Previous PageTable Of ContentsNext Page

Sustainable Agriculture, Sustainable Catchments

Chris Reid

North East Catchment Management Authority


The Board of the North East Catchment Management Authority (CMA) has a made a commitment to the incorporation of environmental management systems (EMS) into the mainstream activities of the Authority and to this end have a long term commitment to the funding of EMS activities.

Non-statutory land use planning is a high priority to achieve the regions’ land, water and biodiversity resource condition targets within the Regional Catchment Strategy (RCS). Non-statutory land use planning is voluntary planning by land managers that includes the full range of planning activities from self assessment questionnaires, through whole farm planning to fully accredited EMS audited to the ISO 14001 standard. This programme will progress outcomes from a range of EMS based pilots that have been undertaken in the region by developing a generic programme that will move people from entry level EMS towards accreditation linked to the Regional Catchment Strategy.

The primary objectives are to:

• Increase the uptake of EMS across the region.

• Strengthen the capacity of landholders.

• Increase the ability of catchment authority to collect meaningful data/information from on farm environmental activities that relate to resource condition.

The major outcome of this programme will be the development of high quality on-farm EMS that clearly demonstrate the linkages between assets, risks, action plans and processes for linking these to catchment scale goals (including Resource Condition Targets).

Aggregation of farm scale data through electronic, spatial and document capture systems will support the development of baseline and target reports across a range of asset classes. This information will be shared between farmers, extension staff, research organisations and the CMA’s, building greater awareness and ownership of the impact of farm scale works to catchment goals.


Environmental management systems in agriculture are regarded by the Board of the North East Catchment management Authority as having the potential to deliver both economic and environmental benefits to the landholders of the North East region of Victoria. From the CMA’s perspective a web based EMS offers the opportunity to gather aggregated data that will allow the development of accurate base line information so the Authority can track change to resource conditions over time.

The Board of the CMA has endorsed ongoing commitment to an integrated catchment management programme using EMS as its basis. The CMA believes that development of EMS to better link on farm management to regional catchment strategy implementation, particularly supporting producers to report their contribution to regional NRM targets, will be an effective mechanism for achieving environmental sustainability. This innovative programme will involve people in all levels of EMS from entry level to full ISO certification. All of the levels developed will be linked through a regional accreditation process to RCS resource condition targets. As a result of this initiative:

  • Land managers will be operating under an EMS recognised in the regional catchment strategy accreditation framework.
  • It will increase the ability of CMA’s to collect meaningful data on farm environmental activities that contribute to regional resource condition targets.
  • On farm management actions will be carried out according to risks identified in an accredited environmental management system.
  • It will mean integration of the programme into whole of RCS implementation.

All CMAs in Victoria have a 5 year regional catchment strategy that sets regional resource condition targets and suggests management actions to help achieve those targets. The RCS is the over-arching planning and management tool used by government departments, local government and catchment authorities to guide regional environmental management.

In Victoria all works that are carried out as a result of public grant funds to landholders or by government agencies are recorded on the catchment activity management system (CAMS), a web based system that operates under the management of the Department of Sustainability and Environment. The information recorded is limited to “standard outputs” (kilometres of fencing, number of trees planted etc); currently works that are privately funded are not recorded on an electronic retrievable system, the CMA is of the opinion that a web based EMS offers the opportunity for all works whether privately or publicly funded to be recorded.

The North East RCS identifies non-statutory land use planning as a high priority management action to achieve the regions Land, Water and Biodiversity resource condition targets. Non-statutory land use planning is voluntary planning by land managers. This includes the full range of planning activities from “Environmental Checklists” through to “Whole Farm Planning” and to fully certified “Environmental Management Systems” meeting ISO 14001

The previous Pathways to EMS pilots in the region trialled various processes and levels of management systems, two of the processes trialled in the North East were the Australian Wine Industry Stewardship (AWIS) checklist and the Australian Landcare Management System (ALMS). The AWIS pilot was essentially an environmental checklist developed to show whether a wine grape grower was in some way contributing to RCS outcomes. The region sees this as an important first step for many landholders as an entry level system that can lead to a more formal EMS. The ALMS system is a multi level accreditation system based on achieving ISO 14001 accreditation while also addressing regional targets. In addition, the region trialled

e-FARMER, a web based spatial planning and data capture system that appears to offer benefits to both landholders and catchment authorities. This project will take the learnings from these and other pilots and develop them into an integrated programme of environmental management systems that deliver social, economic and environmental outcomes for the region, based on RCS resource condition targets.

The accumulation of aggregated data from individual EMS’s will allow the development of relevant base line information to which the CMA can report (with a degree of confidence) to their stakeholders, it will allow for a complete picture of the state of the catchments as it will capture all publicly and privately funded works.

The CMA believes there have been a number of key lessons learned from the pilots that will benefit the landholders and the authority, these include:

  • The need for a system that can take land managers from a simple “self assessment questionnaire” through to an externally audited EMS based on ISO 14001.
  • The need for a single generic system that caters for all farm enterprises and is aligned to RCS targets. (Landholders are confused by the range of EMS systems currently being used. Using the ALMS system based on ISO certification and using e-FARMER as a spatial tool provides a simple, repeatable system that can be used across regions and industry sectors).
  • A system should be able to indicate how the region is performing against the RCS targets. Linking e-FARMER to the ALMS system has shown that regional outcomes from implementation of ALMS by individual land managers can be recognised.
  • For an EMS framework to be sustainable, regional capacity at both the institutional level and the land manager level must be built and supported.
  • Ongoing support is required to achieve the full benefit of EMS planning. The Board of the CMA has endorsed an ongoing commitment to an integrated catchment management programme using EMS as its basis.

The EMS programme in North East Victoria will cut across programme silos in the RCS (Land, Water, Biodiversity and Community) in that RCS priorities for all environmental programmes will be addressed (water quality, native vegetation protection, erosion control, community capacity, etc). It will provide solid ground on which to continue a substantial programme in the next phase of NRM investment, this is particularly important as there is an emphasis on using market based instruments and stewardship payments for the provision of ecosystem service.


This innovative project will progress outcomes from a range of EMS based pilots that have been undertaken in the region by developing a generic programme that will move people from entry level EMS towards accreditation linked to the RCS. The system will provide for public recognition of land managers participating in the EMS programme, capture data (from participating land holders) that establishes and qualify’s resource conditions within the catchment and provides a long term approach as a means to achieve environmental and economic sustainability through an accredited and auditable land management system.

Previous PageTop Of PageNext Page