NRW is currently developing Area Statements, which will enable more joined up approaches to managing our natural resources.
Area Statements take a place-based approach – which means rather than started from one particular policy objective, they start from the needs of real places. They use evidence on the natural resources in that area, as well as the benefits they can provide and explore how the national priorities, risks and opportunities for the sustainable management of natural resources are reflected in that place.
Ultimately, they will inform, and be informed by, the local well-being Assessment and Well-being Plans produced by Public Services Boards, bringing together data, information, organisations, and ways of engaging others to help better understand the many complex relationships between the environment and people – and where action can be taken.
Daron Herbert, Team Leader, People & Places South West, tells us more about the Area Statement process.
Building a healthy, functioning environment together
Area Statements will inform what we do, how we do it, who we do it with, and how we plan our work in different areas of Wales.
We are tasked, under the Environment Act, to apply collaborative approaches to their development. To that end, we have consulted a wide range of stakeholders on the challenges and environmental risks that matter most to them.
Our events have been well attended by town, community and county councillors, who are the elected representatives of the community.
How have you ensured the right people have been involved?
As many different sectors have been included as possible to capture the widest range of views and expertise. This no doubt will reflect the current networks in the area, which has really helped us where these networks are strong. We’ve also ensured that representative groups such as farming unions and angling associations have been included, in addition to large industry in the area. But we also acknowledge those groups who we have not yet been able to reach.
We recognise that some stakeholders, such as environmental NGOs, have struggled to put the same time into all of the areas due to lack of funding and time dedicated to policy. Others such as young people, or in sectors such as IT and Housing, might not yet see the relevance of our work.
Some organisations would rather be consulted or just attend one event and we have to cater for all of this. But that’s ok because the end product is not an absolute – it will be a summary of our conversations to date, and an offer for others to continue to work with us help find solutions.
What have we learnt from our methods of engagement to date?
One of the things that has worked well in the South West for obtaining place-based information is “participatory mapping” around a specific topic, such as biodiversity.
This involves people drawing on a map to share their specific local ecological knowledge and has been very engaging.
However, the participatory mapping with multi-functional groups, looking at the whole area, has not been so fruitful. This is indicative of the wider problem of engagement on a regional scale, where it is easier to talk sites or catchments, with specific issues or policy.
Place-based approach is most powerful when you can relate it to real places and real people.
So, we need to be careful that if the Area Statements are too high level, we will alienate stakeholders who are key delivery partners for us, who may see no place for their organisation. Each Area Statement needs to truly reflect our patch and not be too ‘watered down’ or generic.
We are going to consolidate all of the information from recent engagement events held in each county and ensure that our ‘topics’ are updated accordingly.
These topics will need to also be considered by our own internal experts, to test our own conclusions, to challenge our own actions, and to give permission to the operational delivery part of NRW to seek ways of working differently. Our vision is to ensure that our place network – built around the relationships with stakeholders and other organisations - is truly embedded within the organisation.
We all need to look after our natural resources and ecosystems, so they can continue to provide us with the things we need now, and in the future.
Our natural resources help to keep us healthy, improve wellbeing and provide multiple benefits.
This new Area Statement process is designed to enable key decision- makers to focus on what’s important in their locality and make decisions with our ecosystem’s long-term health and viability at their heart.