NRM officers wait on funding

Kate PollardThe West Australian

Project officers working within natural resource management have hopes pinned on funding through Caring for our Country to come through this week.

More than $115 million is expected to be granted to WA regional NRM groups over the next five years under phase two of Caring for our Country.

Funding for phase one ran out on June 30, and some NRM officers were forced to take unpaid leave.

WA has six NRM regions where work is contracted out to sub-regional groups.

South Coast NRM chief executive Carl Beeck expects contracts will be received in the next week and funds to community groups to be rolled out as soon as possible.

But he said the hold-up had put many people under pressure.

The Gillamii Centre in Cranbrook, covering parts of seven shires has been affected by the funding delay and receives its base funding from SCNRM.

Gillamii Centre chairwoman Cassandra Stipanicev said organisations like theirs were having to fund positions but could only do so for a finite amount of time because of limited financial resources.

Ms Stipanicev said it was an issue affecting many NRM regions across Australia.

"A lot of these people have been taking leave without pay, trying to hold their positions and not draw on their organisations, but they have mortgages to pay and kids to feed," she said.

NRM Regional Leaders Group WA chairman Chris King said the situation was concerning and that the 2013-14 contracts should have been signed by July 1.

But administrative delays and changes in the government were partly to blame.

He said those affected were mostly sub-regional groups, and it wasn't all employees, nor all NRM regions.

Mr King said the new contracts were imminent but could take up to a month for the funds to flow through.

"It's terrible and unsettling for the whole sector it doesn't send a good message for those who are employed in it," he said.

A spokesman for the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry, which co-handles Caring for our Country funding, said the Australian Government would provide up to $670 million for the 54 regional NRM organisations.

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