Con­fer­ence suc­cess

Southern Riverina news - - RURAL OUTLOOK -

Bring­ing to­gether a di­verse group of peo­ple to dis­cuss mod­els of suc­cess in nat­u­ral re­source man­age­ment opened up new op­por­tu­ni­ties for the Murray Val­ley at last week’s in­au­gu­ral Na­tional Agri­cul­tural Pro­duc­tiv­ity and Rec­on­cil­i­a­tion Ecol­ogy (NAPREC) con­fer­ence.

Held at the De­niliquin Golf Club on Wed­nes­day and Thurs­day last week, more than 50 farm­ers, ed­u­ca­tors and doc­tor­ates from Charles Sturt Univer­sity, sci­en­tists and govern­ment de­part­ments and in­dus­try worked col­lab­o­ra­tively on is­sues and ideas.

The aim of the con­fer­ence was to in­tro­duce the con­cept of rec­on­cil­i­a­tion ecol­ogy by es­tab­lish­ing De­niliquin as the cen­tral point for NAPREC.

NAPREC chair Louise Burge stressed in­no­va­tive think­ing can drive part­ner­ships to achieve out­comes de­void of con­flict and pro­vide con­ti­nu­ity of out­comes be­yond po­lit­i­cal cy­cles and bud­getary frame­works.

Ed­ward River Coun­cil Mayor Norm Bren­nan led day one’s pro­ceed­ings, be­gin­ning with an in­ter­na­tional video pre­sen­ta­tion from Dr Michael Rosen­zweig, who is con­sid­ered the ‘ fa­ther of rec­on­cil­i­a­tion ecol­ogy’.

Dr Rosen­zweig’s book ‘Win-win Ecol­ogy’ iden­ti­fied how nat­u­ral sys­tems can co-ex­ist in hu­man dom­i­nated land­scapes.

‘‘While NAPREC is still in its in­fancy, the sup­port, com­mit­ment and en­thu­si­asm from the con­fer­ence and work­shop iden­ti­fied com­mon po­si­tions es­sen­tial to achiev­ing out­comes and this con­firmed we are head­ing in the right di­rec­tion,’’ Mrs Burge said.

Mrs Burge said the De­niliquin re­gion has ‘‘in­cred­i­ble nat­u­ral as­sets’’, and at the same time is a sig­nif­i­cant con­trib­u­tor to Aus­tralia’s agri­cul­tural sec­tor.

‘‘It has a strong his­tory of com­mu­nity projects and in­dus­try driven ini­tia­tives and ben­e­fits of univer­sity part­ner­ships such as with the rice in­dus­try are widely recog­nised,’’ she said.

‘‘We can build on th­ese op­por­tu­ni­ties if govern­ment in­creas­ingly val­ues the ben­e­fits of work­ing with lo­cal peo­ple to achieve en­vi­ron­men­tal out­comes.’’

One of the guest speak­ers, CSU di­rec­tor of the in­sti­tute for land, water and so­ci­ety Dr Max Fin­layson said de­ci­sion mak­ers have been try­ing to link peo­ple and out­comes in the past 10 years.

‘‘How­ever the role of com­mu­ni­ties are of­ten un­der de­vel­oped . . . we do agree that in­volv­ing peo­ple is the best way, and if we don’t it won’t work,” Dr Fin­layson said.

‘‘It’s not top down pro­cesses but bot­tom up (that work).’’

Dr Fin­layson de­scribed the ben­e­fits of in­cor­po­rat­ing sci­ence and di­verse knowl­edge and ex­plained they all have value in shap­ing nat­u­ral re­source man­age­ment out­comes. This sen­ti­ment was echoed by many speak­ers dur­ing the con­fer­ence.

CSU School of En­vi­ron­men­tal Sci­ence hu­man geog­ra­phy lec­turer Jen Bond high­lighted the im­por­tance of re­la­tion­ships, trust and com­mu­ni­ca­tions in process; what is le­git­i­mate, what isn’t and who de­cides.

Ms Bond de­scribed the value of di­ver­sity of knowl­edge and its im­por­tance to eco­log­i­cal and eco­nomic out­comes.

Mrs Burge said it was ‘‘fan­tas­tic’’ to have a num­ber of univer­sity stu­dents study­ing en­vi­ron­men­tal sci­ence and so­cial sci­ence par­tic­i­pat­ing in the con­fer­ence.

‘‘One goal of the con­fer­ence was to en­cour­age more farm vis­its by ed­u­ca­tional in­sti­tu­tions,’’ she said.

‘‘By do­ing so, it al­lows more op­por­tu­ni­ties to ex­change ideas and gives stu­dents and ed­u­ca­tors ex­po­sure into how agri­cul­ture in this re­gion op­er­ates.

‘‘It was re­ally re­ward­ing to have so many peo­ple en­thu­si­as­tic about the rec­on­cil­i­a­tion ecol­ogy con­cept. It al­lowed work­shop­ping on day two to progress ideas about NAPREC’s fu­ture.’’

The con­fer­ence also in­cluded pre­sen­ta­tions from: Yarkuwa In­dige­nous Knowl­edge Cen­tre se­nior project of­fi­cer Karen Wil­son, NAPREC founder Shel­ley Scoullar, Rice­grow­ers’ As­so­ci­a­tion en­vi­ron­men­tal projects man­ager Neil Bull, NSW Of­fice of En­vi­ron­ment and Her­itage en­vi­ron­men­tal water man­age­ment of­fi­cer Emma Wil­son, Pro­fes­sor Peter Gell, Dr John Con­allin and Wet­ten­hall Foun­da­tion rep­re­sen­ta­tive and farmer Adam Wet­ten­hall.

There were also af­ter­noon field trips, in­clud­ing to Mr Wet­ten­hall’s prop­erty ‘East Tolans’ to learn more about land­holder pro­tec­tion of the en­dan­gered Plains Wan­derer bird and to An­drew Her­mis­ton’s prop­erty ‘East Wan­dook’ to dis­cuss es­tab­lish­ing re­la­tion­ships and data col­lec­tion and mon­i­tor­ing.

Mrs Burge thanked all the speak­ers and par­tic­i­pants for the op­por­tu­nity to have such pos­i­tive dis­cus­sions on as­pects of the en­vi­ron­ment and its re­la­tion­ship with re­gional agri­cul­ture.

Adam Wet­ten­hall from the Wet­ten­hall Foun­da­tion, Alex An­thony rep­re­sent­ing the Murray Dar­ling Basin Au­thor­ity, Murray Ir­ri­ga­tion CEO Michael Rene­han, NAPREC chair Louise Burge and Kyabram dairy farmer Loretta War­ren.

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