Overall, air is the most effectively managed of the topics, followed by water, biodiversity, land and heritage, noting that all topics are generally well managed (Table 10.5). The technical and regulatory aspects of air quality management – where there are national guidelines and standards, and in the absence of major industries and very large urban populations that could affect air quality – generally scored higher against assessment criteria than other topics. Apart from air, other topics were less effective in delivering outputs and outcomes than in the earlier elements of the management cycle. In every case, all of the indicators for outputs and outcomes were scored in the third quartile (51–75% of desirable performance). This was frequently because explicit evidence of outputs and outcomes from management was not available or presented to the assessors.
As outlined in the Section 10.3, ‘effective’ and ‘mostly effective’ management indicates that there is room for improvement. These scores indicate that management is better than 50% effective. For example, in general, biodiversity is not being lost from the landscape and key processes relevant to biodiversity management are in place. On-ground performance is possibly better than the documented evidence indicates, because of the lack of systematic data on outputs and outcomes.
Context indicators were strong across all topics with good understanding of values and threats to values, and of stakeholders and broader influences on management of each topic. In all cases, management was assessed as effective.
Planning was also generally effective across all topics, with some weaknesses in heritage planning identified. However, the revised heritage legislation and current strategic planning for heritage will largely address existing issues. Most management programs had clear and measurable management objectives, with evident improvements in the structure and content of planning documents. Documents such as the ACT Nature Conservation Strategy, supported by implementation plans, demonstrate improvement in planning, and should also provide output and outcome reporting. Stakeholders are generally well known and integrated into planning and management.
Staff skills and availability of adequate and appropriate information to support decision-making were generally strong points in management, but adequacy of financial resources was the weakest indicator across the set of indicators. Although financial resources were generally sufficient to meet legislative and other minimum standards, more extensive monitoring, engagement and other desirable aspects of management were constrained by available funds.
Management processes and standards were generally effective across all topics, with strongest indicators relating to governance, stakeholder engagement, use of information in decision-making and management of impacts. The weakest indicators related to performance monitoring and evidence that standards and targets are being met. Proposed developments in monitoring programs will improve performance in this area in the future. Programs in place can be readily adapted to demonstrate these processes.
10.5.5 Outputs and outcomes
Apart from air, indicators that assess whether management programs are meeting output and outcome targets were assessed as only ‘mostly effective’. In many cases, there was evidence of program implementation, but evidence of effectiveness in meeting objectives was incomplete or missing. Although evidence of documented effectiveness in meeting objectives was apparent in some cases, the absence of evidence that the systems are in decline provides confidence that management is at least ‘mostly effective’ (ie better than 50%). As described in the Section 10.3, ‘mostly effective’ includes systems where clear improvement is still necessary or desired to reach effective status.
The pattern of stronger performance in the early parts of the management cycle (context, planning, inputs and processes) and in topics that are limited in complexity (such as air quality in the ACT) is similar to the findings of other assessments of effectiveness.1 Ensuring that monitoring of outputs and outcomes is in place will not only strengthen reporting on these elements of the management cycle but, more importantly, will provide the information needed for an adaptive approach to management of environmental issues.