Higher impact environmental reporting and fronting up with wicked solutions

From the Commissioner

The Commissioner was honoured to speak at the Environment Institute of Australia and New Zealand Inc (EIANZ) annual conference in Wellington, New Zealand this week. It’s an event that brings together academics, government, business and industry leaders from all facets of the environmental spectrum. Speakers included; former Environment Director of the OECD Simon Upton who is now NZ’s Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment, Distinguished Professor Dame Anne Salmond, CEO of Landcorp Steven Carden and my colleague at the Office of the Commissioner of Environmental Sustainability, Victoria, Dr Scott Rawlings.

This year’s conference was aptly titled Tu Kaha: Stand Tall - Fronting up with wicked solutions.

Grappling wicked problems was at the core of the Commissioner's speech: many of the delegates at EIANZ spoke and heard about new or refined methods to increase the impact of, and deliver better outcomes for, the environment from their work. The Commissioner discussed the journey that took place in Victoria towards higher-impact reporting, 'Our methods for influencing practical action are adapting to address the pace of change of life in 2017. Reports alone and recommendations addressed in five or six yearly cycles just don’t cut it. To put it simply, as environmental reporters we must strive to reimagine our role and the way we work, to increase the value and impact of what we do.' 

The Commissioner demonstrated that the higher-impact approach described in the State and Benefit Framework for the 2018 Victorian State of the Environment report has already delivered practical outcomes  – using the 2016 State of the Bays reporting process and reporting products along with the an expanded role in environmental reporting for the Office since it was established in 2003 as examples that the new approach to reporting is making a difference. 

The Commissioner also told the audience of environmental practitioners that 'As well as improving the effectiveness of our traditional science research, monitoring and reporting effort, investing in the skills and capabilities to unlock the power of big data and analytics as well as environmental economic accounts - two wicked solutions to help governments, community and industry maintain a healthy environment – is a priority.’

'This will require investment, capacity building and a move towards more comprehensive real-time environmental monitoring and reporting. We must work tirelessly to harness the power of technology for public good so that citizens can participate in and have access to meaningful, environmental information, for example, on our bays, waterways and air. Just as we have done with the monitoring of weather and emergency management events such as fire and flood.' 

'To maintain a healthy environment we need the right information at the right time, and to do this requires a big vision and long-term investment by governments – not necessarily new money – new priorities. In addition to our digital capability, investment at the national and sub-national level in developing environmental economic accounts for important ecosystems, is critical to better understand, describe and account for environmental benefit as our economy and population grow.'