The development of the Corangamite Regional Catchment Strategy followed an extensive review of the previous strategy, initial engagement with a range of stakeholders and partners to ascertain their aspirations for this strategy and involvement in the development of a state-wide approach.
The Victorian Catchment Management Council (VCMC) developed the guidelines that ensured that Regional Catchment Strategies (RCS) complied with the requirements of the Catchment and Land Protection Act (1994) for their development. Key requirements under the VCMC Guidelines are that the Corangamite Regional Catchment Strategy contributes to consistent integrated catchment management outcomes across Victoria.
Key regional drivers for the development of this RCS were the need to better align local management areas to the landscapes of the region and how they function due to soil type, topography, climate, biodiversity and location. These have been identified within this strategy as landscape systems.
Key partners that were engaged with during the development of the Regional Catchment Strategy include traditional owners, all municipalities, all relevant agencies, industry groups, community groups such as Landcare and relevant community members. The Corangamite Catchment Partnership Agreement Forum played a key role in its development, as did the Corangamite Community Engagement Network.
The Communication and Engagement process for the development of this strategy occurred at three levels as outlined in the following diagram.
The Victorian Catchment Management Council Guidelines highlighted the need for greater regard for Aboriginal cultural values and traditional ecological knowledge. To this end, in the development of this strategy agreement was reached with both the Eastern Maar and Wadawurrung Traditional Owners to engage with them in a coordinated manner with other Catchment Management Authorities (CMAs). Corangamite, Glenelg-Hopkins and Wimmera CMAs have engaged with Eastern Maar as a collective. The same has occurred with Wadawurrung by Corangamite, Glenelg-Hopkins and Port Phillip-Westernport CMAs.
As part of Stage 2, collaborative on-line workshops were held across the region’s Landscape Systems to ensure that local outcomes and priority directions were captured and included into the strategy. Two 2- hour workshops were held for each of the nine Landscape Systems through an on-line forum due to the issues presented by the COVID-19 pandemic. A report on this process can be accessed here. The findings from these workshops were synthesised and included in the draft RCS which was placed onto the Engage Victoria site from the 15th June until 16th July 2021 to capture wider community feedback.
Learnings from previous RCS and what is different now
A report commissioned by Corangamite Catchment Management Authority by Deakin University in 2019 (Corangamite Catchment Management Authority: A report informing the 2020 Regional Catchment Strategy renewal process) by Dr Tanya King and Shaya Kaartinen-Price posed the question “What should consultation look like for the renewal of the RCS?”
- Most people indicated a preference for workshops (18%), followed by community advisory group/steering committee (13%), technical reports/discussion papers (11%), online consultation (10%) and submissions (10%), then community information sessions (9%).
- It should be noted that the difference between ‘online consultation’ and ‘submission’ is not clear, nor the difference between ‘community information sessions’ and ‘workshops’, at least in terms of how they may incorporate respondent contributions to the new RCS. Seeking this kind of information is a worthwhile task, but the options provided to respondents need to be clear and actionable.
- Consultation tends to mean different things to different people. For some, it is being provided with information. For others, it is the opportunity to have direct and impactful input into a process. It is suggested that CCMA clarify the level of involvement that staff (in particular) may have in relation to the RCS renewal process, and how this may feed into the new RCS. (Deakin Uni analysis)
- When asked how they interact with the CCMA (multiple responses possible), 17% of responses (not respondents, but distinct responses) referred to CCMA as a funding agency, 9% referred to providing information to the CCMA, while nearly 20% referred to a partnership arrangement with the CCMA. Half (50%) of the responses depicted the CCMA as an advisory or service provision agency. (Deakin Uni analysis)
- A question for CCMA in the future might be what level of understanding is necessary for different stakeholders to engage effectively, and how might that be communicated effectively?
As part of the process for renewal of the Corangamite Regional Catchment Strategy, a series of interviews was conducted with partners and stakeholders at a variety of levels to ascertain how the RCS has influenced the way they have managed the region’s resources.
The process used was a face-to-face discussion which enabled the population of a template with relevant information. All participants had the information captured relayed back to them to check that the required information was captured. Interviewees were also given the opportunity to provide comment as they felt necessary.
Summary of findings
There is a wide variation of understanding of the purpose of the RCS with no respondent being able to clearly articulate its purpose to “provide a vision for the integrated management of natural resources in the Corangamite region. It is a blueprint for catchment health in the future and builds on the achievements and lessons from the past”.
There was a large variation of experience with involvement in the RCS development process. One major theme was that involvement with RCS3 was less than the initial two RCSs.
There was very little use of the RCS by those interviewed. One recurring theme was that there was much greater use of sub-strategies (although many of these had not been renewed during the term of the current RCS). Key feedback from community groups was that they generally only used the RCS to access grants.
Conversely most of those interviewed believed it should have a high relevance to their work. There were a number of comments regarding the RCS’ role in setting priorities and enabling collaboration.
Some of the key proposals to make the RCS more relevant were:
- Enable specification, prioritisation, collaboration and delivery.
- Have a role in informing statutory planning at a state-wide and municipal level.
- Needs to involve local government more
- Be a reference for useful information
- Needs to take into consideration other strategies and plans
- Provide funds
With regard to how engagement should occur for the next RCS there was an expectation that as stakeholders, a higher level of engagement than that for RCS 3 was wanted. Such engagement needs to be focused on relevant levels of organisations and the type of engagement needs to be suited to that level, with the ability to escalate if necessary. Some community-based organisations indicated that there may be a need to pay sitting fees to enable these organisations to have more meaningful input.
There was general consensus that organisations were willing to co-invest in projects. This co-investment could be in terms of funds, staff time and services. Such investment would need to meet the investors’ outcomes, leverage other investment and be under some form of agreement.
The major themes that arose from final comments were:
- Needs to be fit for purpose and people have to want to use it
- Needs to be relevant to all agencies
- Should have a focus on developing partnerships similar to CPA.
The change to Landscape Systems from Landscape Zones (sub-catchments) provides a systematic approach to managing issues. Within Landscape Systems there is a greater degree of commonality and consistency in landscape features, land use for productivity and the lifestyle of those within those systems.
The desire for the strategy to “be a reference for useful information” is provided through its on-line format. This format provides the opportunity to enable links to relevant information being incorporated within its layout under various sections. The ability to link to the Natural Resource Management Portal and the CCMA Knowledge Base also provides users with a pathway to find information.