Understanding the social and economic conditions impacting each and every Murray-Darling Basin (MDB) community is as vital as the water itself. For without such understanding, we simply will not have strong, thriving communities.
That’s why it is essential voices are heard, and communities have the knowledge and tools to shape their own destinies. The Independent Panel for the Assessment of Social and Economic Conditions in the MDB has been established for this very reason. We’re not reviewing the Murray-Darling Basin Plan. We’re assessing the overall socio-economic circumstances affecting the Basin communities, to help Basin governments understand these stresses and concerns – agricultural and non-ag alike, it’s very much a whole-of-community focus.
As someone who believes deeply in empowering Australia’s rural and regional communities, I’m delighted to be chairing this diverse panel of six experts, each of whom is passionate about ensuring rural Australia’s sustainable, prosperous future.
Because the panel is completely independent, we believe it’s important to put our draft terms of reference (ToR) and proposed assessment framework out to Basin communities for their feedback and ideas.
The panel will investigate seven key questions:
1. What are the visions and hopes of Basin people for themselves and their communities?
2. What have been the social and economic experiences of Basin communities, relative to other rural and regional communities in Australia, and what have been the main underlying drivers of these experiences?
3. What are expected to be the most significant drivers of future change, opportunities and risks for different Basin communities?
4. How have water reforms and changes impacted different Basin communities to date, and what future impacts and opportunities are likely?
5. If irrigation ceased to be viable in some regions, what would that mean for communities in those regions and what could be done to manage the impacts of the possible changes?
6. What strategies have the greatest potential to enhance the resilience, adaptability and wellbeing of different Basin communities?
7. What are the responsibilities and distinctive contributions of governments, businesses, non-profit groups and individuals in enabling action to promote prosperous and sustainable Basin communities?
So the panel looks at what really matters to communities, now is the time to share your views, before we begin our important work. We’re keen to hear your feedback: is there anything missing in the questions above? What do we need to focus on more? How could the ToR be strengthened? I encourage all MDB communities to have their say here.
The deadline for feedback on the panel’s ToR, questions and assessment framework is 16 August 2019. Find out more and have your say at www.basin-socio-economic.com.au. You can also email us, email@example.com, or post your submission to Socio & Economic Assessment Independent Panel, GPO Box 1801, Canberra City, ACT 2601.
By Robbie Sefton
Robbie Sefton has a dual investment in rural Australia as a farmer, producing wool, meat and grains and as managing director of national marketing communications company Seftons.
This article was published in The Land newspaper on 10th August 2019. Link to the article can be found here – https://www.theland.com.au/story/6317048/voices-from-the-basin-communities-must-be-heard/