New science tracks region’s health

Thursday 18 March, 2004
Government and community groups talk frequently these days about sustainable development. But what does it mean?

Government and community groups talk frequently these days about sustainable development. But what does it mean?

Goulburn Broken Catchment Management Authority is joining forces with CSIRO scientists to try and understand what is required for the region to remain healthy and productive.

A team of CSIRO scientists, headed by world renowned ecologist Brian Walker is in the catchment this week meeting with people from the community, environment and business sectors.

They are embarking on a project that involves measuring and understanding the social, economic and environmental wellbeing of the region.

“We are working to measure and integrate critical factors that contribute to human wellbeing,’’ Dr Walker explained.

“What do people do and what do they value? What is happening to capital stocks that underpin productivity, recreation, nature conservation? How do we know if the region’s horticulture, dairy or recreation industries are sustainable? How long can they go on if they continue doing what they do now?’’

With this information in hand they will identify triggers for declining sustainability such as a shortage of skilled workers, the outbreak of a disease in livestock or declining water quality in our rivers.

Dr Walker said the work will pinpoint threshold points in the critical capital stocks where internal and external influences such as shifts in market prices or changes in water policy threaten sustainability and therefore wellbeing.

Dr Walker said pinpointing these thresholds provided points for policy and investment intervention where governments and management could steer systems to avoid pitfalls.

All up the work will take three years and cost close to $1 million. The first of its kind in Australia, the study is being funded under CSIRO’s Emerging Science Program and draws on methods developed by the Beijer Institute in Sweden.

The work builds on several years of research by CSIRO that included an inventory of unmarketed goods and services that are important to the Goulburn Broken Catchment and its people.

The list included everything from the invaluable role bees played in pollinating horticulture crops to the beauty of the high country, an essential ingredient to the region’s tourism industry.

Release ends

For more information telephone Brian Walker on 0419 221 568.