NRM reform: Landscape SA will go ‘back to basics’, says David Speirs | VIDEO

Reform: State Environment and Water Minister David Speirs speaks at a forum at Murray Bridge RSL on Thursday as facilitator Chris Dangerfield listens. Photo: Peri Strathearn.
Reform: State Environment and Water Minister David Speirs speaks at a forum at Murray Bridge RSL on Thursday as facilitator Chris Dangerfield listens. Photo: Peri Strathearn.

A new NRM system will take South Australia "back to basics", the state's Environment Minister promises.

David Speirs visited Murray Bridge on Thursday to speak with about 20 land managers and conservationists about Landscape SA, the body that will replace SA's existing natural resource management (NRM) boards early next year.

The government has committed to a simpler, decentralised system with communities at its heart, including popularly elected roles on local boards.

Mr Speirs said people had lost faith in the NRM system, and perceived that too many decisions were being made in an office in Adelaide.

The proposed system "reset" would give communities more of a voice on their local boards, both through board roles and through closer links with local government.

"We want to rebuild goodwill in NRM," he said.

"At a holistic level, that trust isn't there."

It would also restore a focus on soil and water catchment management, and on removing pest animals and plants.

"I'm challenging the view that we need to do more than that," Mr Speirs said.

"If you've got the basics right, you can build on them."

Under Landscape SA, state funds would be spent dollar-for-dollar in partnership with local government or volunteer organisations such as Landcare, which Mr Speirs denied was an attempt at buck-passing.

The Adelaide and Mount Lofty Ranges NRM district would be split into three areas: the Adelaide Plains, Hills and Fleurieu and the metropolitan area.

The NRM Levy would continue to be collected alongside council rates, but more of the funding it raised would be redistributed out of the city and into the regions.

"People from Adelaide benefit from our regions, enjoy our regions, take pleasure in our regions, and they damage them too," Mr Speirs said.

"People in Adelaide should absolutely be contributing to statewide environmental projects."

But at least one speaker at Thursday's forum worried the new system would not take a large enough step back to the old days when boards for soil, water and pest control served individual council districts.

The bigger the board, said former pest controller Roger Kelly, the less contact it had with local landowners.

"Local boards give a landowner somewhere to go, a direct line of communication to someone they know," he said.

"If there was a complaint about an officer ... the local board would fix it."

Joanne Pfeiffer, of Long Flat, lamented the fact so few people had showed up at the forum, and asked Mr Speirs to do more to reach out to primary producers.

"When NRM was first put in place, we built up a great rapport between the community and NRM," she said.

"Now it has been destroyed for a variety of reasons.

"We hope you're the white knight."

But there was support for the Landscape SA proposals, too.

Southern Mallee Councillor Neville Pfeiffer said too much money was being spent in the SA Murray-Darling Basin NRM building in Murray Bridge, or wasted out in the field - for example, when thousands of feral goats were shot, but the carcasses not collected and sold for meat.

The reform will also need to deal with issues including the fate of the three NRM groups in the SA Murray-Darling Basin, and whether irrigators' water allocations would be controlled by Landscape SA or the Department for Environment and Water.

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