The Western Australian Biodiversity Science Institute (WABSI) was established by the WA government in 2015 to perform the role of a ‘science broker’, with the purpose fostering greater collaboration in finding practical, strategic solutions to the State’s biodiversity management challenges. WABSI’s stakeholders include the mining industry, government, researchers and non-government organisations. Synergies was engaged by the WABSI board to prepare an independent review of the value and impact of the Institute over the past four years, together with a forward-looking assessment of its potential future contributions.
WABSI was established on the basis that the State lacked a coordinated state-wide biodiversity knowledge system. Further, the research efforts of multiple organisations were not being satisfactorily aligned to the needs of end users. This was seen to be holding back the responsible advancement of WA development projects (mining, agriculture, infrastructure etc) due to insufficient ‘good science’ to inform decisions on policy, planning and biodiversity management.
In 2015, WABSI was funded by the Department of Jobs, Tourism, Science and Innovation (JTSI) to the value of $7m over 5 years. This funding concludes in December 2020. WABSI is currently seeking funding for a second five year term, both from government and industry sources.
Synergies was engaged to evaluate WABSI’s performance at delivering value to the State and its stakeholders.
Our evaluation examined WABSI’s performance and impact against a number of key criteria:
has WABSI been effective at influencing positive outcomes?
has WABSI brokered trusting and lasting relationships with stakeholders?
is WABSI identified as the ‘go to’ organisation for advice on biodiversity issues, referrals etc?
has WABSI been operating at the right level (big picture/strategic versus technical/specific)?
has funding been sufficient to enable WABSI to operate effectively and exert influence?
what opportunities and benefits would be foregone if WABSI was to cease?
Synergies used a combination of desktop analysis, stakeholder interviews, case studies and cost benefit analysis to assess performance.
Since establishment, most of WABSI’s activities have centred on strategies to address the impacts of mining on biodiversity and to improve the information base for regulatory decisions regarding approvals to mine and mine closure.
Based on WABSI’s completed projects to date that relate to the mining sector, we estimated that the Institute is expected to deliver a net benefit of $77 million (NPV) over 20 years. This benefit is predominantly due to the value of reduced delays to major mining and state infrastructure projects, due to having better, more accessible, biodiversity information upon which to prepare proposals and make regulatory decisions.
If WABSI was to continue for another five-year term, more of its projects ‘in the pipeline’ could be implemented and benefits are estimated to exceed costs by a ratio of approximately 3 to 1.
Our independent review provided assurance to the board and stakeholders that WABSI is producing outputs that are having an impact and fulfilling the original ‘reason for being’ for the Institute’s formation. The evaluation also uncovered areas for improvement, which have proved to be valuable guidance in planning for WABSI’s future.