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Stakeholder values and attitudes towards water markets across northern Australia

Nikolakis, W., Grafton, R. Q. and To, H. (2010). Stakeholder values and attitudes towards water markets across northern Australia<br />. Darwin, NT: Charles Darwin University.

Document type: Research Report
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Author Nikolakis, W.
Grafton, R. Q.
To, H.
Title of Report Stakeholder values and attitudes towards water markets across northern Australia
Publication Date 2010
ISBN 978-1-921576-25-6   (check CDU catalogue  open catalogue search in new window)
Publisher Charles Darwin University
Place of Publication Darwin, NT
Total Pages 107
Field of Research 300800 Environmental Sciences
Abstract Summary

This report is the second of three reports and part of a two year project entitled Establishing water markets in northern Australia: a study to assess feasibility and consequences of market-based mechanisms of water delivery undertaken through the Australian National University’s Crawford School of Economics and Government. The Tropical Rivers and Coastal Knowledge (TRaCK) hub funded this project under Theme 6.1 “Sustainable Enterprises”. This research is also being done in collaboration with the North Australian Indigenous Land and Sea Management Alliance (NAILSMA). This second report provides analysis of stakeholder attitudes and values and their implications for the design of water markets across tropical Queensland, Northern Territory and Western Australia, (with focus on the Gulf, Timor and North East drainage divisions). The study utilised a mixed qualitative and quantitative approach, employing a survey with closed ended (5 point Likert scales and multiple choice) and open ended measures.

In Task 2 we surveyed 120 people from government, Indigenous, industry and recreational user groups and present a range of values and attitudes related to markets and we discuss the general implications for market design in the north. Analysing data from open ended measures involved coding and grouping data into categories, then identifying patterns and themes. While statistical analysis involved ordered probit models, using robust standard errors and also controlling for lack of independence within each group using cluster. Preliminary findings were sent out to respondents for their feedback and where appropriate changes made. From this the final report was produced.

Our findings highlight that sustainability; environmental protection; social justice and equity; and economic development were important values to respondents in relation to water markets. Respondents emphasised the importance of robust water planning frameworks that support ecological values and irrigator and Indigenous livelihoods, and respondents overwhelmingly disagreed with the trade of environmental and cultural flows. There was also significant support for the preservation of certain catchments and aquifers for their unique values (particularly among Indigenous respondents). Social justice and equity were important to respondents, with a sentiment to include Indigenous people in water reform and in water markets. Indigenous respondents felt that current arrangements were not equitable. As well, respondents from government, Indigenous and recreational groups felt that consultation and water policy fail to adequately address the needs and interests  of Indigenous Australians. Indigenous respondents showed support for water markets, the development of water based enterprise (such as agriculture and horticulture) and believe strongly that the benefits of water trading will be significant. These views were tempered by some concerns that  Indigenous people may be alienated from markets and that the ecological impacts from markets could be significant.

Respondents felt that water management was sustainable in their region, but at the same time they did not believe water management to be efficient. This may be related to perceptions that certain systems are not over-allocated to consumptive users. A little over half of respondents agreed that water markets help sustainable water management and that water should be a tradable commodity, and respondents that were male and had a higher education were more likely to agree to these statements. Support for separating land and water title (unbundling) was mixed, with Indigenous respondents less likely to agree to a separation. There is a level of understanding of water management in their jurisdictions were more likely to agree to water transfers. There was unanimous support for government involvement in water markets, with overwhelming support for government as regulator.

Literature highlights that importance of integrating values and attitudes in resource management frameworks. We identify four general implications for the design of water markets from our findings. The first is that Indigenous involvement in water markets and reform is important as one way to address Indigenous disadvantage and to support Indigenous livelihoods. This involvement could range from water management and planning, to the recognition of customary and commercial rights. Second, respondents thought that the general community should have greater involvement in water management and planning. This would require education programs to improve awareness of reform and increased support for stakeholder input into reform, particularly where language barriers and cultural differences exist. Third, given the importance of sustainability and environmental protection, it is recommended that markets develop within a planning framework, with robust but simple trading rules to protect ecological and customary values. Fourth it was emphasised by some respondents that there should be minimal red tape and costs associated with markets given the marginal operating conditions for producers across the north.

Further research could build on this exploratory work to improve understanding of how to involve Indigenous interests in water markets, and examine the attitudes and values of a broader range of stakeholders across the north (such as examining women’s attitudes and values to water markets across the north).

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Created: Mon, 29 Feb 2016, 11:04:15 CST by Marion Farram