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Chair's Communiqué No. 6

The Great Artesian Basin Coordinating Committee continues to provide advice to governments with responsibilities for the GAB.  This advice emphasises efficient, effective and sustainable whole-of-Basin management and coordination of activity between stakeholders to that end.

The Committee does not have a resource management or lobbying role. Operational matters for Basin management are primarily the responsibility of State/Territory agencies.

The Committee comprises representatives of communities, industries and other sectors with interests in the Basin.  The Australian, New South Wales, Queensland, South Australia and Northern Territory governments have observer status.

See the website for a list of members and for the Committee’s Operating Arrangements.

This Communiqué is intended to encourage communications with all GAB stakeholders and communities.  We encourage you to seek further information on any of the items raised, by contacting members of the Committee or the GABCC Facilitator.

Summary of Meeting Outcomes – GABCC 38 Adelaide, 14-15 June 2017

GAB Strategic Management Plan

The agenda for this meeting was dominated by the consultation draft of the GAB Strategic Management Plan (SMP), and associated consultation and communication plans.

The Committee has consistently sought open processes to enable meaningful participation of, and contribution from, stakeholders, backed by transparent processes to collect and record comments, and to convey these to all GAB governments and all stakeholders.

The timing of community consultation remained uncertain, but it was hoped that referral of a final SMP to Ministers might happen by December 2017.

Committee members were encouraged to champion the SMP during the consultation phase, to generate interest and encourage participation, and to stand beside governments as a partner in the SMP process. For this to occur, it is critical that all members have a sound understanding of the content and a high level of ownership of the objectives and desired outcomes.

The meeting considered a final draft of the SMP and checked the content against a composite list of expectations of the SMP.  These expectations had been expressed by stakeholders from GABCC 34 onwards.

Particular concern was expressed about the ‘Coordinated governance’ and ‘Implementation’ sections of the draft SMP.  Neither of these sections offered any real commitment from governments to engage in Basin-wide governance, resource the SMP implementation, implement the SMP within any particular timeframes or enable continued stakeholder participation in Basin-wide policy development or decision-making. Without commitment from governments, it was unlikely that the SMP would be accepted and implemented by community and industry stakeholders.

The Committee agreed that a continued leadership role is envisaged for the Australian Government in coordinating Basin-wide governance for a nationally significant resource.

There was discussion about draft consultation materials and a stakeholder survey for the SMP, with additional comments to be compiled ahead of the consultation phase.

The Committee agreed to incorporate into consultation materials three new draft GABCC fact sheets to deal with: the background to the SMP (encouraging participation); the GAB Bore Data Report; and the GAB Economic Output Report.

GABSI Stage 4 conclusion and Interim GAB Infrastructure Investment Program

The Committee was advised of arrangements to conclude GABSI 4 at 30 June 2017 and to complete three delayed projects later in 2017, as well as the Interim GAB Infrastructure Program to provide $8M over two years in the transition to a new ‘user-based payment model’.

The Committee agreed to commissioning of an independent report on what was done and not done under the GABSI program, and to summarise costs and benefits (including intangible benefits) and lessons learned, with the emphasis on informing transition to a new model.

Summary of Meeting Outcomes – GABCC 39 Brisbane, 2 November 2017

Revised GABCC Operating Arrangements

The revised Operating Arrangements for the Committee were provided.  These restate the role of the Committee in whole-of-Basin resource management and coordination of activity between stakeholders.  The Committee does not have a management or lobbying role.

With a return to a scope beyond consideration of the GAB Strategic Management Plan, members were eager to reinstate past practice of holding some meetings in regional locations and inviting guests from the region to interact with the Committee.  This will commence with the next meeting, to be held in April 2018 in Dubbo NSW.

GAB Strategic Management Plan (SMP)

Members discussed late changes to the draft SMP.  Some of these changes had altered the tone of the document, and need to be discussed further to address stakeholder concerns.  These have subsequently been brought to the attention of the GAB Senior Officials Committee and feedback has been sought on acceptance of proposed revisions or on rationale/context/different perspective if changes are unable to be made to the draft at this late stage.

SMP Governance and Implementation

The Committee had previously expressed concern about lack of substance in the ‘Coordinated governance’ and ‘Implementation’ sections of the draft SMP, and the likely impact on the willingness of community and industry stakeholders to accept and implement the SMP.

It was apparent that extended delays in preparing the draft SMP have caused scepticism among some stakeholders, and a failure to describe intentions for governance and implementation in the plan will not build confidence that governments are committed to the strategic directions or the stated collaborative/ partnership approach.

Despite this, jurisdictions have decided that the content of operational plans will indicate appropriate governance, and therefore need to precede any detailing of arrangements.  Members agreed that operational plans need to be commenced concurrently with the SMP consultation process, to avoid further delays and to enable uptake of implementation without a hiatus.

Members upheld the principle that users and interest groups need a legitimate process into which they can submit concerns and ideas, confident that these will be considered, and that they will receive feedback.

Members confirmed their resolve that GABCC advice needs to be part of decision-making (‘before the fact’), with the Committee enabled to take a creative or generative role in policy development rather than being merely reactive to completed decisions.

If these principles cannot be reflected in the draft SMP, then they will be included in a fact sheet to support the SMP consultation process.

Draft SMP Consultation Process

Members were concerned that some jurisdictions were yet to clear the draft SMP for public consultation.  It was still hoped that the plan might be released before Christmas, with an extended period for consultation so that an 8-week period can occur after the Christmas-New Year break.   This is likely to take the consultation period to early or mid-April.

The Committee convened a working group to assist development of communication products and activities associated with the Draft SMP, aimed at ensuring appropriate products for different target audiences.

GAB Information Development projects

A workshop session in the meeting enabled members to identify priority projects that build the evidence base for decision-making and/or address identified gaps in knowledge (whole-of-Basin).

Each project idea will need further development to articulate clearly its scope and intended outcomes.

GABCC members will be part of the steering group for each project, prior to it being commissioned and in ongoing management of the project.

GABSI Review

The Committee discussed further a review of the GAB Sustainability Initiative investment. The review needs to be appropriately resourced to enable completion by June 2018.

The focus of review needs to be on understanding benefits, non‑benefits and unintended consequences of the program, to inform the scope, design and implementation of a future infrastructure program, which will necessarily involve both governments and users.

Juanita Hamparsum