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Land and Water Management Planning Officer

SA MDB NRM Board

Interview: 16th June 2011

 

 

The Yatco Wetland Management Plan (see here) was created on the back of the Land and Water Management Planning LWMP process which started in mid 2006. A tour of the LWMP area from Pyap to Kingston included a trip to Banrock Station to inspect the wetlands and discuss their water management. Several members of the LWMP Group were interested in the management of Banrock Station wetlands.

 

The timing of the visit was perfect. There was a realisation that the drought was worsening. The Group was therefore receptive to the idea of drying the Yatco lagoons to save water, however, the Yatco channel irrigators were concerned that if the Yatco Lagoon water levels dropped the salinity levels in the channel would be too high for irrigated crops.

 

Therefore they were willing to look at a more comprehensive long term solution that didnt fit perfectly within the LWMP Guidelines, which were more focused on on-farm irrigation management and minimising off-site impacts.

 

The Group wanted to pursue multiple benefits of drying the lagoon and pump relocation and they were more interested in seeking State Government funding, however, the expanded framework and the worsening drought created the opportunity to pursue Commonwealth Government funding.

 

Planning

 

The idea to develop an integrated wetland management plan to overcome the deficiencies in the Land and Water Management Plan process was supported unanimously by the Group, and funding from several private sponsors (Nippys Fruit Juices, Banrock Station Wines, Loxton to Bookpurnong LAP Group) gave the project early momentum.

 

A Wetland Management planner, Dr Bill Phillips of Mainstream Environmental Consulting, was engaged and he maintained a very consultative approach so as to ensure community engagement along the way. This approach created strong community ownership of the Plan.

 

The Draft LWMP commenced in 2006 and was coordinated by a LWMP Officer employed by the Loxton to Bookpurnong Local Action Planning Group (LAP). By mid 2007 the LWMP Planning Officer left the LAP for the SA Murray Darling Basin Natural Resources Management Board (SA MDBNRM Board) and the LWMP stalled.

 

The Wetland Management Plan was completed by September 2009 and paved the way for new ways to manage the water in the wetlands, and became the catalyst for securing several million dollars from the Commonwealth Government to relocate irrigation pumps from the Yatco Channel to the River Murray, and to enhance biodiversity and save water by managing the hydrology of Yatco Lagoon.

 

During this period (2006-2009) it became apparent that the scope of the Draft Pyap to Kingston-on-Murray LWMPs was potentially not going to adequately address some of the major NRM priorities of the community, in particular, the range of management issues at Yatco Lagoon.

 

Following the reduction in Federal Government investment in Land & Water Management Plans in 2007 it was not until 2010, after a long break from the LWMP Process, that Jeremy Nelson recommenced his involvement in developing LWMPs. A new style of LWMP, now termed Natural Resource Management Plan (NRM) has a multi NRM asset approach that can be tailored specifically to the Pyap to Kingston-on-Murray LWMP area.

 

The scope of the new Pyap to Kingston-on-Murray NRM plan has been jointly developed between by the Department for Water and the SAMDBNRM Board. The new format will addresses not only irrigation issues but will also reference riparian, land management, biodiversity and community capacity issues associated with natural resources management in the region.

 

Despite the slow progress in developing the new format NRM plan for the region, all agreed actions and commitments made to the Wetland Management Plan remain secure. The new format NRM plan supports further investigation into the links between irrigation drainage and identified increases in groundwater flow to the Yatco wetland during the irrigation season. This priority was identified during the development of the Yatco Wetland Management Plan.

 

During the last 5 years a Community Committee has continued to support the LWMP Development. The LWMP Committee is chaired by one of The Group who has been instrumental in developing the Wetland Management Plan.

 

Leadership

 

Several factors contributed to the leadership within The Group including:

 

-  A common issue.

- Social cohesion provided by living and working in close proximity.

-  High levels of trust established by having to share a common earth channel system to obtain water.

-  Easy ability to organise themselves for new challenges and to respond to opportunities.

Experienced and respected individuals such as Peter George, Brenton Schober and Mike Mason
 were positive about the opportunities, which garnered support from the other members of the group.

-  Sheridan Alm was a good organiser ensuring that frequent meetings were inclusive
and enabled all of the community members to have input.

- Jeff Drogemuller and Trevor Norton took the joint chairmanship to ensure if one was absent the other could chair, thus ensuring continuity.

- Vickie Johnson kept minutes and provided rapid turnaround after meetings, thereby ensuring the
 meeting outcomes were quickly reinforced, and those attending felt that meetings were important.