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Institutionalising New Extension: a strategic framework for doing Natural Resource Management business

Melva Hobson, Greg Leach , Bill Wilkinson, Saleena Ham, Leanne Parkes, Nicola Wright, Craig Whiteford, Gordon Brown, Paul Harris

Queensland Department of Natural Resources and Mines


The Queensland Department of Natural Resources and Mines (NR&M) has coordinated the development of a Framework and guiding set of principles encouraging more effective extension in natural resource management (NRM). This paper outlines the New Extension Frameworki and provides some context of what New Extension is and how it came into being. This Framework is supported by many, including the Minister and executive management, as the new way of doing NRM business in how the Department of Natural Resources and Mines works with communities and clients in Queensland.

New Extension — what is it?

New Extension is both a philosophy and a practice. It is an approach to doing business in NRM that seeks continuous improvement in the human dimension of natural resource management. It targets achievement of positive outcomes from the interface between community and institutional NRM.

New Extension’s significance lies not so much in the wording of definitions, but in its underlying assumptions that will influence the behaviourii of people involved in making NRM decisions. The New Extension Framework is a guide for reflecting on and improving how NR&M staff approach the business of working with internal and external clients. It is not a blueprint plan of operation.

The purpose and place for New Extension

NR&M has a lead role in facilitating and promoting sustainable natural resource management in Queensland. As a government agency, the department’s role is to implement policy relating to the sustainable management of natural resources, as determined by the government of the day. The primary purpose of New Extension is to support continuous improvement in knowledge and practice that enables sustainable natural resource management decision making and actions.

Currently, in the Queensland Public Sector, a Community Engagement Divisioniii is being instituted to ensure that Queenslanders, including those in rural and regional areas, will have the opportunity to provide input and constructive feedback to government policy and program development. New Extension is NR&M’s framework for how the department engages with community, giving all Queenslanders’ a chance to contribute to NRM activities, policies and government decisions.

New Extension philosophy and principles

New Extension adheres to a collection of principles (as proposed by many authors):

  • systems thinkingiv and holistic approachesv

integrationvi and collaboration on initiatives, projects and proposalsvii

valued client partnershipsviii and relationship buildingix

  • inclusiveness, joint participation and learningx

working with constant changexi

leadershipxii, accountability and client servicexiii

  • investing in people’s skills, knowledge and willingness to contributexiv.

independence and fairnessxv

New Extension is multi-faceted and uses a broad range of processes that meet the needs of both urban and rural clients, and will consider current and future resource users and managers. It will include:

  • supporting greater community stewardship of our natural resourcesxvi

improving and integrating our understanding of the biophysical, economic and social sciences behind land, water and vegetation managementxvii

developing and applying appropriate technologies to meet the needs of communities in a rapidly changing environmentxviii

informing resource users and managers of our legislative and regulatory responsibilitiesxix

improving the internal communication, integration and functioning within the department.xx

What is 'new' about New Extension?

Extension has evolved as a discipline that focuses on the improvement of particular situations, particularly those in agriculture. It has been broadly defined to include public and private sector activities relating to technology transfer, education, attitude change, human resource development, and dissemination and collection of information.xxi New Extension significantly broadens this current purpose and approach of Agricultural Extension.

New Extension:

  • is a whole systems framework that improves the way NR&M goes about its business,
    as well as how ‘extension practitioners’ go about their business.
  • includes all people in the department, as well as ‘extension officers’
  • targets continuous improvement of NRM knowledge and practice internally as well as externally to NR&M
  • takes a systems approach to integrated planning and internal client interaction in NR&M
    as well as with external clients
  • places emphasis on social science and the social realities of NRM as well as the economic and physical aspects of NRM
  • incorporates the collective NR&M staff perspective of what and how extension needs to function in NRM as well as contemporary academic and ‘extension specialist’ perspectives
  • is an integrated cross-disciplinary team approach as well as a business group approach

‘New Extension’ targets integrated approaches to natural resource management and use, the support of independent decision-making, participative policy development and, ongoing and collaborative learning. This is in addition to information transfer and the provision of tools, processes and training, which are the more traditional hallmarks of extension.xxii

Where did New Extension come from?

