Today the IWA publishes its full report of a conference on the proposal to merge the three big environmental agencies in Wales
If there was one message to emerge from the IWA’s conference on re-thinking environmental management in Wales it was this, be radical. The conference had been convened to discuss the Welsh Government’s plans to merge the Environment Agency, the Countryside Council for Wales and Forestry Commission Wales and attracted nearly 120 delegates from a wide range of organisations – environmental bodies, conservation groups, farming and landowning interests and other businesses as well as local authorities.
A full report and the visual presentations from the conference, which took place in Cardiff on 26 September, are published today here.
Many delegates laid stress on the need for a wholly new body rather than a mere merger of the three existing bodies. Only a radical approach would bring about the integrated, holistic approach needed. Terry A’Hearn, a former Chief Executive of the Victoria Environment Protection Agency in Australia, said:
“Doing the same thing more efficiently is not enough. Economic and social systems will clash seriously at some point in the future. You have to get ahead of the game, otherwise tensions will be resolved only through crisis. The challenge is not to provide some incremental improvement but to imitate the Steve Jobs approach at Apple – create something totally different.”
Morgan Parry, Chair of the Countryside Council for Wales, said Wales had been at the cutting edge of the theory in sustainable development, now was the time to put it into practice.
The one strong note of caution came from Forestry interests. Jon Owen Jones, Chair of Forestry Commission Wales, urged the conference to be more cautious about the merger proposal. He did not think that merging three into one would be an easy task. He thought that there were considerable risks: that costs will not be controlled, that cultures will not meld, that there could be failure rather than success. We needed to be certain that the existing system is broke, or that the new would be better than the sum of the old.
Summing up the conference, Peter Davies, the Sustainable Futures Commissioner, and an IWA Trustee, said that Terry A’Hearn’s message had been inspirational. “What we did in the organisational past is not good enough. We need to be radical, distinctive and brave. The change has to be about more than just the merger of three bodies”, he said.
The conference report, including detailed recommendations from work groups that looked at the benefits, risks and governance issues has been forwarded to the Environment Minister, John Griffiths.