Lessons Learned from Implementing ‘Environmental Management Systems’ at a Property & Regional Natural Resource Management Level.
Environmental Management Systems ( EMS) development and implementation has helped develop a continual improvement pathway for several properties in Central Queensland. The purpose of this paper is to briefly tell the story of the value of EMS at a property level, to identify ways to meet challenges at this scale and to highlight opportunities for helping achieve regional natural resource management targets via implementation of an EMS process.
Practical information and knowledge is drawn from the experiences of managing mixed enterprises in the environment of Central Queensland and the Fitzroy Basin Catchment. I own and manage four properties with my nephew, Jack Pearson. These properties are located in the Duaringa and Blackwater areas and two are more than 100 kilometres apart. In total there is 2,500 ha of dry-land farming and 20,000 ha of native and improved pasture. Staffing includes two additional managers and a number of casual staff. Natural Resource Management and agricultural consultants are also employed.
Working with the EMS process over many years has given direction for future improvement of our properties. It has helped greatly in the area of human resource management. It has been a valuable tool for integrating training and responsibilities for staff. Having a working EMS has helped demonstrate to myself and others off farm ( the urban / rural divide) – how our enterprises operate and what impacts they have on natural systems.
My experience is that ISO 14,001 is a robust management system. We have learned to consistently evaluate and measure activities to manage for continual improvement. This way of working allows our team to respond more confidently with day to day decisions and to take into account issues such as climate change.
Commencing down the track of EMS presented challenges. I struggled at the start. What worked for me though was finding a third party assessor. In my situation this third party assessor was a Natural Resource Management Consultant who was able to establish a baseline from where to start. From the baseline we identified priorities and targets for implementation. Dedication of planning time was critical.
High quality images and topographic mapping ( eg. 2cm topographical mapping and identifying vegetation at 1 metre, Iconis and satellite imagery ) have been sourced to support our natural resource management planning. Ultimately these tools have supported the EMS process. Information gained from the mapping allows better decision making on lay-out and potential Land and Water Management Planning.
Development and implementation of the EMS process was prioritised over a number of areas. With the first properties our focus was on Employment and Training, Climate ( weather stations) and Soils. We next moved to Mapping and Layout and Climate Change. The next step was to examine Regional Group Targets.
Regional targets are identified for natural resource management by the Regional Catchment Group. I consider these targets are minimum standards. We assess against these standards as a minimum requirement. Participation in an EMS process allows landholders to be able to report positive outcomes to regional NRM bodies. Involvement of more landholders has potential to further support regional bodies in achieving their NRM targets. It is vital though, that landholders are credited directly for achieving their NRM outcomes.
My next step is looking for methods to understand the carbon cycle balance in our enterprises. Knowledge generated from potential methods will be incorporated into my EMS. Over time the EMS process will allow us to measure the amount of extra carbon being stored in our landscape. I anticipate this may have opportunities for carbon trading into the future.
There is a need to support people to keep on track and to help understand what ISO 14,001 EMS is. This does not require funding for infrastructure. The $3,000 grant from Centrelink for people to take up EMS has been a negative. It has not focussed on progressive, positive or forward thinking people running medium to large scale operations.
The trend for Best Management practice has not been a positive influence. Adopting a practice change does not necessarily have a continuous improvement element. This type of approach is more linked with compliance issues and does not necessarily have a continuous improvement focus.
Unfortunately, active resistance has developed to the name EMS. There has been active resistance to support for implementation of EMS.
EMS for me is Planning for the Future – it is a way of working and doing business. It is a management system that allows landholders to make decisions that will reduce impacts on the environment as well as enhance profitability and productivity.