In 1996, NR&M was created as a new Department from sections of the Department of Primary Industries and the then Department of Lands. The few extension staff continued to operate with the philosophy and practice of extension that had been founded in DPI and agriculture.xxiii

The Extension Strategy Working Group (ESWG) was born in 1999 out of an acknowledged need to redefine the purpose and function of extension in NR&M’s broader public good agendas of natural resource management. This need was being promoted from many groups within the department, informally and formally. The need for change was also being supported by writers such as Haug (1999), who posits that the role of extension professionals may have to change from ‘farmer services’ to public policy and education, and should address the need for regulation-enforcement activities and specialized services. Likewise, Murray (1999) notes that extension’s emphasis has shifted from individual profitability and survival to larger societal concerns. Pannel and Marsh (2000) suggest that this shift is evoking big changes in the types of extension, consistent with the move towards government provision of public goods.

The ESWG consisted of nine people from various levels and disciplines in NR&M who each had a passion for extension. The group chose to use extension processes to help redefine extension that would meet NRM needs. The approach was participatory and inclusive, involving a wide variety and number of over 70 NR&M staff, and external key community and industry people in identifying ‘what NRM extension was or should be in Queensland’. Case studies and extensive literature reviewsxxiv were conducted and the ESWG synthesised all this information in the context of contemporary ‘extension’ thinking and literature. A draft document was released in April 2000 and underwent review for a period of six months involving a wide range of internal and external people in critically evaluating the concept. Following this feedback was then used to reformat the document. In November 2000, the Minister and Executive Management Group in NR&M endorsed the New Extension Framework for implementation across the department.

Where will New Extension be used?

The framework can be applied at several levels in a strategic manner. It is an approach to doing business, or operationally, it may guide the development of a group or project. The fundamental focus is on seeking continuous improvement in the human dimension of natural resource management.

It will assist in

  • Strategic planning
  • Efficient delivery of services
  • Output & Operational plans
  • As a tool /support for Extension practise and for project teams across all areas
  • Evaluation and reflection

The Framework is a key tool to facilitate New Extension practice. It will encourage and enable individuals and groups to develop their own extension strategies, specific and relevant to the context of their work.

The New Extension Framework

The framework has four strategic pillars – Purpose, Process, Method and Monitoring. These provide the support needed for a holistic approach to working with all natural resource management issues, initiatives or opportunities.

The full version of the framework “New Extension” - A Strategic Framework for the Department of Natural Resources and Mines and can be found on the NR&M internal internet site.xxv

Following is a summary outline of the New Extension Framework.

A. Purpose

To support a stewardship ethic for land, water and vegetation management:

Identify NR&M’s stewardship responsibility

  • NR&M take a leadership role in fostering a whole-of-community stewardship ethic of sustainable Land, Water and Vegetation Management and use.

Identify community, industry and individual stewardship responsibility

  • Use mechanisms to foster a greater sense of individual, industry and community responsibility for natural resource outcomes.

B. Process – What processes do we use to meet our purpose?

Working together:

Value relationships

  • Appreciate that relationships are the levers of change in rural communities.
  • Consider people factors (social and economic issues) in planning and delivery of natural resource management outcomes.
  • Acknowledge the effort required to maintain formal and informal relationships.

Share decision-making

  • Support community partnerships at local, regional, catchment and State levels.
  • Define roles, responsibilities, accountabilities and performance measures for partnerships and community engagement

Participative approach

  • Ensure a well-planned approach to partnerships and community engagement.
  • Ensure best processes for community engagement are used.
  • Support greater community participation in planning and implementation of NRM plans

Negotiation, facilitation and conflict resolution skills

  • Provide negotiation, facilitation and conflict resolution support for community members participating in planning and implementing Land, Water & Vegetation Management outcomes.
  • Promote competency levels of people in roles as facilitators, mediators

Providing leadership through New Extension:

Support extension in NR&M

  • Commit resources to the extension effort in NR&M.
  • Build and strengthen existing partnerships between government and community at local, regional and catchment levels and develop new partnerships as relevant.

Advance extension

• Advance extension concepts and theory in the context of sustainable management of natural resources.

Use of extension processes

  • Teams and staff use extension processes and skills in working toward achieving NR&M goals.

• Teams and staff undertake review and evaluation in all extension processes.

Foster a learning culture

  • Support a NR&M ethos of continuous improvement in managing natural resources sustainably.

Leadership by example

  • Provide leadership-by-example in extension

C. Method — What do we need to do to meet our purpose?

Know the role of the department in managing land, water and vegetation:

Define the role of NR&M

  • Provide clear statements about the role and function of NR&M in supporting and enabling sustainable natural resource management.
  • Provide clear and transparent statements about the services that NR&M provides.

