18 Jan 2017

A tender for improving water quality – what’s left to learn from using tenders?

Shayne Annett, Carl Larsen and Kym Whiteoak

Tenders have been used in a variety of environment grants programs, including some waterway health projects. While reflections on these experiences have been mixed, there is little information in the public domain that provides practical advice on the question of when you would use a tender versus a more traditional cost-share grant approach. This paper uses the experiences and evaluation of a water quality tender run by Melbourne Water to address this question. A tender technique was used to engage private landholders in taking actions on their land that would improve water quality in the Stringybark Creek Catchment, northeast of Melbourne, Victoria.

Testing the use of a tender was a recommendation from an evaluation of the long running cost-share River Health Incentives Program, and was also suggested by an expert panel convened to advise on future directions for the program. The tender was developed and delivered in 2014-15 and an evaluation of its cost-effectiveness and the impacts on landholder knowledge and skills has recently been completed. When compared to a conventional cost-share grant, on most measures the tender was found to have been less cost-effective. But a closer look at the evaluation revealed some interesting details.

In exploring the results from the pilot project and the evaluation, a set of economic, environmental and social characteristics were identified to guide practitioners in considering whether tenders or cost-share models are appropriate. This work also identified the steps that should precede the task of even considering which tool to use.

Read the full paper here, which was presented at the 8th Australian Stream Management Conference proceedings, Blue Mountains (2016).