Healthy Savanna Planning Systems

Leader: Professor Geoff McDonald, CSIRO Sustainable Ecosystems, Brisbane

Full Title: Monitoring and evaluation of regional planning arrangements and natural resource management plans to assist development of improved regional planning systems and policies for Australia’s savanna regions.
Project 3.3.5

Summary | Objectives | Outputs | More information |

Northern Gulf management group

Members of the Northern Gulf Resource Management Group developing criteria for a devolved grant to invest in pasture spelling, Georgetown, April 2005.
Photo: Lionel Pero


Regional planning, involving government, community and industry, is a key mechanism for sustainable regional development and resource management. Future government investment in savanna regions will be closely linked to regional planning processes initiated under the Natural Heritage Trust and the National Action Plan for Salinity and Water Quality.

Developing effective regional planning arrangements in savanna regions is a challenge for governments and community alike. These programs are new and need to be monitored and evaluated so different region’s experiences can inform planning practice and program design. In particular, in Queensland, there is a significant opportunity to track and report on an explicit State Government policy for improving the ‘health’ of regional NRM planning arrangements emerging in the State’s NRM planning regions. These ‘arrangements’ for natural resource management in any region include the full range of resource ‘managers’, planning and management activities, and the links or relationships between them.

The focus of the project is to develop and apply a long-term monitoring, evaluation and improvement framework for regional natural resource planning and policies in Australia’s savannas. The project builds on and refines evaluation criteria and frameworks from earlier regional planning projects (Projects 3.2.2 and 3.2.1, see links at bottom of page, or click on navigatino bar at left) for evaluating plans, and structure and function of planning arrangements.

Successful application of the evaluation–improvement framework relies on participation of regional planning stakeholders in its design and operation. During 2004-5 the project progressed through the first benchmarking phase of the evaluation, involving interviews with regional planners, participant observation of regional fora and review of regional Natural Resource Managment (NRM) plans. The synthesis of these findings is being applied to assess regional policy delivery impacts, capture learning and improve planning process and integration at state and regional levels.


The goal of the project is to contribute to effective regional NRM policy, planning and implementation processes in Australia’s tropical savanna regions. The specific objectives are:

  • To test and refine criteria and methods for NRM plan evaluation and instititional arrangements for natural resource management in regions.
  • Collaborate with regional planners and relevant government agencies to apply the evaluation framework in savanna regions .
  • Support adaptive management of regional NRM arrangements and planning practices through:
    • Regular feedback to policy makers and regional bodies of progress of and constraints in regions.
    • Identifying innovative options for policy improvement.
    • Capturing and sharing lessons and experiences bertween regions and jurisdictions.


Outputs 2003–04
  • Report on concepts and methods for evaluating regional plans - consisting of criteria designed for plans in Australia’s savanna regions incorporating biodiversity, sustainable grazing, water quality and social and economic attributes and protocols for applying the methods and criteria to regional plans.
  • Report on concepts and methods for evaluating regional planning arrangements based on regional context, structures, processes and outcomes.
Outputs 2004-05

The project team, by applying evaluation criteria designed specifically to evaluate regional NRM planning arrangements and plans have benchmarked the progress made in developing these arrangements for regions in Northern Australia. The key findings are reported against the criteria within the Benchmark Report 2004–05 , using data collected between late 2003 and early 2005—the start up and planning phase of regional NRM.

The benchmark report also outlines the critical constraints faced by planners and managers during this time in establishing those arrangements and evaluates the effectiveness and adequacy of state and regional level responses to these challenges. The report draws on the analysis from several other ‘method’ based technical reports , namely:

  • Interview analysis of regional planners and state government agencies.
  • Desktop review of regional NRM plans—findings and lessons for plan-making practice.
  • Observations of Regional Coordination Groups, in Central and Nth Qld regions.
  • Summary Report of key findings from Northern Territory Planning Project, July 2004.

A Regional planners’ workshop was held in Brisbane on 9 March 2005, to share lessons and experiences between sixteen (16) regional NRM planners and consultants engaged in NRM plan development from Qld, NT and WA regions. A NRM planners’ workshop report is available, highlighting planners’ experiences shared at the workshop. This includes recommendations for future design of regional NRM planning guidelines.

Next steps for 2005–06

The project's adoption strategy relies on maintaining on-going working relationships with research partners and participants (e.g. regional NRM bodies, government agencies, NRM stakeholder organisations etc). Continuing adoption strategies involve maintaining regular (6 monthly) progress reports and in-progress findings to Qld Regional NRM Groups Collective and expanding this to include the Rangelands NRM Coordinating Group (WA ) and Landcare Council of the Northern Territory .

The second major adoption strategy involves conducting several discrete case studies within the project during 2005 06. Although informed by the key findings or emerging issues from the Benchmark report, these case studies will be co-developed with the relevant savanna stakeholders. Each study will seek to involve at least two regions across the savannas, with a focus on lesson sharing and application of research outcomes.

Second Benchmark Report (Due mid 2006) will be a synthesis assessment of natural resource planning in savanna regions and will provide particular consideration of investment and implementation outcomes from planning activities.


Mr Bruce Taylor
Project Manager
CSIRO Sustainable Ecosystems, Qld Bioscience Precinct
Tel: 07 3214 2638

306 Carmody Road

Publications available

All guidelines can be downloaded free below in PDF format, or for hardcopy versions contact the Communication Team, or project manager, Bruce Taylor, details below.

  • Benchmarking Regional Planning: Arrangements for Natural Resource Management

    Full report and standalone executive summary

  • Short booklet: Evaluating regional plans in tropical savanna regions

  • Full report: Criteria and methods for evaluating regional plans in the tropical savannas

  • Project overview 2005–2006

  • Final Benchmark report: Evaluation of Regional Planning Arrangements for Natural Resource Management 2005–06: Benchmark Report II

  • Experiences and lessons: Regional NRM Planners Workshop Report

  • Strategies to Improve Regional Planning Arrangements: Perspectives from the Regional NRM Groups Collective

  • Findings from a review of regional NRM plans