Define concepts of public and private good for NRM

  • Determine NR&M’s position on public and private good.
  • Assess the public good values associated with social, economic and environmental issues in Natural Resource Management

Involve Non-Government Sectors in service delivery

  • Ensure service delivery opportunities are visible and available. Identify opportunities to involve the community, commercial and industry sectors

Provide tailored incentives that may encourage uptake of opportunities.

  • Explore opportunities for joint venture delivery of services (NR&M/community/ private sector, or non-government organisations).
  • Develop processes that facilitate service delivery from the most appropriate point (community, industry, private or government delivery).

Working with change

  • Identify the desired outcomes for the integrated management of land, water and vegetation.
  • Develop strategies to manage change process and involve those affected
  • Develop strategies to manage change impacts with those affected
  • Adopt the precautionary principle in instances where there is a significant degree of uncertainty.

Support state, regional and local priorities

  • Agree on key priorities between community, government and industry.
  • Assist the development of sustainable communities.
  • Align provision of technical and scientific expertise to key priorities

Coordination between agencies

  • Ensure wider agency involvement in development of natural resource management plans.
  • Coordinate government activities and services relevant to the goals of local communities and sound outcomes for land, water and vegetation.


  • Explore the development of new models of community leadership to involve clients in NRM
  • Ensure that NR&M individuals and teams can lead participative processes with the community.
  • Use participative processes as an integral part of policy development and service delivery.
  • Explore the development of local and regional models of management that give stakeholder groups more involvement in NRM.
  • Manage conflict resulting from issues in natural resource management planning and decision-making.

• Sponsor creativity and innovation in NRM

Know our clients:

Understand client values and issues

  • Know our clients
  • Ensure social research is recognised as an essential part of natural resource management

Our response to clients

  • Achieve consistency in the information NR&M provides to clients.
  • Align delivery with client expectations

Understand and deal with complexity

  • Make sense of complexity in integrated management of land, water and vegetation.

Customer service

  • Respond positively to clients.
  • Develop a NR&M Customer Service standard (document).
  • Implement staff training to meet customer service standards.

Take a holistic approach:

Understanding systems

  • Facilitate an understanding of an holistic approach to integrated land, water and vegetation management systems.
  • Deal with specific problems and opportunities within a context of bigger picture issues.
  • Encourage communities to address environmental health indicators by geographic area, eg catchment area, bioregion.
  • Foster critical thinking that challenges how and why current practices are adopted.
  • Recognise scale and complexity of issues

Coordination and integration in NR&M

  • Facilitate and develop more effective multi-disciplinary teams in NR&M.
  • Encourage completion and implementation of regional strategies for managing natural resources.
  • Adopt inclusive principles and processes when developing policies


  • Build on and develop links with stakeholders in Land, Water & Vegetation Management.
  • NR&M will develop written agreements with other parties that seek to achieve defined natural resource management outcomes
  • Monitor and evaluate the achievement of resource management outcomes in regions and catchments.

Link incentives and funding to the achievement of desired land, water and vegetation management outcomes.

Support the development of people’s skills and capacity:

Understand staff values and issues

  • Know our staff

Enhance NR&M skills and capacity

  • Develop a workforce able to support innovation and the integrated management of land, water and vegetation.
  • Provide incentives and opportunities for staff development.
  • Provide specialist support for staff engaged in extension, community engagement and client interface (eg over the counter).
  • Link to centres of excellence

Building on skills and abilities in the community

  • Support community participation processes and networks that promote the delivery of good land, water and vegetation management principles.
  • Encourage community participation in natural resource use and management training.

Encourage creative thinking

  • Create an environment that seeks and fosters innovation and creativity.

Manage information and share knowledge:

Developing data and information—information management

Data and information capture

  • Support the capture of information relating to land, water and vegetation management

Information access

  • Ensure our clients can access NR&M information through a variety of mechanisms.
  • Ensure our staff can access NR&M information through a variety of mechanisms simply and effectively.
  • Information presentation and interpretation

Sharing knowledge:

Achieving responsible decision making and action

  • Support strategies that help develop knowledge (attitudes,learnings and skills) and action leading to adoption of sustainable natural resource management outcomes.
  • Recognise information technology as a tool to enhance the development of knowledge

D. Ensuring success

Monitor and evaluate for continuous improvement:

Define and review performance expectations

  • Develop clear responsibilities and expected performance outcomes with partners.
  • Implement effective processes to monitor progress and performance.
  • Implement continuous learning through review and evaluation processes.

Learn from successes and failures:

Support, encourage and monitor responsible integrated natural resource management action.

