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Collaborative Water Planning: Retrospective Case Studies - Water planning in the Gulf of Carpentaria

Mackenzie, John (2008). Collaborative Water Planning: Retrospective Case Studies - Water planning in the Gulf of Carpentaria<br />. Nathan, Qld.: TRaCK Tropical Rivers and Coastal Knowledge.

Document type: Research Report
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Author Mackenzie, John
Title of Report Collaborative Water Planning: Retrospective Case Studies - Water planning in the Gulf of Carpentaria
Publication Date 2008
ISBN 978-1-921544-17-0   (check CDU catalogue  open catalogue search in new window)
Publisher TRaCK Tropical Rivers and Coastal Knowledge
Place of Publication Nathan, Qld.
Total Pages 100
Field of Research 300800 Environmental Sciences
Abstract This report reviews the water planning process in the Gulf of Carpentaria undertaken between 2003 and 2007 by the Queensland Department of Natural Resources and Water. The context of the water planning process for the region is briefly summarised,through reference to the social and economic profile compiled as part of the planning process and other profiling processes for the region. The history of cultivation of water resources in the Gulf is then examined. A description of the water planning process is also provided. This process is then evaluated in section four against a series of criteria based on the literature review in Volume 1 of this report (Tan et al 2008). These criteria, derived from recent literature on the evaluation of collaborativeprocesses, examine the effectiveness of collaboration:

• as a mechanism for improved decision-making, including governance arrangements, due process and
  the reconciliation of competing knowledge claims;
• as a facilitator of social process; including improved relationships, conflict resolution
• as a means of obtaining improved outcomes, including efficiency, equity, and wider social
  perception of the process; and
• as a pathway for catalytic changes in the community.

The analysis presented here finds that water resource planning in Queensland is conducted according  to a clear, transparent and well-articulated framework that is defined by both the legislation and  supporting policy documents. After more than a decade of an adaptively managed planning program  which has been subject to internal and external review, current water planning attempts to  accommodate the best available scientific and technical analysis, comprehensive information provision and policy considerations to the production of water plans. Through this planning program, the scope of public participation is delineated, and considerable effort is made by the state agencies to render the outcomes of the stakeholder input apparent to all stakeholders. In the  conduct of the Gulf water resource planning process, the legislative requirements for public participation and due process were observed, and in a number of facets the planners involved in the preparation of the water resource plan exceeded the requirements of the legislation to facilitate public involvement and stakeholder contribution.

However, due to the fact that the WRP process has been developed primarily to address issues of  water resource planning in the southern regions of Queensland, the planning framework itself is less suited in application in Northern Australia. This created a number of issues with regards to its effective application to the distinct environs of Northern Australia. Firstly, effective  participation was constrained by the scope of the planning area and the logistical difficulties in undertaking a planning process for an area larger than the State of Victoria, with limited human resources. Secondly, the different hydrology of Northern Australia meant that heavy reliance upon hydrological modeling and other technical assessments as decision-support were not as suited, particularly in the notable absence of appropriate data and information upon which to make apposite planning decisions. Thirdly, the water planning framework had been developed to correct the legacy of over-allocated systems and state investment in water resources. In the Gulf, where there has been limited cultivation of water resources, and where the majority of the major water supply infrastructure has been privately funded, the application of the framework was not as appropriate.

In the Gulf region, the planning process was less about correcting the legacy of past water development, and more about providing a platform for the aspirations of the region for future development within ecological limits. The resulting plan, in using historical development as a framework for determining future directions of the region, is seen by a number of stakeholders in the region to inadequately incorporate the aspirations of the community for the future of the region. There is a demonstrable reluctance on behalf of the State government to articulate a water resource plan as a catalyst for the future development of the region. Notably, the impact assessment process was insufficiently developed for the planning process, and failed to assess the impacts of the conduct of the planning process itself – particularly the impact of the moratorium on the region in terms of demand for water resource cultivation and industry development.

In response to previous review processes, administrative limitations and requirements to meet the obligations of the National Water Initiative, the water resource planning process in Queensland had been streamlined. This has led, in turn, to an expedited role for public participation in the process, and a reduced role for the key community engagement mechanism, the Community Reference Panel. As a result, significant elements of effective collaboration and community involvement, such as the development of trust and greater understanding of the values of participants in the process, were not given sufficient opportunity to be fostered.
Of particular concern at present is the lack of appropriate engagement mechanisms for Indigenous participation in water planning. This is highlighted in the Gulf WRP, where the Indigenous population is as high as 66% in some of the catchments. Although specific Indigenous engagement has been undertaken for water resource plans in Queensland, such as the establishment of Indigenous Working Groups and the production of cultural assessment reports, this was notably absent in the Gulf WRP process and in general is not consistently or uniformly applied across the state. Processes for culturally appropriate Indigenous engagement have been subject to rigorous development in the field of cultural heritage management (for example, Wet Tropics WHA), and there is a high degree of opportunity for the current best-practice in this field to inform engagement for water resource planning.

Given the high degree of emergent interest in the water resources of the Gulf, and of Northern Australia, there was significant opportunity to build wider community capacity in understanding and contributing to decisions about the future of region’s water resources. There remains a high degree of divergence in the vision of the future prospects of northern Queensland, with significant opposition between visions of environmental preservation and economic development. The water resource planning processes presented a useful opportunity for these competing visions to be mediated, but this was not pursued. In turn, residual tensions between the competing visions persist, and these tensions will continue to permeate through a wider range of policy-making and community engagement initiatives in the region.

Water planners have expressed a desire to better incorporate community knowledge, aspirations and values. However, the opportunity to do this is limited within the existing scope of the planning processes as applied in Queensland. Embedding local and Indigenous knowledge, expressed community values and socio-economic information into the decision-support and prioritisation systems, and providing greater clarity to the community about the relationship between the public participation and the production of the WRP all remain key impediments to the effective collaboration. This is coupled with increasingly high demands on both regional and central water planning staff to effectively facilitate community engagement practice, in conjunction with a myriad of other legal, compliance, licensing, implementation, monitoring and policy development roles, with limited training and support in the practice of community engagement. These findings confirm the need and utility for the advancement of community engagement methodologies in water planning, including:
• Communication strategies and techniques to address the specific information requirements of diverse constituencies;
• Capacity-building tools to increase community understanding of water planning, and the ability to contribute meaningfully  to        conduct of planning process;
• Training and professional development for agency staff and science providers to better facilitate community collaboration planning  and research;
•Specific engagement strategies for Indigenous Australians, to identify the implications of water plans for cultural heritage, values   and practice and the economic development opportunities provided by water planning;
• Participatory impact assessment methodologies with best-practice scenario projections and predictive modeling;
• Data, knowledge and information systems with the capability to handle multiple epistemological frameworks; and
• Decision-support systems for rigorous and transparent trade-off analysis in decision-making.
Additional Notes Volume 4.1
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Created: Tue, 08 Mar 2016, 15:12:41 CST by Marion Farram