Healthy water ecosystems: exploring community involvement in water governance

We have a long history of working with communities and individuals to use the law to protect and restore wetlands, rivers and coastal environments in Victoria. We have done work on a range of issues related to water management, including on groundwater, the Murray-Darling Basin, wetlands, environmental water allocations and river health, rural drainage schemes, and water quality.

Healthy rivers, waterways, catchment and wetlands are essential to our well-being. Victoria is blessed with extensive and diverse areas of wetlands, rivers, streams and coasts. There are nearly 13,000 natural wetlands in Victoria, covering over half a million hectares. There are 3,000 artificial wetlands. There are 2,000 kilometres of coastline. There are 85,000 kilometres of rivers and streams across the State.

Awareness of the environmental importance of waterways and wetlands has increased significantly over the past three decades, leading to laws and policies intended to protect and restore ecological values.

Community involvement in the governance of water resources is essential to the proper management of waterways, wetlands and coastal systems in the public interest. Everyone has an interest in ensuring decisions about these important places are undertaken robustly and transparently, with a view to good environmental outcomes and community benefits, and informed by a strong evidence base.

We are embarking on a project to explore community participation in the governance and management of water resources in Victoria and how laws, regulatory systems and practices facilitate or constrain community involvement, especially in the achievement of good environmental outcomes. We have published a Discussion Paper Healthy water ecosystems: community involvement in water governance and we welcome comments and feedback on the issues raised in it.

We plan to run a series of informal workshops, seeking input from community groups and individuals who have had some engagement with water management issues, whether in water planning, consultation processes, review of decisions, or other environmental areas in which water law has played a role.

We are interested to hear from groups and individuals who have had involvement in any of these issues and water governance processes. You can contact Environmental Justice Australia on 8341 3100 or at [email protected], or register your interest in coming along to a workshop.

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