Changing the direction of environmental investment in Australia: Learnings from implementing INFFER
Investment in natural resource management (NRM) by regional organisations in Australia has been widely criticised for failing to achieve substantial environmental outcomes. The Investment Framework for Environmental Resources (INFFER) is a tool for developing and prioritising projects to address environmental issues such as water quality, biodiversity decline, environmental pest impacts and land degradation. INFFER is an asset-based, targeted, and outcome-focussed approach to environmental investment, and as such is a very different and more rigorous approach to prioritising possible environmental projects than used previously by most catchment management organisations (CMOs) in Australia. From 2008 to 2010 INFFER has been trialled with CMOs. Evaluation and benchmarking data obtained at 2-day INFFER training sessions with seven CMOs in three eastern Australia states are reported. Before commencing to use INFFER, CMO staff are generally confident about the current decision-making processes for environmental investment used within their organisation. In some cases, this initial perception challenges their acceptance of a new approach to investment decisionmaking. Key issues when implementing INFFER include concerns about changing the direction of CMO investment, concerns about compatibility with funder requirements, and various issues associated with specific aspects of the Framework. Perceived complexity of INFFER, existing institutional arrangements, and the legacy of past institutional arrangements remain serious barriers to the adoption of methods to improve environmental outcomes from NRM investment. Despite these difficulties INFFER is being used by a number of CMOs. However, it is likely that widespread adoption of INFFER, or indeed any other transparent and robust process, will only occur with greater requirement from governments for environmental decision making by regional NRM bodies that is more focused on outcomes and cost-effectiveness.
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