People share vision for future of region

Thursday 20 May, 2004
Ninety people have participated in the first round of workshops looking at the future of irrigation in the Goulburn Broken Catchment.

Ninety people have participated in the first round of workshops looking at the future of irrigation in the Goulburn Broken Catchment.

The workshops at Kyabram, Echuca, Cobram and Shepparton were part of the Goulburn Broken Catchment Irrigation Futures project to develop future scenarios and explore long-term options for irrigation within the region.

Participants were asked to identify the factors that had influenced the history of irrigation in the catchment and to consider the values that needed to be taken into account when planning for the future.

Overall the workshops highlighted the need for:

  • Achieving prosperity with balance;
  • Enhancing productivity through innovation and diversity;
  • Maintaining vibrant communities;
  • Valuing and improving our environment;
  • Creating opportunities for young people and new farmers; and
  • Working toward the community valuing its food production practices and its farmers as stewards of the resource.

Dairy farmers and processors, fruit, vegetable and grape growers, Landcarers, financial advisors, local government, rural counsellors, and agency staff were among those who took part. Many of the people who attended the forums committed themselves to ongoing involvement in the project.

Waterpolicies, climate change, water availability and pricing, and world market prices for agricultural commodities are some of the issues that will be considered as part of the futures project.

“The fact that so many irrigators and community members committed themselves to the forums and actively contributed to the workshops is a demonstration of a strong community who believe in creating our own future,” said Mr John Pettigrew, Chair of the Irrigation Futures project.

However the workshops only attracted small numbers of young people, a situation Mr Pettigrew hopes to turnaround at future events. He said generally the feedback from those who did attend was very encouraging.

One of the participants, Roy Armfield, of Heritage Farm Wines at Cobram said: “ planning for the future is a big challenge, but it’s worth it. It needs to be done.’’

Another participant, Doug Small from Kyabram, said: “the challenge of having a hand in shaping the future is awesome.’’

A highlight of each workshop was the “history wall”. Participants mapped the events which have impacted on irrigated agriculture in the region over the past 30 years.

The “history wall” was seen as providing perspective to the current challenges. Ian Cobbledick, of Nathalia, thought the history walls should be documented: …”so that we can learn from our past to manage changes in the future.’’

Participants also explored community values to be used in selecting future directions for the region. Cr Anne McCamish said the community would expect its leaders to use values such as prosperity, justice and integrity when planning for the future of the region.

At the next round of workshops in June, participants will develop scenarios within which the region might be operating over the next 10 to 30 years. They will also set the scene for the third workshop series, which will focus on responding to these challenges. Anne Gardiner of Bamawm, said she was looking forward to the next workshop.

The wider community and interested groups will have the chance to have input into the project in August after the final workshops.

For more information in the interim contact Leon Soste, Operational Manager of the Irrigation Futures Project, Department of Primary Industries, Tatura, Phone 58335956, Email leon.soste@dpi.vic.gov.au.

Release ends

For more information telephone Dr QJ Wang on 58 335 348.