In Question Time today, Mark asked the Minister for Human Services, representing the Minister for Environment and Water, about support for community volunteers following the transition to new natural resource management (NRM) arrangements under the Landscape South Australia Act.
The Hon. M.C. PARNELL: I have been advised that, as at the end of June, two days ago, the NRM volunteer support program was disbanded in the transition to the new NRM arrangements under the Landscape South Australia Act 2019. Of the eight volunteer support officers, who were employed with the Adelaide and Mount Lofty Ranges Natural Resources Management Board, only four have jobs under the new arrangements. One of the volunteer Friends of Parks groups advised their members recently as follows:
The upshot of this is that the support we've been accustomed to receive from the Volunteer Support Officers will no longer be there and nor will the funding for tools, herbicide, personal protective equipment and trailer registration and insurance. It is not clear what, if any, of this will be replaced under the new arrangements when we come under the Green Adelaide Landscape Board.
One of the Friends groups that I am a member of reports that their annual grant income under the program was the massive sum of $700 per year plus a separate grant of about $2,000 per year to help pay for contractors. For whatever else they need, they have to raise the funds themselves.
It is also clear that since COVID-19, visitation of our parks and reserves is at an all time high, so clearly there is a new appreciation in the community of the beauty and importance of our natural environment.
My question of the Minister is: can the Minister assure the hundreds of loyal conservation volunteers, working to protect and enhance our natural environment, that equivalent or better services and funding will be provided under the new landscape regime as existed under the previous NRM regime?
The Hon. J.M.A. LENSINK (Minister for Human Services): I thank the honourable member for his question. I do recall that when we debated the legislation for the new landscape act, as it is now, last year that the recognition of the volunteers and on-ground works that they do was something that was of importance to all members. I will take those specific questions on notice and seek a response from the Minister responsible and bring it back to the chamber.
Response received on July 23, 2020
The Hon. J.M.A. LENSINK (Minister for Human Services): The Minister for Environment and Water has provided the following advice:
The Marshall Liberal government's Landscape SA reform is about delivering a more effective, decentralised, back-to-basics system that gives local communities a greater voice in natural resources management and puts more resources 'on-the-ground' in our regions.
Landscape boards will continue to support off-park volunteer groups in their region through dedicated staff. Further, the National Parks and Wildlife Service South Australia continues to work closely with volunteer groups operating on-park by offering both statewide support and advice and regionally on the ground through park rangers.
Grant funding will continue to be available to volunteer groups through the landscape boards' administered $2 million Grassroots Grants program and the National Parks and Wildlife Service South Australia Volunteer Support Grants.
From mid-July local volunteer groups, whether they are working in our national parks or elsewhere in the landscape, will be able to apply for funding from the Grassroots Grants program. The next round of National Parks and Wildlife Service South Australia Volunteer Support Grants will be available later this year.
I am advised that the Minister for Environment and Water has written to volunteers and volunteer groups, as well as landscape board chairs reiterating this commitment.