Soil and land resource survey have been considered essential for effective land use planning by planning agencies in countries like the United States and Britain where legislation supports land use planning decisions. A similar situation does not occur in Australia, where there is substantial variability in the level of soil and land resource survey data available and in the use of these data to develop and/or support planning decisions.
Current and potential users of soil and land resource survey throughout the world in general exhibit a poor awareness of the availability of these data and the potential role for these data in planning. A review of current literature reports similar findings for Australia.
Simply providing soil and land resource survey data is a waste of public resources unless these data can be used for planning purposes. Understanding the constraints which exist and inhibit the use of these data is essential to developing a more user friendly product. A series of semi-formal discussions were held with a range of current and potential clients of Land Resources Branch to determine these constraints with the ultimate aim of developing proposals to modify existing services to provide a more user friendly product.
Client responses indicated a poor awareness of the availability and potential role for soil and land resource survey data in land use planning in Queensland. In particular, clients were critical of the technical and complex nature of both the reports and maps although most respondents indicated a preference for standalone maps to remove the need to consult the report. Most current clients, while identifying the above constraints, experienced little difficulty in applying the data to the particular uses in question. They relied very heavily on close co-ordination and liaison with appropriate Branch staff to interpret the data.
A major issue under review was the willingness to pay for soil and land resource survey data in the future. The contingent-valuation approach was used in an attempt to determine this willingness to pay for data. In general, while clients appeared satisfied with current partial or full consulting services they had experienced, they were very cautious to express an interest in further consultancies - particularly if fees were likely to rise to full consultancy rates. It is suggested that this reluctance is partly an expression of the "free-rider" principle in that clients are not
prepared to express an interest in the service in the hope of obtaining the service free.
An examination of the environmental scan, recently undertaken as part of a strategic management exercise by Land Resources Branch, together with the responses obtained from current and potential clients as part of this project suggests that:
— there is a limited market for soil and land resource survey as a consulting service,
— any attempt to expand consulting activities needs to be accompanied by a substantial programme to promote public education and awareness to establish the need, value and role of soil and land resource survey in planning,
— soil and land resource survey needs to be more user orientated with data presented in a user friendly format such that clients can directly apply the data to the planning issues under consideration,
— there needs to be clear policies established and publicised in terms of services available and associated fees for consultancies.
It is proposed that Land Resources Branch adopt an approach to more actively
market soil and land resource survey as a consulting service (subject to Departmental and Government support). However, before actively promoting this concept further, there is an urgent need to:
— undertake a more comprehensive review of current and potential client needs,
— complete an analysis to determine the optimum level of data to provide for particular planning decisions,
— review past studies and determine the economics of
these studies - particularly the benefits which may have accrued as a result of land use planning and management decisions based on soil and land resource data,
— determine the balance to be maintained between consultancy activities and existing Branch functions and roles,
— develop expertise in marketing services,
— develop a more professional approach to servicing consultancies.
Any decision or proposal to become more active in the consultancy field needs to be developed with caution. There needs to be full consultation with both Branch staff and Departmental management personnel to ensure appropriate commitment is obtained at all levels. In particular, a balance needs to be maintained between existing services and roles provided by the Branch and the level of consultancy which can be effectively accommodated. In addition, a professional approach needs to be adopted to consultancy and marketing of these services if the programme is to succeed.
It is essential that the Branch develop an appropriate plan for overall Branch activities including, in particular, a marketing plan for consultancy services. Key aspects of developing a marketing plan have been provided together with a possible market plan schedule for 1987-88. The key to success in marketing services is to know your client needs, develop sound marketing plans and conduct frequent market audits for control and review of progress.
This project highlights the complex environment facing Land Resources Branch particularly in terms of the complex nature of the land resources of the State and the poor user awareness and appreciation of the place for soil and land resource survey data in land use planning. The traditional roles of the Branch have been threatened by reduced funding and as a consequence, a more active role in the consultancy field of soil and land resource survey is seen as an opportunity to alleviate this threat. A programme of public education coupled with a more conscious effort to tailor soil and land resource survey to
meet client needs and expectations, either through traditional survey or consultancy, will establish soil and land resource survey as a necessary prerequisite for land use planning decisions, thus securing the future for the Branch.