LANDCARE and conservation groups would be able to bypass bureaucrats under a revised funding model proposed by the Coalition.
Opposition environment spokesman Greg Hunt outlined plans to revamp the National Landcare network at Huntly.
At the site of the Bendigo Creek Restoration Project, Mr Hunt said the policy would help put decisions back in the hands of local environmental groups.
He said projects would avoid having to go through red tape and decision makers in Canberra before going ahead.
“No decision will be taken without a Landcare representative at the table, which is a first,” he said.
“We will radically simplify the paperwork and bureaucracy.”
Mr Hunt said the Coalition would also pledge $1 million each year as a base level of funding for state and national Landcare networks.
He said it wasn’t a big investment but would be a good starting point for projects.
“It’s not a king’s ransom. I’m sorry it’s not more.
“But I think it gives a secure base so as Landcare groups can have the coordination that they want and deserve.
“This is responding to what we’re hearing from Landcare at state and national levels.
“They have been saying they’ve been cut out of the vast bulk of the funds and smothered in bureaucracy.
“They’re saying they just want to get out and do things.”
Mr Hunt said Bendigo had an “incredibly strong” local Landcare network.
Liberal candidate for Bendigo Greg Bickley said the changes would allow local groups better access to funding.
Mr Bickley was involved with the a group of farmers that started the Campaspe/Runnymede Landcare Group in 1996.
He said he was focused on making it easier for groups to get on with the job of improving farmland and replanting trees.
Labor candidate for Bendigo Lisa Chesters said the Coalition’s plan did not include enough base funding to make a meaningful change.
“The Liberals’ promise of $1 million for the whole of the nation is well short of the funding already provided to groups in our region,” she said.
Ms Chesters said she was also concerned about whether public service jobs would be downsized or cut if layers of bureaucracy were drawn back.
National Landcare Network chairman David Walker said he welcomed the Coalition’s pledge and that it was good recognition of the hard work groups were involved in.