heritage provided a response and supported our key findings.