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Improved integrated resource use planning in the Australian sugar industry

V.A.Webb1, CSIRO Sustainable Ecosystems, D. Chalmers2, CRC Sugar, D.H. Walker, CSIRO Sustainable Ecosystems, A.K.L.J. Johnson, CSIRO Sustainable Ecosystems.

1Vickie Webb, CSIRO Tropical Agriculture, 120 Meiers Road, Indooroopilly Qld 4068.
Duncan Chalmers, CRC Sugar, James Cook University, Townsville Qld 4814,

Governments in Australia are introducing or amending legislation on environmental protection and natural resource management. To conform all industries need to develop and adopt environmentally sustainable natural resource management practices. In many catchments in which the sugar industry is a major resource user, planning for natural resource use is an ad hoc process with poor interaction, communication and integration between the sugar industry and other stakeholders.

Sustainable rural land use planning in sugar catchments will achieve little unless the overall system of planning and management is improved. The sugar industry requires a capacity to deal effectively and efficiently with the environmental and economic consequences of its changing infrastructure needs, including strategic planning for expected expansions, contractions and re-allocations of land. This requires working to improve the planning capacity of all sugar industry groups and other stakeholder groups with responsibilities in natural resource management, and the interactions between them.

We are working with partner projects funded by SRDC, LWRRDC and CSIRO to support the sugar industry in the Herbert and Sunshine Coast regions to work in partnership with State and Local Government agencies and local community groups (particularly Catchment Co-ordinating Committees) to develop and implement a planning systems approach to rural land use planning in the sugar industry. It will assist the sugar industry stakeholders and land managers in the Sunshine Coast and Herbert River regions to;

  • Enhance their rural land use planning capacity;
  • Prepare for, and undertake negotiations with other stakeholders to establish and implement agreed catchment and regional priorities and rural land resource management strategies;
  • Identify and implement rural land use strategies and plans over which they have responsibility as well as strategies and plans that will require negotiated solutions with other stakeholders in sugar catchments;
  • Develop and implement innovative ways to involve the industry and other catchment stakeholders in the process of planning to meet their catchment and regional land use planning responsibilities and objectives.

This process is a participatory process built around a series of facilitated planning workshops and Resource Use Futures Fora which provide stakeholders the opportunity to identify their key development issues, as well as their objectives and strategies for the region’s economy and natural resources.

While the project is still in the early stages there are already noticeable attitudinal changes in participants. There is now a willingness on the part of the sugar industry stakeholders to include other stakeholders in decision-making processes, and additional stakeholders groups are being invited to the next Fora.

The importance of this project is that not only does it utilise the planning process to assist in capacity building of participants, but also it is working at the industry/community level rather than the individual farm level. This in turn results in a more informed decision making process, across the region. In order to ensure that implementation and adoption occurs we have not proceeded until each step is completed eg. the first step was to establish a joint vision, the next step was to establish if there was suitable land for expansion of the industry, and the third step is to prioritise areas for expansion taking into consideration social and environmental as well as economic implications.

By working through the planning process with participants we will lead to direct outcomes, build local capacity and provide a basis for developing improved participatory and integrated approaches across the sugar industry. This process could be utilised in any sugar region, and in fact, need not be confined to the sugar industry but could be applied to any agricultural industry.

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