7 Connecting the champions of the Lake Eyre Basin rivers 85 Steering Group was formed, with membership from the pastoral industry, the Queensland and South Australian governments, the Australian Government, conservation groups, mining and petroleum industries, Landcare groups, Aboriginal organisations, tourist operators and local government. The Steering Group, supported by governments, communicated the value of integrated planning, governance and advice, recommending the importance of investing in science and monitoring at an unprecedented scale across the entire river basin. It was guided by principles of inclusiveness, accountability, social equity and respect for diversity, fairness, transparency, and continuous learning. Seldom has such a model emerged across such a large part of the world. There were major logistical obstacles to cooperation, particularly the scheduling of meetings and communication across the vast expanse of the Lake Eyre Basin (over 1 million km2 of sparsely populated catchment). The group established seven key principles for protecting the rivers: promotion of ecological and economic sustainability development and communication of a shared, strategic vision provision of a forum for Basin-wide issues provision of a communication channel with governments integration of priorities for action plans and funding facilitation of knowledge flow and development and application of social justice principles so that diverse views were respected and considered. All principles endure today, still fundamentally underpinning the success of the various and ever-evolving partnerships within the Lake Eyre Basin which seek to manage this complex socio-ecological system. Community-based management committees for the Cooper Creek and Georgina– Diamantina catchments were constituted soon after the establishment of the Steering Group. Uniquely in Australia, these committees extended across the borders of Queensland and South Australia and included communities from both jurisdictions. The committees were supported by funding from the Australian Government’s Natural Heritage Trust and the South Australian and Queensland governments. The process dissipated upstream– downstream divides, as community members experienced the full course of the rivers through the eyes and knowledge of other community members and meetings throughout the catchment. Investment programs reflected this unifying ecological dimension, with programs such as invasive species control coordinated across jurisdictional borders. There was a common goal of protecting the river from potential threats, particularly water resource developments, invasive species (weeds and feral animals) and pollution. Communities worked hard to produce the catchment management plans launched in Birdsville in October 2000. Disappointingly, the subsequent funding model for natural resource management overlooked the opportunity for a genuine catchment-based approach in the Lake Eyre Basin by establishing jurisdiction-based regional bodies in South Australia, Queensland and the Northern Territory. Government coordination, partnership and reporting In 1997, the Australian, Queensland and South Australian governments signed the Lake Eyre Basin Heads of Agreement the initial policy instrument for collaboration by governments, scientists and all sectors of the community to identify mechanisms for achieving long-term, cross-border, sustainable management of the Lake Eyre Basin and its
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