Edward Wakool Basin Reference Group

Edward Wakool Basin Reference Group

Building our Future -


The issue

The Murray Darling Basin Plan and water reform has contributed to major social and economic impacts in the region. Not all community members have been engaged in Murray Darling Basin Authority (MDBA) communications and would like to be. There are strong conflicting views held by different cross sections of the community and water resources are managed by a number of different agencies. Community members find it very complex knowing who does what when it comes to water management and responsibilities, making the lines of communication blurred.The MDBA stated that ‘Localism’ was hard wired into the Basin Plan, however the community felt that they were left out of the engagement and it was a top down approach. As a result many community group leaders felt that there concerns were not been heard effectively, and there were broad knowledge gaps regarding the Murray Darling Basin water reform process.

The solution

The Western Murray Land Improvement Group (WMLIG) took the initiative to enhance communication and thus a better mutual understanding of water delivery considerations throughout the region.  WMLIG facilitated a strategy to improve the MDBA engagement process with community leaders by focusing on a collaborative arrangement where all parties are involved in knowledge sharing and input into decision making. Historically this collaborative approach has proved to be most successful model in achieving project outcomes.Part of the strategy for a new engagement process was compiling a list of successful community NRM projects. This illustrated to outside agencies that success occurred in this community from a bottom up approach and shared solutions. Arnstein’s Ladder of Citizen Participation was used to rate the relationship between community and the MDBA and gave examples of where other agencies were rated as a benchmarking tool.The MDBA was open in its assessment and took on board community feedback. Community leaders were hesitant, however were encouraged to hear open mutual agreement about the need to establish a more open and transparent approach to engagement by the MDBA CEO was open and transparent and would invest time in a fresh engagement process. A new community reference group, known as the Edward - Wakool Basin Reference Group was formed comprising a broad cross section of community leaders from the Edward Wakool region.

The impact

The Reference Group has had several meetings and a field trip with a range of government agency and community stakeholders and continues to be a conduit for two way flow of information.Government agencies are providing resources to fill knowledge gaps based on community priorities and receiving feedback about water management decisions.The community is learning about the role of different agencies and who they should approach for different aspects of water management.

Key facts

  • It is important to identify the issues and establish the need for change
  • Seek acknowledgement of past shortcomings to build trust
  • Set the scene with evidence of what success looks like, and develop benchmarks
  • Create a safe space for community engagement by utilise management tools

Project Partners