Evaluating sustainable river

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Third Australian Stream Management Conference


Brisbane, August 2001



Evaluating sustainable river
management programs:
assess the outcomes AND
the process
!









Jon Nevill, Peter Nichols and Mary Maher

Achieving programs for the sustainable management of
rivers and catchments will not be easy. We argue that,
as
policies and programs are developed, they must be
evaluated against both
process

benchmarks and
outcome

benchmarks
. In examining the idea of process
benchmarks, we raise doubts about the capacity of current
forms of democracy to deliver sustainable decisions, and
suggest that the freshwater industry is particularly at risk.
Our arguments regarding the establishment of process
benchmarks rest substantially on the need to incorporate
accepted principles into these processes. We discuss a
number of types of principles, including good governance,
adaptive management, and the sustainability principles
which have evolved from international statements such as
those of the Stockholm 1972 Earth Summit.


Background paper (30 pages)

PowerPoint Presentation


www.onlyoneplanet.com.au


jonnevill@hotmail.com


Land and Water Australia

Improving

the

legislative

basis

for

river

management

in

Australia



Stage

2

Report

Mary Maher and Associates

www.users.bigpond.com/jon.nevill
/


mail@marymaher.com.au

jonnevill@hotmail.com


Is there a problem?


Democracy, as it is currently practised, is driving the
planet towards ecocatastrophe.


Failure to apply conceptually simple accounting
principles to the management of natural resources is
destroying the planet’s resource base.




Is there a problem?



Failure to apply accepted biodiversity conservation
processes (relating to the establishment of
representative reserves) is seriously undermining
the conservation of freshwater biodiversity.


Failure to apply accepted management techniques
to the control of cumulative effects in the freshwater
industry is driving catchments across Australia
towards over
-
exploitation and degradation.

…and all this is happening with scarcely a
whimper from practitioners in the freshwater
industry….


ESD






'using, conserving and
enhancing the community's
resources so that ecological
processes, on which life depends,
are maintained, and the total quality
of life, now and in the future, can be
increased'.


Democratic structures



driving planet to eco
-
catastrophe


creates decision makers whose jobs
depend on meeting immediate needs


ignores future generations


our system rewards them for this

Changes



political system which enshrines
environmental principles


core values must change


eschew short term consumerist
values


give politicians job security


annual
elections for 15 to 20 years


legislate for sustainable decisions


Measurement programs


must encompass essential values


indicators to measure these values


define benchmarks for the indicators


how to provide for new benchmarks?


timescales


statistical techniques for probabilities


predictive methods


processes for continuous improvement


accounting for uncertainties

Water management assumptions


small dams, users, levees “…don't matter"


no attention to environmental flows


no need for freshwater reserves systems


fish passage facilities unnecessary


surface & groundwaters are separate


no damage from grazing wetlands / riparian


no need for rigorous enforcement


unnecessary to value rivers as capital assets

Principles to be applied



Basic principles


sustainability


good governance


environmental management



“Advanced” principles



Wingspread Principles



Hanover Principles



Natural Step Principles




USA Department of Energy website:
http://www.sustainable.doe.gov/overview/principles.html


Sustainability principles


integrate economic, social & environ’t’l


precautionary principle


intergenerational equity


conserve biodiversity / ecological integrity


improve valuation / pricing / incentives


shared responsibility


product stewardship


wastes hierarchy


integrated environmental management


compliance enforcement

Good government principles


Participation


Transparency


Certainty


Accountability


Integrity


Cost
-
effectiveness


Flexibility


Practicality



Environmental management


ISO 14,000 standards


ISO lists principles & mechanisms


Core principles:






producer responsibility




quality assurance



continual improvement


Example:

The cumulative effects of incremental water development (dams,
bores, drains, levee banks, irrigated pasture, removal of deep
-
rooted vegetation) escapes careful scrutiny. The “Tyranny of
small decisions” effect.
The precautionary principle must be
applied:

Cumulative effects can only be managed by
placing strategic (catchment) limits on
development, well ahead of need.

In other industries:

Marine fishing industry
-

strategic limits established to control
catch and fishing effort.

Statutory landuse planning
-

strategic limits established through
landuse zoning schemes.

