Local lessons for Basin enviro managers

Murray Darling Basin environment water boosts community engagement


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Murrumbidgee River in the Murray Darling Basin, with restored riparian structure to improve fish habitat. Photo by Karleen Minney.

Murrumbidgee River in the Murray Darling Basin, with restored riparian structure to improve fish habitat. Photo by Karleen Minney.

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Community engagement program goes to water

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Community consultation will be increased under an expanded local engagement push from the Commonwealth Environmental Water Office (CEWO).

A pilot program began in 2014 placed three engagement officers. Their roles is to gather local knowledge and provide feedback to the Commonwealth Environmental Water Office’s (CEWO’s) work and to inform the community about the CEWO’s work.

The expanded program has six local full-time engagement officers New locations are Walgett, Tamworth, Wodonga, Wagga Wagga. Officers will remain at existing pilot locations Mildura and Berri.

The Commonwealth Environmental Water Holder, David Papps heads the CEWO. He said local engagement aids environmental management.

“Maintaining dialogue with people throughout the Basin, so they are involved in planning and decision making, is an important part of the work of environmental water managers including the Commonwealth,” Mr Papps said.

“All CEWO staff, especially the local engagement officers, are committed to creating opportunities for interested local people, including Aboriginal people, to be involved in local environmental water use.”

Under the Murray Darling Basin Plan, designed to drive environmental recovery in the river system which drains one third of Australia’s landmass, the CEWO holds a portfolio of entitlements to use for environmental benefit.

In the Southern regulated section of the Basin the CEWO deploys entitlements held in dams to coincide with high flows into wetlands or to prime a stretch of River with environmental flow.

Flow rates can be tailored to maximise fish breeding and migration.

In the unregulated Northern Basin CEWO entitlements are not deployed from storages, but exist primarily to maintain healthy baseline flows. However, Mr Papps can enter the temporary water market to buy allocation to prime a natural high-flow events.

Walgett, NSW: Jason Wilson

Mr Wilson has worked for the NSW government in regional and rural areas, helping to incorporate Aboriginal values and cultural heritage into the planning and implementation of water, vegetation and landscape management policies. He worked for the North West Local Lands Services and was an aboriginal community water facilitator for the NSW Department of Primary Industries’ aboriginal water initiative.

Tamworth, NSW: Neal Foster

Mr Foster is an eco hydrologist with scientific and community engagement experience. He worked for a number of NSW government agencies in the Northern Basin, including departments responsible for primary industries, water, natural resources and land and water conservation.

Wodonga, Victoria: Anthony Wilson

Mr Wilson has worked with stakeholders on natural resource management programs and spent the past two years working on the Lord Howe Island Rodent Eradication Program. Mr Wilson also worked as catchment coordinator for the North East Catchment Management Authority.

Berri, South Australia: Michelle Campbell

Ms Campbell has been a Local Engagement Officer for the Commonwealth Environmental Water Office over the past three years. She was a consultant for the SA Department for Environment and Natural Resource Management where she worked with the SA Murray-Darling Basin Natural Resource Management Board. 

Mildura, Victoria: Richard Mintern

Mr Mintern has been a local engagement officer for the CEWO over the past three years. He is a beef and olive producer, who was head of the Centre for Land, Food and Water at Sunraysia TAFE, and was executive officer of the Willandra lakes world heritage area in NSW.

Wagga Wagga, NSW: Erin Lenon 

Ms Lenon has been the Leeton-based local engagement officer for the CEWO for the past three years. She is a floodplain ecologist and former staff member of the Riverina Local Land Services. She is currently on maternity leave. Madeline Gorham will be the acting engagement officer in Wagga Wagga while Ms Lenon is on leave. Ms Gorham has worked as a Landcare coordinator in the Murrumbidgee and on projects with the Murray Darling Basin Authority.

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