Friday, 5 April 2013

Welcome to Natural Resources Wales

This new public body became operational in Wales on 1 April and brings together the work of the Countryside Council for Wales, Environment Agency Wales and Forestry Commission Wales, as well as some functions of Welsh Government.  It will consider social, environmental and economic benefits in the way it manages natural resources and improves the environment.

But will it make a difference?  There are bound to be considerable teething problems as the new body settles down and people get used to working across sectors.  Inevitably, in this day and age, one of the limiting factors will be IT - how long will it take the systems from three separate organisations to learn to communicate?

There has to be logic, which the 'change managers' will have hooked onto, in bringing three organisations together and no doubt there will be a slimming down of 'back-office' staff but it will remain to be seen how this impacts on the moorlands and uplands of Wales.  To my mind these areas of Wales are in serious need of a champion and the test for the new organisation will not be in how sweetly the organisation runs, the amount of paperclips it uses or the size of the cost savings, but the impact it has on the land and on the people that manage the land.  

This model of large single bodies is being considered elsewhere.  In Scotland, will SEPA merge with SNH, in England will Natural England, merge with the Environment Agency or the Forestry Commission?  Natural England is still suffering birth pains from its formation from English Nature, RDS and the Countryside Commission, and it is far from a foregone conclusion that merging organisations is a recipe for instant success.

Natural Resources Wales claims that it will provide a better service for people and businesses as they will now deal with one single body rather than three.  I give a cautious welcome to Natural Resources Wales but from my perspective the jury will be out until the impact on the moorland and upland areas of Wales can be judged.

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