Revised GABCC Operating Arrangements
The revised Operating Arrangements for the Committee have been approved. These restate the role of the Committee in whole-of-Basin resource management and coordinating 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 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 is 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 is 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.
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.
The Committee discussed a review of GAB Sustainability Initiative investment. 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.
The review needs to be appropriately funded to enable completion by June 2018.
The Committee received reports from community and industry members and government observers.
Members acknowledged the retirement of Roderick Gilmour from Queensland GAB Advisory Committee, after service to the Committee since 2004, and noted his tireless effort and good humour.
Matters discussed included progress with State-level GAB water planning, statistics for the GABCC Website, and the idea of a GABCC Newsletter to replace the Communiqué that is circulated to all listed stakeholders.
The GABCC Annual Report 2016-17 is close to completion.
The Committee was invited to make a submission to the forthcoming Senate committee enquiry into water use by the extractive industry. This will be declined due to constraints on capacity and time.
The next meeting will receive a briefing on issues relating to the Carmichael Mine from a Queensland perspective, and on the bioregional assessment for the Galilee Basin.
GABCC 40 will be held on Thur-Fri 19-20 April, at Dubbo NSW