During 2001, a new directorate was created within the NBI to focus on issues of biodiversity policy and planning. Following extensive consultations within the NBI as well as with external stakeholders, it was decided that the directorate would focus on three thrust areas, namely a Policy Research and Analysis Programme, a Bioregional Planning Programme and a Threatened Plants Programme.
During this period, under the Policy Research and Analysis Programme, NBI provided consultancy to the DEA&T on key biodiversity policy issues and positions to be pursued at the World Summit on Sustainable Development to be held in Johannesburg in August/September 2002. Three briefing and position papers required in terms of the NBI contract with DEA&T were submitted during this time. Under this programme, the NBI is actively interacting with the DEA&T on the National Biodiversity Bill being drafted.
The Threatened Plants Programme, previously running under the auspices of SABONET, was absorbed into this directorate and a programme co-ordinator was appointed. A funding proposal to support an NBI programme on Research and Policy Agenda for Threatened Species (REPATS) was prepared and submitted for consideration to various foreign donors. Relationships with provincial authorities as well as with NGOs such as TRAFFIC and the Endangered Wildlife Trust were actively pursued.
In the area of Bioregional Planning, the NBI hosted a successful Strategy Session on Bioregional Planning for key players from around South Africa in the area of conservation planning. This workshop attracted some 50 representatives of national, provincial and local level government departments, as well as representatives of conservation agencies, universities and nongovernmental organizations. The proceedings of the workshop have been published and made available to interested parties.
The NBI had already been active in various bioregional planning processes such as the CAPE (Cape Floristic Kingdom), SKEP (Succulent Karoo Biome) and STEP (Valley Thicket Biome) planning processes. Following this workshop, it was decided that the NBI should take a much stronger role in facilitating bioregional planning initiatives, as well as in housing the secretariat and management functions of the bioregional planning programmes. In light of this, a Bioregional Planning Co-ordinator and SKEP Co-ordinator were recruited.
A funding proposal to build NBI's role in this respect and for the development of a support centre for bioregional planning and implementation within the NBI was prepared and donors have been approached.