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Lake Eyre Basin 2013 Ministers' Report to the Community

2013

Message from the Ministerial Forum

Under the Lake Eyre Basin (LEB) Intergovernmental Agreement, the Australian, Queensland, South Australian and Northern Territory governments are working together to protect and manage the Lake Eyre Basin's water and related natural resources.

The Lake Eyre Basin (LEB) Ministerial Forum is pleased to provide the fifth annual Ministers' Report to the Community - an update of programs and collaborations in the Basin as part of the LEB Intergovernmental Agreement.

The primary purpose of the Agreement is to implement policies and strategies "to avoid or eliminate so far as reasonably practicable adverse cross-border impacts".

To this end, one important objective of the Agreement is "to jointly promote and support the management of water and related natural resources through a cooperative approach between community, industry and other stakeholders, and all levels of government".

A driving force in developing that cooperative approach has been the Five-Year Action Plan. As the Plan notes, it is a 'living' document that is reassessed annually by Ministers.

This year, priority activities have centred on three key Actions:

  • improving governance outcomes to assist better decision making and implementation of priority Actions;
  • monitoring the health of our wetlands and rivers through the LEB Rivers Assessment (LEBRA); and
  • improving information sharing and staying connected within and beyond the Basin.

The preceding twelve months has been one of steady progress in these areas of the LEB Intergovernmental Agreement, thanks to the cooperative approach shown by a range of people and organisations, within and outside of government.

Another successful LEB Biennial Conference in September 2013 brought together stakeholders from many sectors and regions to share views and information about the natural, cultural and economic values of the Basin. The event celebrated the stories, experience and knowledge of the broad LEB community and culminated in a strong, mutual commitment to continue all possible efforts to protect the Basin's values into the future.

LEBRA has continued this year to collect important data which will contribute toward our on-going condition assessment and adaptive management of the Basin. Regional natural resource management groups across the Basin have also made important contributions through on-ground management and community engagement programs.

In 2012, the traditional name of Lake Eyre, Kati Thanda, was recognised and is an important step in building awareness and acknowledgement of the region's Aboriginal heritage and traditional owners, the Arabana people.

The development of alternative strategies to protect Queensland's western rivers within the Lake Eyre Basin started in late 2012 with the formation of the Western Rivers Advisory Panel, which includes representatives of the LEB Community Advisory Committee (CAC) and Scientific Advisory Panel (SAP).

In November 2013, the Ministerial Forum was briefed by the Queensland Minister on his

Government's proposed changes for management of Queensland's LEB rivers, including the core principles of the management framework entailing the establishment of a Channel Country Protection Area and the prohibition of open cut mining in that Area. Queensland is sharing its data, modelling and proposed flow and trade conditions with Forum members and with the CAC and SAP, in order to better inform the continuing discussion towards successful, cooperative management of the water and related natural resources of the Basin.

All stakeholders need to remain alert to emerging issues that could adversely impact on the LEB and potentially threaten policies of the Ministerial Forum, adopted "to protect and maintain the ecological integrity and natural function of in-stream and floodplain ecosystems, and the viability of economic, social, cultural and other activities which do not threaten these environmental values."

For our part, we are committed to working through these issues collaboratively with the clear purpose of maintaining the health and resilience of this unique ecosystem and the people who depend on it.

We take this opportunity to express our appreciation to members of the CAC and the SAP in providing quality advice over the last twelve months toward a sustainable future for the Basin.