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Collaborative Water Planning: Howard East Water Planning Project - Final Report

Nolan, Sharna (2010). Collaborative Water Planning: Howard East Water Planning Project - Final Report<br />. Darwin, NT: Charles Darwin University.

Document type: Research Report
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Author Nolan, Sharna
Title of Report Collaborative Water Planning: Howard East Water Planning Project - Final Report
Publication Date 2010
ISBN 978-1-921576-18-8   (check CDU catalogue open catalogue search in new window)
Publisher Charles Darwin University
Place of Publication Darwin, NT
Total Pages 33
Field of Research 300800 Environmental Sciences
Abstract Executive Summary
The ‘Collaborative Planning Tools’ project was undertaken in rural Darwin, Northern Territory between August 2008 and October 2009, as one of two prospective case studies for the Tropical Rivers and Coastal Knowledge (TRaCK) research hub. This case study, trialled two planning tools: an extended stakeholder analysis and a participatory Groundwater Visualisation Tool (GVT), in full consultation with the rural Darwin community. It contributes to best practice guidelines for national collaborative water planning drawn from the outputs of a desktop review and two retrospective case studies conducted in Queensland and Western Australia.

The case study aimed to supporting the Howard East water allocation planning process in rural Darwin, Northern Territory, Australia. The main objective of this study was to develop planning tools to assist the government agency responsible for water planning, the Department of Natural Resources, Environment, the Arts and Sport (NRETAS), to identify local stakeholders directly impacted by local planning processes and to better understand their needs and interests. A further aim was to develop a collaborative planning tool to prepare and engage stakeholders to participate in the public planning process. This report is therefore useful for water planners and researchers interested in the design and application of collaborative planning tools in local communities new to water allocation planning. Its findings are also relevant for water planners and researchers interested in community engagement, as a number of strategies for engagement are trialled and evaluated.

Five main activities were undertaken in the Howard East. Broadly, these were:

1. Determining which stakeholders were directly and indirectly affected by local water planning

2. Identifying stakeholder issues of concern, knowledge about groundwater resources, capacity to
    participate in a public water planning process and preferences for engagement and communication.
   (Stakeholder analysis).

3. Testing and adapting findings from the Extended Stakeholder Analysis.

4. Selecting a tool to facilitate public participation in local water planning processes.

5. Developing a groundwater visualisation tool of the Howard East Aquifer in full consultation with
    the Howard Springs community.

Each step involved extensive consultation and community participation to maximise social learning outcomes and ensure that local hydrological knowledge contributed to the project aims. An extended stakeholder analysis was undertaken firstly to identify local stakeholder groups affected by planning and secondly to articulate their needs for participating in planning processes, their  concerns about groundwater management and preferences for ongoing agency engagement. Findings showed that the preferred modes of communication within the community were face to face, such as public meetings, workshops and participatory mapping exercises, or web based being dedicated websites, electronic project newsletters, posters and information packages. Local media were also very useful for promoting case study findings to the broader public. Information obtained from the extended stakeholder analysis was used in the selection of the second tool.

The GVT was developed through a research collaboration between NRETAS, Power and Water Corporation,  CSIRO, Griffith University and the Queensland University of Technology between February and September 2009. The GVT was selected to address a number of stakeholder needs that were identified in the stakeholder analysis. These needs reflected a widespread lack of understanding of groundwater systems and processes within the community, leading to misconceptions about the management, extraction amounts and origins of local groundwater resources. When coupled with other findings, such as a legacy of mistrust of government-driven planning processes to manage groundwater resources, these attitudes were found to impact on the willingness of local stakeholders to engage in forthcoming water planning processes.

The GVT was developed to become an educational tool with full consultation with the Howard Springs community who rely on the Howard East aquifer. Through community meetings, stakeholder workshops, bore surveys and participatory mapping exercises, members of the community were encouraged to contribute information for the visualisation tool and participate in several meetings with researchers. As a result, the GVT contained information from a wide range of sources, drawing on bore monitoring data from NRETAS, industry groups as well as local land care groups, bore drillers, council members and community members with significant expertise. Project newsletters, information kits and community meetings kept the broader community informed of progress at all stages of the tool development. In addition, selected stakeholders were also offered an opportunity to give  feedback on the utility of the visualisation in workshops held at CSIRO when it was 70% complete.

The final GVT was presented to the Howard East community in a public forum in early September 2009. At this meeting, the GVT was made freely available to the community. A training session was also offered to NRETAS agency staff and representatives from local government, Shire Councils, Landcare groups, industry groups, schools, universities and bore drillers. CDs  housing the GVT application and training manuals were given to participants and made available for uploading onto community websites. In all cases, trainees nominated themselves as community volunteer focal points for others to seek assistance while learning to use the application.

Finally, the extended stakeholder analysis and GVT was evaluated with stakeholders and NRETAS staff through staged evaluative surveys, specialised meetings and a focus group. Results showed that the majority of participants considered the GVT to be of use in improving the ability of the community to make informed decisions about groundwater management. Further, the independence of the GVT constructed by Queensland University of Technology, the treatment of NRETAS staff as equal to other stakeholders and the involvement of stakeholders throughout its development increased the perceived public ‘trust’ of the model accuracy and improved the willingness of the public to utilise it.

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Created: Mon, 29 Feb 2016, 10:51:53 CST by Marion Farram