Current Australian strategies to management
cumulative effects:
Strategy One: “forget about
them”

Australian water resource legislation
:

Western Australia:

no mention

Northern Territory:

no mention

South Australia:

no mention

Victoria:

no mention

New South Wales:

principle: cumulative effects must be




identified and constrolled

Queensland:


no mention

Tasmania:


no mention

Aust Capital Territory:

no mention


Current Australian strategies to management cumulative
effects:
Strategy Two: “leave it until its too late”

Australian water resource legislation
:

No clearly defined requirements in any legislation. NSW has general
statutory provisions relating to the control of cumulative effects, BUT...

Australian water resource policy:

-

shared by all States and the Commonwealth Government (through the
National Action Plan on Salinty and Water Quality).

“Establish caps on the development of activities affecting the
water resource ONLY when catchments are stressed, or
clearly approaching a stressed condition”.

Victoria is currently considering the establishment of a planning process
which would establish development caps on some activities (such as
susrface water extraction) across ALL catchments. South Australia and
Western Australia have both established such a process, but are not
appliying it.

A more detailed example:

Tasmania’s Water Management Act 1999:


Section 63 (Minister’s approval of licence application) obliges the
Minister (or, more usually, his delegate) to grant a licence
application in cases where environmental requirements have not
been determined, providing that it is unlikely that the granting of
the application would cause significant environmental harm, or
detriment to other users of the water resource. Given that the Act
does not acknowledge the issue of cumulative effects, this
section prevents the use of a precautionary approach in
allocating water to off
-
stream uses.


This appears to me to be an oversight in the draughting of the
Act, even accepting that the Act does provide for allocation
windback at a later stage when environmental requirements have
been determined, and a WMP drafted.



Tasmania’s Water Management Act 1999:



From an environmental viewpoint, a far better
approach would be to withhold the approval of
licence applications pending the development of
the WMP for the local resource. A similar
alternative approach would require the Minister
to assess the likely environmental effect of the
application, taking into account the cumulative
nature of such effects. The provisions of s.86
(allowing the Minister to assess the effect of a
water allocation) do little to remedy the
situation, as


outside the framework of a WMP


such an assessment is almost certain to
ignore the critical issue of cumulative effects.


Hypothetical framework


A natural resource accounting
framework


EIA requirements for new proposals


A system of State
-
owned protected
areas, complemented by privately
-
owned reserves


A water management framework


Land use planning requirements


Mary Maher & Associates, Susanne Cooper
& Associates, and Nichols, Peter (1999)
Australian River Restoration and
Management: criteria for the legislative
framework for the twenty
-
first century,

based on an analysis of Australian and
international experience.
Land and Water
Resources Research and Development
Corporation; Canberra.


Ten criteria (1999)

1.
National binding river standards

2.
Duty
-
of
-
care legislated for all

3.
‘River’ legally to include floodplains etc

4.
Single, catchment
-
wide agency

5.
Commensurate statutory powers

6.
Agencies to include all stakeholders

7.
Close links between agencies & LG

8.
Statutory catchment restoration plan

9.
Independent regular catchment audit

10.
Statutory periodic review

11.
Remove perverse laws & subsidies

Ecological systems thinking


economic progress within ecol. limits


climate of ecological uncertainty


constancy of change


innovation integral


no net loss of ecological assets


economic gain to achievers of ESD


evaluate on long
-
term perspective


Management systems thinking


plan, do, monitor, report, review, revise


adaptive management for continuous
improvement


producer responsibility for all effects


assess new opportunities & threats


work & report against targets


strategic assessment of major directions


coordination of all critical players


clear roles and responsibilities


Progressed framework (2001)


4 States’ stakeholders' experiences


systems thinking (above)


frameworks of accepted principles



model legislative framework for catchment
management could consist of 13 major
elements, and about 65 sub
-
elements




Further information on the draft model
legislative framework:


http://www.users.bigpond.com/jon.nevill

Achieving sustainability


on
-
going and evolving process


certain elements are now available


at least two central thrusts



values identified & indicators chosen



management processes to incorporate


principles of sustainability, good government


& environmental management



ability of present political frameworks to
deliver ESD must be questioned