It’s sometimes easier to see a water sensitive community in action than to describe one. This was certainly the case at the recent community visioning workshops we facilitated in collaboration with Goulburn Mulwaree Council and WaterNSW. Feeling inspired and enthusiastic, several participants took immediate action to progress the ideas of the wider group—clearly demonstrating the ‘community champion’ element of a successful water sensitive community.
The three-part workshop series for Goulburn Mulwaree brought together Council, WaterNSW and participants from the local community to develop a water vision for the region. At first it proved challenging to find community members with an interest in the topic, but once we’d developed a network of contacts, the numbers appeared. Over three workshops, the conversation deepened and new connections were made.
Following the workshops, participants commented that they made new connections between water, sustainability and the future of the region, linked this to the patterns of new development occurring in Goulburn, and discovered measures already in place to apply water sensitive urban design. They also felt the workshops provided a forum in which to build understanding between the Council and community on water issues. This is a terrific result, and underscores the value of quality collaboration and genuine community engagement in driving social and technological change.
Doug Rawlinson from the Goulburn Group said that inviting Goulburn residents and others to comment on and add to the security of Goulburn's water was a very positive move for the region.
‘Our Group has developed projects such as The Goulburn Wetlands, Community Energy 4 Goulburn, and the Backyard Biodiversity Interest Group. And we’re keen to continue our work in securing the future and security of our water and the overall wellbeing of the community,’ Doug said.
Cyril Smith, a member of the Orange City Council’s Environmental and Sustainability Community Committee (ESCC), travelled from Orange to Goulburn to participate in the workshops. He said he was already aware of the CRCWSC but now has an even greater drive to help transition Orange to a water sensitive city. He has taken this enthusiasm back to Orange and initiated a process to work with Orange City Council to develop water sensitive programs and initiatives.
Cyril’s recommendation for Council to investigate and prepare a report into Orange’s transitioning to a water sensitive city was adopted by the ESCC and Council’s Environment/Sustainability Policy Committee and will proceed for consideration at a full Council meeting after the report is presented.
Cyril said: ‘Orange City Council has previously explored the concept of water sensitive cities via workshops and site inspections of the implementation in the Western Sydney area, and I’ve had an interest in following Sydney, Melbourne, Bendigo and now Goulburn during the process.
‘Water Sensitive Cities represent sustainability, flexibility and liveability into the future, and we’re excited by opportunities in our region for initiatives such as our stormwater harvesting system and rainwater tanks for new builds,’ he said.
CRCWSC National Engagement Manager, Jamie Ewert, said he was pleased to see that the workshop process, which was sponsored by WaterNSW and supported by Goulburn Mulwaree Council, had generated this enthusiasm.
‘This excitement among workshop participants to either continue or kick off their own water sensitive cities activities goes to show how important community workshops are for inspiring change, cementing a shared understanding of the issues and the future potential, and creating community champions to lead the necessary on-ground actions,’ Jamie said.
The Goulburn Mulwaree workshops were part of the larger WaterNSW initiative to improve stormwater runoff (and other aspects of urban water management) in drinking water catchments, and will feed into development of the next Regional Community Strategic Plan.
If you’d like more information about community visioning workshops for your city or town, please contact Katie Hammer at Katie.Hammer@monash.edu.