There are varied development initiatives to promote the economic growth of northern Australia. But how do we balance increased productivity, traditional uses, and nature conservation? The diversity of views about the potential benefits and costs of different development options, and our limited understanding of the effects of these developments demand guidance on how to explore these considerations. This is particularly important because government agencies, NRM groups, Indigenous organisations, and industry commonly need to make decisions based on incomplete information. Also, decisions are usually made with a single objective in mind, such as agricultural development or biodiversity conservation. However, this focus on single objectives limits our capacity to consider the full range of environmental, social and economic outcomes of proposed developments and their implications for different stakeholders. It also hinders our understanding of the potential co-benefits or trade-offs between different objectives. Considering multiple objectives is therefore critical to support future effective planning for development and conservation of northern Australia’s globally significant cultural and natural values.
This project is demonstrating how to operationalise participatory, multi-objective catchment planning, where stakeholders collaboratively construct and assess the outcomes of alternative development scenarios. The scenario planning exercise aims to create a shared space for constructive and objective conversations about the future development of the Fitzroy River catchment. This process aims to develop common understandings about different development options for the region and systematically explore the possibilities as well as the potential outcomes of different development trajectories, including identifying those with multiple benefits and where trade-offs are needed.
The project is working in Western Australia’s Fitzroy River catchment with the intention that the planning process can be transferred to other areas in northern Australia and beyond.
The project is being led by Professor Bob Pressey from James Cook University (JCU). Professor Pressey is being assisted by researchers from JCU, The University of Western Australia, Griffith University, CSIRO, and University of Tasmania.