Wimmera CMA Catchment Tender model – evaluation after 5 years demonstrates significant improvements in efficiency and value for money

Key words: ecological sustainability, incentives, market-based instruments, salinity

Robert Moir

Wimmera Catchment Management Authority (WCMA) helps manage natural resources across 2800 square kilometres of land in western Victoria. In 2005, the WCMA teamed up with environmental economic researchers from CSIRO to design and implement an innovative market-driven model to address salinity problems in key parts of the catchment. This has resulted in a $4.6 million investment in environmental projects on farms in the past six years, in turn, delivering a dramatic increase in on-ground works such as fencing, weed and pest animal control, revegetation and protecting waterways compared with traditional incentive programs of the previous decade.

Through this initial Catchment Tender model, the CMA invited farmers to submit tender proposals and be paid for establishing and maintaining vegetation on their farms. The model, an alternative to grants, targeted specific farms where revegetation work would help reduce salinity problems across the catchment. The computer-based model assessed the costs and benefits of the tenders and selected the ones which offered the best value for money of terms of salinity benefits per dollar of public funds invested.

Participation in this first round of Catchment Tender far exceeded expectations, with more than $730,000 invested into salinity management across 762 hectares of land in just 10 months. This is the equivalent of at least the previous five to six years of revegetation achievements through the CMA’s previous grants scheme. There have been efficiency gains of up to 160% in delivery, and 69% of the project’s total budget has been paid to landholders; this includes development costs dating back to 2002. Based on an evaluation done with the CSIRO we found that by comparison, traditional incentive projects would on average require a budget 60% higher than Catchment Tender to generate the same outcome. Because of this result, the CMA extended this market-based approach to other programs including biodiversity conservation and protecting wetlands and riparian corridors along waterways, and since the first round in 2005, Wimmera CMA has helped invest $4.6 million across the region.

The CMA has completed 12 tender programs including River Tender, Habitat Tender and Buloke Tender. These programs help protect our region’s waterways, wetlands, plants and animals. Six years down the track, the CMA and the CSIRO are now evaluating these market-driven programs as well as other natural resource management investment programs such as grants and Landcare group support.

Contact: Robert Moir, Program Manager- Catchment Operations, Wimmera Catchment Management Authority, PO Box 479, Horsham, 3401, Tel: +61 (03) 5382 1544 or email wca@wcma.vic.gov.au.

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