The 215,000 people living in the Goulburn Broken Catchment have an important stewardship responsibility for the health of the natural environment. One of the key roles of the Goulburn Broken Catchment Management Authority (CMA) is to develop a Regional Catchment Strategy (RCS). The RCS describes the importance of the Catchment in terms of its key assets such as its unique biodiversity, land, water and people. Most importantly, it sets the priorities and targets for directing the Catchment’s resources over the next six years towards achieving environmental, social and economic benefits.
Since the last RCS was developed in 2003, the Catchment and its community have been affected by a number of natural disasters that have, and will continue to shape the Catchment. Following a decade of below average rainfall, drought and fires there have been a number of floods resulting in damage to farmland communities and natural assets. Events such as these, as well as other factors including highly variable water allocations, dairy industry restructure, a high Australian dollar, and other pressures related to the global financial crisis and increased competition, have contributed to a significant fall in the gross value of agriculture production in the Catchment.
As a result of the complexity and variable nature of these social, economic and environmental factors, the commitment has been made to using resilience in developing this RCS. Resilience is defined as a system’s (such as a region, catchment, ecosystem, farm or industry) capacity to absorb disturbances, recover and continue to function in a desired way. Resilience thinking considers regions as complex systems where people and the natural environment continually interact and where changes in one will inevitably result in changes in the other.
Importantly, the process for developing the RCS using a resilience approach requires that a large number of opinions and expertise (community and scientific) are considered to bring together a picture of a dynamic region influenced by multiple and complex drivers.
Building or maintaining the resilience of a catchment requires an understanding of how the system functions and its limits to absorbing disturbances. Management measures are then designed to avoid reaching those limits or getting back within those limits where they have been reached.
To do this successfully the Goulburn Broken CMA recognises it has a critical role in forming and developing partnerships with the community and all levels of government. A broad communication and engagement approach has been run that has, for the first time, embraced the use of social media and on-line engagement tools to bring together the information needed to develop this RCS. In tandem with more traditional face-to-face forms of consultation, we believe that this approach will lead to the development of a meaningful strategy with strong catchment ownership.
The RCS is a living document that will be regularly reviewed and updated over its life. This will require continuous engagement of community and partner agencies to ensure an adaptive management approach is used to enhance the resilience of the Catchment as we collectively face the challenges of the future.
Chief Executive Officer, Goulburn Broken Catchment Management Authority
Peter F Ryan
Chairman, Goulburn Broken Catchment Management Authority