Briefing to members at AGM, Welsh Wildlife Centre, 18 September 2017
The following text contains the Chair’s speaking notes at AGM 2017.
Welsh Wildlife Project
As we discussed last year, there is a continuing decline in nature conservation and biodiversity in Wales and the current structure is not addressing this as effectively as it could do, despite the best efforts of staff and trustees.
Devolution - most policy in respect of the environment and conservation is now made in Wales and the fact that Wales can and is making its own laws creates significant new opportunities and requires new ways of working for us all.
We know that our strength as a movement is our localness -our connection with people and communities and our local wildlife knowledge.
Structural changes have been under consideration for some time, indeed mooted as long ago as 2013 and again before that.
Having 6 regional Trusts in Wales dissipates our energy; while performing well individually, together they are not punching above their collective weight – in an increasingly competitive charity sector we need to be measured in the same breath as e.g. RSPB, National Trust, Woodland Trust and indeed non-environmental charities.
As I said last year, and with all this in mind the Chairs of the Wildlife Trusts commissioned external expertise to present options for a way forward. That report was received this summer.
At the recent meeting of Chairs there was a consensus that there was considerable merit in a single Trust for Wales and to explore ways forward. A timetable of 3 years has been set which is thought to be achievable but is challenging. There may be obstacles to overcome and decisions to be made on the way that could affect the timetable or eventual outcome.
There is much to consider before we make any final decisions and of course members will be at the heart of those decisions. We need to consider how one Trust could work, how it would be based on strong local identity, how it would be funded. I know that you will want to know the answers to these questions before you make any decisions. These are big considerations. The Chairs are putting in place the arrangements to find these answers.
But any change is difficult – and we are especially aware of the uncertainty that may arise among our staff.
So with this in mind….
Somewhat surprisingly, at the end of June we were approached by the Board of Brecknock Wildlife Trust (BWT), who presented us with a proposal to amalgamate our two Trusts into one.
As you may know BWT is a relatively small organisation, established in 1964 and roughly one tenth of our size with a declining membership of around 400 and 4 staff, it manages 18 Nature Reserves stretching from Ystradfawr in the west to Glasbury close to Hay on Wye in the East. We share a common border of over 60 miles.
Why should we amalgamate?
Since the proposal was made your Trustees and senior management team have examined it closely and considered its implications for WTSWW - your Trust, our staff, our volunteers and members and of course for our wildlife.
BWT have quite substantial financial reserves (much of which was donated to be used in the Brecknock area) but a declining income and membership. Quite simply and against the backcloth of the ongoing Welsh Wildlife Project they - BWT, feel too small to go it alone any longer.
We border BWT sharing, amongst other features, the Beacons and two major rivers – the Taff and the Towy; their very successful Wild Communities Project is right on our border.
And Brecknock’s area adjoins two other Trusts so that such a small organisation should come to us with their proposal for merger is in effect a vote of confidence in WTSWW.
There are clear opportunities to grow membership in Brecknock.
And quite simply it is the right decision to better protect our wildlife now and for future generations.
But what else is in it for WTSWW?
As already explained – 6 Wildlife Trusts are committed to exploring better ways of working and change is on the horizon…
We believe in this case that one Trust amalgamating with another Trust so that their resources are pooled will generate greater benefits for wildlife than if they remain separate.
There is also greater potential for sustainable, linked conservation projects (cross-border)
In all this we are committed to carrying out a thorough scrutiny of BWT before any decision on amalgamation – ‘due diligence’ and maintaining our localness - ‘A regional wildlife charity that delivers locally’
We want to ensure that no undue costs fall on WTSWW and while clearly any amalgamation that might occur would create additional pressure on our team, we will take steps to ameliorate this
Inclusivity – we will consult and keep you our members informed. It’s important that you understand and support the rationale. If Trustees think that this is a sensible way forward we will convene an extraordinary General meeting to ensure that you are involved.
And our name…
The ‘Wildlife Trusts of South and West Wales’ will not change because WTSWW will continue