  • Provide clear information on natural resource entitlements and responsibilities.
  • Develop institutional and regulatory frameworks that provide greater incentives for clients to manage natural resources sustainably Develop and implement positive extension and communication strategies.
  • Acknowledge, promote and record examples of good practice in land, water and vegetation Management.
  • Take decisive compliance action as required.

Explore alternative approaches to accountability

  • Work with relevant industry and professional organisations to define “good practice”
  • Investigate alternative approaches to achieving enforcement


This framework is a purposeful step in an ongoing process of using inclusive approaches to developing and institutionalising extension specific to Natural Resource Management. It applies to all staff in the Queensland Department of Natural Resources and Mines and is grounded with clients who participated in its development. To meet challenges of change and the diversity of approaches in the department, implementation of New Extension will be an evolving and critically reflective process, embodying the philosophy in the Framework.

We, in the Extension Strategy Working Group know that interpretations of this framework will be different. We believe that the New Extension Framework is a strategic way to consider NRM roles and responsibilities in NRM extension, and how we, a government department, do NRM business internally in the organisation, and externally with community clients throughout Queensland.


i NR&M, November 2000, “New Extension – A Strategic Framework for the Department of Natural Resources and Mines”

ii Baker, H.R.; Future options and prospects in rural extension and technology transfer,

iii Beattie, P; Sectorwide, Queensland Government, May 2001

iv Gill ,Tony, 2001, “About Systems Thinking” ,Prontis Limited

v Aronson, Daniel 1994 “Worldview & Economics: A Systemic Analysis”

vi Marsh, Sally P. and Pannell, David J., 2000, “Agricultural extension policy in Australia: The good, the bad and the misguided”, Agricultural and Resource Economics, The University of W.A., Nedlands, 6907

vii Murray, Mike 1999 “A Contrast Of The Australian And California Extension And Technology Transfer Processes” Journal Of Extension, April 1999, Volume 37 Number 2

viii Haug, R. “Some leading issues in international agricultural extension, a literature review”, J Agr Educ Ext (1999, 5, 4, pp 263-274)

ix Ison, R.L. & Russell, D.B., “Agricultural Extension and Rural Development – Breaking out of Traditions”, Cambridge University Press, UK, 2000

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xi Rough, Jim 1997. “Dynamic Facilitation and the Magic of Self-Organizing Change” Association for Quality and Participation Journal.- June issue

xii Apps, Jerold W. 1993, “Leadership For The Next Age”, Journal Of Extension, Volume 31 Number 2

xiii Queensland Government Service Delivery Project, 1999 “Government Service Delivery Framework - Building a Better Queensland”

xiv Stillwell, Mark 2000 “Philosophy of University Outreach and Extension” Lincoln University Missouri

xv Borrini-Feyerabend, G., Farvar, M. T., Nguinguiri, J. C. & Ndangang, V. A.: Co-management of Natural Resources: Organising, Negotiating and Learning-by-Doing. GTZ and IUCN, Kasparek Verlag, Heidelberg (Germany), 2000.

xvi Natural Resources and Mines 2001 “Corporate Plan 2001-2006”

xvii Miles, Robert 2001 “Building Sustainable and Profitable Rural Industries” Department of Primary Industries

xviii Falvey, Lindsay J. 1996 “Agricultural Education In Natural Resource Management” The Crawford Fund For International Development 1 Leonard Street Parkville 3052 Melbourne Australia And Institute For International Development Limited

xix Natural Resources and Mines 2001 “Legislation”

xx Vanessa Bainbridge etal. 2000 “Transforming Bureaucracies - Institutionalising Participation and People Centred Processes in Natural Resource Management (An Annotated Bibliography)”, International Institute for Environment and Development

xxi Marsh, S.P. & Pannell, D.J., The New Environment for Agriculture - Fostering the relationship between public and private extension, RIRDC Publication, November 2000

xxii Allen, Will 2000 “Strengthening the links between research and management: From technology transfer to collaborative learning” NRM-changelinks working paper No. 1

xxiii Coutts, J. A. 1994. “Process, Paper Policy and Practice – a case study of the introduction of a formal extension policy in Queensland, Australia 1987-1994”, Thesis Wageningen, CPI-Data Koninklijke Bibliotheek, Den Haag.

xxiv Leach,G. 2000. “Literature Review for the NR&M Extension Strategy Development Process”

xxv “New Extension” - A Strategic Framework for the Department of Natural Resources and Mines

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