Water Journal : Water Journal July 2012
refereed paper community issues water JULY 2012 53 4. Traditional owner groups having a limited track record with vegetation management or capacity to administer the required projects, but aspiring to be in this position. In addition, both the Council and traditional owner groups needed certainty that the arrangement would be sustainable in the long term; 5. The need for an implementation model that could be applied equally across a number of traditional owner groups (depending on location of water infrastructure); 6. The need for a model that allowed traditional owners to develop enterprise skills. Each of these challenges is discussed below. 1. Clear objectives and outcomes Negotiations to overcome the barriers made evident the aspirations and opportunities available within each of the partner organisations. It was important to ensure that all parties were open and clear about their objectives, and that negotiations occurred with a high level of trust and good will. It required all parties to keep focused on the outcomes, to think outside the square, and to have a positive attitude and open mind. It was important to have decision makers from each organisation involved in the negotiations so that decisions could be made at the table. Access to an experienced and objective cultural heritage solicitor helped to clearly articulate the scope and responsibilities. The key Council objective was to reduce the environmental risks associated with managing the sensitive vegetation in a financially sustainable manner. It was also important to the Council to have a model that was secure and flexible. Key objectives of traditional owners related to having the opportunity to care for their traditional lands and to improve knowledge, skills and employment opportunities. The objective of Terrain was to assist the indigenous community with natural resource management capacity building. The Vegetation Management Agreements are quite prescriptive in their requirements. The lack of prescription in the CHAs caused implementation difficulties and misinterpretation of responsibilities. The keeping of clear meeting records assisted in resolving matters of interpretation and had the added benefit of educating newcomers to the negotiation process. 2. Knowledge and skills gaps within the Council and traditional owner groups Early in the negotiations it was realised that neither Council, within its water service provider capacity, nor the traditional owners, had the knowledge or skills to effectively manage the vegetation to a standard expected for these sensitive areas. Further, the traditional owners did not have strong project management and reporting skills. The inclusion of Terrain in the partnership to bridge this gap was the key to overcoming this barrier. As already discussed, Terrain has the track record, knowledge, access to expertise and charter for vegetation management in high conservation areas. An added advantage to Council of this model is that it has allowed existing resources to be focused solely on the provision of drinking water with the knowledge that environmental and cultural heritage obligations are also being met. 3. Need for flexible employment and training arrangements The Council procurement, training and employment systems made implementing the CHAs difficult. As an example, the Council was unable to pay traditional owners directly to monitor excavation works unless the traditional owner groups had an Australian Business Number. In addition, the Council was unable to facilitate the training requirements of the CHAs for similar reasons. One traditional owner group was based outside of the Council administrative boundary and inflexibility with course locations was a barrier. Finally, it was difficult for the Council to employ individual traditional owners to undertake vegetation management work without going through standard recruitment processes. The three-way Vegetation Management Agreement, including Terrain, overcame these difficulties. Working through the implementation difficulties assisted the traditional owner groups to understand what they needed to have in place to establish their own natural resource management enterprises in the future. Both traditional owner groups are now on the road to achieving this objective. 4. Support needed for traditional owners to gain NRM and project management capacity and need for Council to have project security In this case study, the traditional owners needed to have the support of an organisation that had an extensive track record in vegetation management; that could provide the training required by the Vegetation Management Agreements; and that had the capacity to employ the traditional owners for the vegetation work (Figure 6). Terrain provided this opportunity. As an added benefit, the three-way partnership has allowed the traditional owners, employed through Terrain, to work on other projects. This has given them reasonable employment opportunities. One of the difficulties faced during negotiations was the small size of the Council project. It did not contribute enough work to keep traditional owners employed full-time. Through Terrain, the model allows traditional owners to take on project management and reporting responsibilities. This was proposed by the traditional owners during negotiations Traditional Owners (Ngadjon-Jii or Wanyurr Majay Industry or Water Service Provider (Cairns Regional Council) Reconciliation & Social Sustainability Regional NRM Organisation (Terrain NRM) Capability Building & Employment Security and Flexibility Figure 6. Diagrammatic representation of how the Vegetation Management Agreements met the key objectives of the partner organisations.
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