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Relevance of the SEQ Ecosystem Services Framework in terms of Policy and Planning in SEQ

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With SEQ continuing to be Queensland’s fastest growing region, population growth and associated development pressures are having an increasing impact on our ability to conserve areas that supply ecosystem services. Planning for and managing the impacts of development is an important part of ensuring that our natural environment can continue to support community well-being and economic security for current and future genrations. This section provides an overview of the policy and planning framework for natural resource management in SEQ with a focus on the three documents that promote the use of the Framework as a key tool in achieving targets to address regional policies. These documents are: the SEQ Regional Plan 2009 - 2031; the State of the Region Report; the SEQ Natural Resource Management Plan 2009 - 2031. The diagram below presents the natural resources management, policy and planning framework in SEQ. 



Figure 1: The natural resource mangement, policy and planning framework for SEQ.

For more information on the planning and policy process in SEQ, 2 documents have been developed to support stakholders to meet their obligations: Policy and Planning and the SEQ Ecosystem Services Framework and Local Government Guidelines to Incorporating the SEQ Ecosystem Services Framework.

The SEQ Regional Plan 2009 - 2031

The SEQ Regional Plan 2009 – 2031 (Regional Plan) enacted under the Sustainable Planning Act 2009 (SPA) is the statutory regional planning document in SEQ and takes precedence over all other planning instruments. It is a plan for managing growth in the region until 2031. The Regional Plan articulates the vision and Desired Regional Outcomes (DROs) for SEQ and provides a set of Principles, Policies and Programs that support the achievement of these DROs. All state and local plans and policies that relate to the SEQ region must reflect and align with the Regional Plan. Planning at all levels must therefore consider the Policies in which the Framework has been highlighted as a Program. The Framework has been identified as a Program for achieving two important Policies. They include:

DRO 3: Regional Landscape – Key environmental, economic, social and cultural values of the regional landscape are identified and secured to meet community needs and achieve ecological sustainability.
Policy 3.1.1: Regional Landscape Values - Plan, design and manage development, infrastructure and activities to protect, manage and enhance regional landscape values.
Program 3.1.2 Use the SEQ Ecosystem Services Framework to identify and evaluate the multiple benefits provided to communities by regional landscapes and ecosystems.

DRO 4: Natural Resources – Regional natural resources and rural production areas are protected, managed, enhanced and used sustainably.
Policy 4.3.1: Ecosystem Services - Protect areas supplying high levels of ecosystem services from development impacts.
Program 4.3.2 Use the SEQ Ecosystem Services Framework to identify and measure ecosystem services.
Program 4.3.3 Support Landholders to protect, maintain and enhance the provision of ecosystem services.


The SEQ State of Region Report

The basic intent of the SEQ Regional Plan is described through a series of Desired Regional Outcomes (DROs). Sustainability indicators based around these DROs are used to monitor changes in economic, environmental and social factors to report on the progress of the region towards sustainability. The SEQ State of the Region Report provides detailed information (status and trend) on each of the sustainability indicators, describing what aspects of the region are changing and in what direction. The data is a snapshot in time, showing emerging patterns and trends up until the time of publication. 

The State of the Region Report is developed every 5 years to inform the review of the SEQ Regional Plan. Ecosystem services appeared in the 2008 State of Region as one of the indicators of DRO 1: Sustainability. The SEQ Regional Plan requires that the capacity of the region’s ecosystems to supply ecosystem services is maintained or enhanced. A comparison of the data from 1991 to 2004 showed ecosystem function over that time increased by 572 465 ha and decreased by 1 347 141 ha. 

The map to the right presents this information. Areas in green represent improvements in ecosystem function; red represents a decrease in ecosystem function. Improvements in ecosystem function are linked to improvements in ground cover in grazing areas. Decreases in ecosystem function appear to be primarily a result of clearing woody vegetation. In the 2008 State of Region Report, ecosystem services received an ‘amber’ symbol indicating the state of ecosystem functions was stable, of concern, or less sustainable.  



The SEQ Natural Resource Management Plan 2009-2031 (NRM Plan) is the preeminent natural resource management plan for the SEQ region. The Regional Plan gives weight to the NRM Plan by identifying it as the Program to achieve several other DROs. Responsibility for implementation of the targets in the plan does not rest with specific agencies or organisations. Rather, the intention of the NRM Plan is to recognise that all stakeholders have a role to play in implementing the targets.

The NRM Plan highlights a number of regional natural resource targets under the categories of air and atmosphere, coastal and marine, community, land, nature conservation, regional landscape areas, traditional owners and water. As a Guiding Principle, ecosystem services is at the core of the NRM Plan therefore the targets should be aligned so as to maintain ecosystem functions and ecosystem services across the SEQ region: 

Guiding Principle 2: The natural environment provides a range of goods and services. These goods and services are known as 'ecosystem services' and the preservation and management of these are essential for the region's response to climate change, long-term economic, social, cultural and environmental sustainability, and community quality of life.