Annual report 2020/21
Welcome to NRW’s annual report and accounts for 2020/21.
The last year fundamentally changed the world and the way we lived, and for us all the last year has proven unlike any other time in living memory. Here at NRW, whilst it has been immensely challenging, responding to the Covid-19 crisis has unequivocally brought us closer together – albeit virtually. It has also built our collective confidence in our capabilities under pressure, and illustrated the remarkable resilience of the people who make up our organisation.
We are continuing to manage some of the historic issues around timber, and there has been a strong focus on addressing compliance more generally in the wake of matters raised by Internal Audit. We recognise that we are still very much on a journey to deliver expectations – both those of our key stakeholders and our own, and we are committed to achieving the improvements required.
Our primary concern throughout this year has been ensuring the wellbeing of our staff, and that they were supported to work safely and effectively. The phenomenal effort of the whole organisation, including in particular our ICT team, to deliver the transition to home‑working, and operate new software platforms in such difficult circumstances must be recognised, as should the positive attitude of our staff in embracing the new ways of working so quickly.
Protecting and ensuring access to our natural environment for a wide variety of uses is now more vital than ever, and while the growing appreciation of our natural environment is warmly welcomed, there is still so much to do to protect the land and wildlife that we have come to care about so much. We now need to capitalise on this renewed connection to our environment and the increased public appetite to play their part in taking action to tackle the nature and climate crises.
Importantly, as a champion of the environment in Wales, NRW has significant opportunities to lead the conversation about what a changing climate means for each and every one of us. A key piece of work for us this year was to publish a review of the February 2020 floods, the devastating impact of flooding which serve as warnings of what we might face more regularly in the future as climate change accelerates. The reviews raised some critical discussion points: Wales must act now to adapt to the impacts of the climate emergency because we are unlikely to ever be able to fully manage and mitigate against all such events.
Wales will also have to make difficult choices about the level of service that is practical, realistic and feasible, and the associated implication for the investment required to make Wales more resilient in the future. Whilst we can reduce some of the likelihood and impacts from flood events, we cannot control the weather and prevent all impacts. The increasing likelihood of flooding means that we need to think deeply about how we manage such huge quantities of water, and consider taking an integrated approach to flood risk management. The reality is that we cannot just build our way out of this. We need a blend of hard engineered defences, natural flood management projects, and improved community awareness to build the resilience necessary.
In this Annual Report you can read about some of our key projects in terms of protecting communities and nature conservation. Amongst a number of achievements, I commend the launch of the second State of Natural Resources Report (SoNaRR2020) as a key milestone for NRW. This report builds on the evidence base of the first SoNaRR, illustrating some of the key challenges, priorities and opportunities for the sustainable management of natural resources (SMNR). At its heart is the ambition to bridge the gap between where we currently are and where we need to be – setting out a range of opportunities for action to move towards a sustainable future, and what we hope will be a catalyst for positive action across Wales for the years to come.
This evidence will be central to how we shape our economic response to the pandemic. I was pleased to have been asked by Welsh Government to lead a task force to help design a green recovery plan. The group has focused its efforts on working with communities to drive integrated and long-term proposals for practical action. In drawing on the expertise and knowledge we have across our environmental, private and third sectors, we can ensure that the deepening climate and nature emergencies we continue to face are enshrined in the development of plans to respond to the Covid pandemic. We have been afforded a unique opportunity to re-set behaviours at a critical time. We must seize this moment to embed the adaption to our behaviours, and work together to do things differently so that we can make meaningful and sustained impact.
Now in my third year as Chair, I would like to thank our Board Members for their continued support during this difficult time and in particular to recognise the work of Chris Blake who stepped down in February, just a few months shy of completing his second term. He has made an outstanding contribution across a variety of roles on the Board during his time with us, and I am very grateful for his help and support over the years.
- Sir David Henshaw
Auditor General for Wales: The maintenance and integrity of the Natural Resources Wales website is the responsibility of the Accounting Officer; the work carried out by auditors does not involve consideration of these matters and accordingly auditors accept no responsibility for any changes that may have occurred to the financial statements since they were initially presented on the website.