The role of community champions in long-term sustainable urban water planning
Community engagement and stewardship are important elements in urban water planning if we are to achieve the vision of water sensitive cities. The aim of this study was to explore how community members could participate in collaborative water planning processes that are adaptive, participatory and transdisciplinary. We conducted a case study of community participation in a water planning process in the regional town of Bendigo in Australia. Over a period of eight months, we worked with key stakeholders to generate integrated, collaborative and people-centred water planning. This involved a series of community champion workshops supplemented by focus groups with additional community members that ran alongside workshops with water and local planning professionals. The goal of the process was to bring together industry, government partners and community members to develop a 50-year vision for a water sensitive Bendigo and to identify the steps needed to achieve this vision. Key findings were that community champions were keen to learn and contribute to urban water planning in their local context. Given time and support, community champions were able to distil complex ideas and make compromises to contribute to a shared vision for the city. Our findings confirm that community champions can play the role of knowledge brokers between water managers and the general population. The research contributes knowledge regarding the value of engaging community champions in urban water planning.
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