As the lead organisation for natural resource management in the Catchment, the Authority recognises its critical role in forming and developing regional partnerships with the community and all levels of government. It is critical that we at the Goulburn Broken CMA continue to value and invest in partnerships and new relationships across the Catchment to ensure the RCS is seen by landholders and agencies with land management responsibility as a key strategic, and adaptive document guiding integrated natural resource management across the catchment.
Since the last RCS was developed in 2003, the catchment and its community have been impacted 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 flood events since 2010 with some resulting in areas of farmland and communities under water for an extended period of time, as well as causing damage to natural assets. Events such as these, as well as well as other factors including low water allocations, dairy industry restructure, a recently high Australian dollar, and other pressures related to the global financial crisis and increased competition has contributed to a significant fall in the gross value of agriculture production in the Catchment - in 2009–10 the value was $1.16 billion – a decline of 29% from the 2005–06 value of $1.64 billion. At the same time, there is positive change occurring in the region. For example in the last two years, the Goulburn Broken CMA and its consortium partners have worked to roll out the Victorian On-Farm State Priority Project and the Commonwealth’s On-Farm Irrigation Efficiency Program to capture over $105 million dollars for irrigators across the Goulburn Murray Irrigation District generating 52GL in water savings to be returned to the regional waterways and ensuring a similar amount is retained on farms to build a resilient irrigation industry across northern Victoria. At the same time, the population is growing by about 1.23%, or 2,600 people each year – slightly higher than average for regional Victoria.
In order to ensure that the complexity of the social, economic and environmental factors and changes are considered in the development of our RCS, the Authority will utilise resilience as the approach to the development of this strategy. Resilience is defined as a system’s (such as a region, catchment, ecosystem, farm or industries) capacity to absorb disturbance and continue to function in a desired way. Resilience thinking conceptualises regions as complex adaptive systems where the dynamics of the social and ecological systems are intertwined, 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 (both community and scientific) are considered, and this helps to bring together a picture of a dynamic region influenced by multiple and complex factors that all influence the health of the catchment.
Building or maintaining the resilience of a region requires an understanding how the system functions and its limits to absorb disturbances. Management interventions are then designed to avoid reaching those limits or getting back within those limits where they have already been reached. These management interventions are implemented in an adaptive management framework that continually tests the assumptions, learns from the interventions, and scans for changes to any of the key dynamics.
To bring together the information needed to develop this strategy, the CMA is running a broad communication and engagements strategy that has for the first time, embraced the use of social media and on-line engagement tools to shape the strategy. In tandem with more traditional forms of consultation including a multi-agency project management team, town hall style meetings and direct consultation with a broad range of stakeholder groups including local government, landcare, U3A, and indigenous representatives, we believe that this approach will lead to the development of a meaningful strategy.