Water Journal : Water Journal July 2012
refereed paper community issues water JULY 2012 51 Abstract This paper demonstrates that economically viable partnerships can be established with traditional owners to enhance the social and environmental sustainability values of a water service provider. Cairns Regional Council operates 15 water intakes, the majority of which are in Wet Tropics World Heritage National Parks. The Council has a duty of care to protect cultural heritage and the high conservation values within the water infrastructure footprints. Recently the Council entered into Vegetation Management Agreements with two traditional owner groups and Terrain NRM to assist the Council meet its duty of care. Terrain NRM (Terrain) is the regional natural resource management body for the Wet Tropics. A number of barriers and opportunities were identified in establishing the Vegetation Management Agreements and it is hoped that sharing these experiences will assist other organisations to explore similar opportunities with traditional owners. Introduction Cairns Regional Council (the Council) in Far-North Queensland is responsible for providing drinking water to communities from the Daintree Village in the north to regional communities approximately 100km south of Cairns (Figure 1). The Council is responsible for managing 15 water intakes, most of which were established in the 1970s to provide this service. The majority of these intakes are in Wet Tropics World Heritage National Parks and, as such, are subject to numerous pieces of State and Commonwealth Government environmental legislation. Many of the intakes are also in close proximity to native title lands and, in some cases, are subject to Indigenous Land Use Agreements (National Native Title Tribunal, 2007). The Council has recently entered into Vegetation Management Agreements with the relevant traditional owners of land occupied by three water intakes and with Terrain to manage vegetation within the infrastructure footprints. The Vegetation Management Agreements provide for the implementation of Cultural Heritage Agreements that were signed between the Council and relevant traditional owners in 2009. The water intakes referred to in this paper are: • Majuba Creek intake, on Ngadjon-Jii traditional lands at the base of Mount Bartle Frere; • Fishery Falls intake (Figure 2), near the Fishery Falls township, and Junction Creek intake at the base of Mount Bellenden Ker, which are on the Wanyurr Majay traditional lands. Traditionally, the vegetation within the infrastructure footprints has been managed by the Council or by a contractor more equipped to manage urban sites. Due to the large number of threatened species and the nature of the land tenure, the Council has a significant liability for vegetation management. As such, the Council wanted to establish processes that strengthened its environmental and cultural heritage duty of care at these sites. This paper describes the rationale and process for establishing the Vegetation Management Agreements and highlights some of the barriers and opportunities that were identified during the development of the Agreements. The experiences shared in this paper may assist other organisations to develop similar partnerships to: • Manage or improve the natural resources in drinking water catchments (Postel and Thompson Jr, 2005); • Manage natural assets for conservation (Plummer and Fitzgibbon, 2004a); or • Rehabilitate land associated with other industries. L Powell, D Phillips How water service providers can establish economically viable relationships with traditional owners INDIGENOUS PARTNERSHIPS: OPPORTUNITIES AND OBSTACLES Figure 1. Cairns Regional Council area. Figure 2. Fishery Falls water intake, Wooroonooran National Park, Queensland.
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