By Tom Atkinson, Senior Environmental Consultant and Team Leader – Ecology for Emerge Associates. 

You are no doubt familiar with the controversy surrounding the construction of the ‘Roe 8’ section of Roe Highway. Earlier this year, Emerge Associates assisted the Rehabilitating Roe 8 Steering Committee in the preparation of a restoration plan for areas that were cleared along the proposed alignment of Roe 8, prior to the projects suspension. Needless to say, committing to assist on such a high profile and contentious project was not a decision that my colleagues and I took lightly.

Our brief included community and stakeholder consultation to help identify priorities for management and the provision of technical inputs to help guide and inform management planning. It was clear from the beginning that the ‘Rehabilitating Roe 8’ plan had to address both the ‘social’ and ‘ecological’ aspects associated with restoring the bushland that was cleared. Combining social and ecological considerations is sensible way to approach restoration, but it also adds extra layers of complexity. A wide range of stakeholders were, and still are, actively involved in negotiating the scope of ‘Rehabilitating Roe 8’ and the consultation space was certainly complex. The expectations placed upon the restoration plan were also many and varied.

Luckily for us we had welcome assistance from Creating Communities in completing the stakeholder consultation program. Extensive community and stakeholder engagement was conducted between August and November 2017. Over 210 people provided input via meetings and events. The approach ultimately adopted for social aspects included communication, engagement and involvement activities which were linked to the implementation and monitoring of the proposed restoration works.

Luckier still we had a ready-made guideline for restoration management planning to base the restoration plan upon: The National standards for the practice of ecological restoration in Australia (the Standards).

The Standards are a great resource because they provide a systematic, concise and adaptable framework for restoration projects that are appropriate to any Australian ecosystem. Moreover the Standards recommend principles that underpin current best practice. For example, principle 6 of the Standards states that ‘social aspects are critical to successful ecological restoration’, which was never more apt than when applied to Roe 8.

The Standards also outline steps to plan, implement and monitor restoration projects and provides a clear scheme for labelling terminology that helps avoid conflation (‘key performance indicator success completion criteria target’ = an ‘objective’, brilliant!). The standards and other information about them can be found at the Society for Ecological Restoration Australia website and are definitely worth checking out.

The Rehabilitating Roe 8 restoration plan was approved by Rita Saffioti, Minister for Transport in early June this year.