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Hilltops to Oceans 2004

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Creek to Coral – “Our Waterways, Our Responsibility”

Townsville City Council (TCC) has been working on Healthy Waterway and Urban Water Quality Management (especially stormwater, wastewater, and catchment management) for the past ten years. This project has recently culminated in the launch of new regional Healthy Waterways type program in partnership with the state (Queensland Environmental Protection Authority). The program is currently securing support and contribution from a wide range of stakeholders from business, industry and government departments. Some like the local Port (Townsville Port) and water management authority (NQ Water) are on board as are the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority (GBRMPA).

The program Creek to Coral – “Our Waterways, Our Responsibility” was launched on the 12 December 2003 by the then Minister for the Environment in company with the Mayors of both Councils.

Creek to Coral is a framework for action and integration of government, community and research. Although infrastructure based it incorporates opportunities for community involvement and recognises their role (noting diagram – that they are not responsible for day to day management – conduit for inputs exists possibly premier to previous models. The essential thing is going to be not alienating community. They will be suspicious of motives and threats to their own resourcing capacity. All effort needs to be made to have them be ok.

Represents an evolution from single infrastructure based management (ie. Stormwater drain, sewage plant) to the total water cycle management model which holds potential for integrating not only sewage/wastewater streams, stormwater, and water supply but also community.  Example of TCC USQMP and integrated drainage permits.

Stop people going down different tracks. Need to separate from community action and integrate. Following diagram shows method by which concerns might be addressed. Provide model diagram to assist

    • Includes integrated water quality monitoring
    • Community educations and involvement (acknowledge, reinforce and allow/create participate options)
    • On-ground infrastructure and management – includes urban planning
    • Enforcement and regulations

Leading up to this launch TCC has over the past three years completed a $ 2 million dollar  “nationally significant” urban stormwater quality management infrastructure (including 6 GPTs and articifical wetlands). These are specifically designed to function in the lowland wet dry tropics of east coast Australia and to most significantly, from a ongoing management and liability perspective, to both not cause upstream flooding and to be maintainable (from an engineering perspective). This being a critical factor in winning and maintaining support from drainage engineers.

The wetlands and GPTs included a variety of concepts and designs – all innovative and some locally designed. The project included significant community involvement (especially schools and creekwatchers). The project has played a significant role in establishing that engineers and environmentalists as beaurcrats can work together and obtain meaningful outcomes.

Lessons learnt

People take their own time to accept, participate and or contribute. Establish your program, build your relationships in waterway management and let them come or not.

You can only provide the framework, commence conversations with them and let them decide for themselves. The only tip is to think about where their interest is coming from, and if they express an interest offer them involvement commensurate with there agreement and/or resources.

The need exists always to put in the amount of personal or organisational energy commensurate with the task. This has not always proved easy where resources are constrained or spread across many activities. Nethertheless the only way you can hope to get it up is to put in the effort. Gather the resources around you necessary.

Lastly if you don’t communicate then people will do it for you in their own time and way, this may not generate the results you were looking for. So be in dialogue.

Buy in to programs – partnerships, alliances, networking – start with small steps and build, make relevant (eg. How benefits your resources and establishment) did this with Creek to Coral by establishing a system which identified and respected existing roles, responsibilities and working relationships. This is not always easy as suspicion, fear, lack of awareness or opportunity to develop awareness predominate. Doing it without offending – recognising that human beings are involved and are tribal

Networks established with buy in (start it, eg. Haughton River – need to overcome suspicions, sensitivities and work with the rules and objectives of the organisation (identify these – map them out, develop a strategy. Using language of inclusion)

Working in networks to reduce the fears associated with – what are they going to make us to. Voluntary take up of obligations. Facilitated.

Creek to Coral


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