- Establishing a common vision about improving the state of a river reach is something that needs to happen early in the project, involving key stakeholders and the local community.
- The vision should encompass a broad, clear target which is realistic and achievable.
- The vision must reflect the ecological condition the community wishes for the reach in the future.
The vision of a demonstration reach is a statement about improving the state of the river reach into the future. Establishing a vision needs to occur in the early stages of a project, and must incorporate the values of all the stakeholders involved. The process of establishing a vision can be a very valuable opportunity to comprehensively engage with key players early, setting strong foundations for ongoing interactions.
The vision guides the direction of the project, providing a clear focus for the life of the demonstration reach. If all those involved agree on and support the vision, this provides a common bond, and ensures that everyone is clear on what the project is striving to achieve.
The vision needs to encompass a broad target such as “a healthy and functional riverine ecosystem with a self-sustaining native fish community”, rather than one which is very specific, for example, a 50% increase in fish passage over 10 years. While it may be seen as a broad aspirational goal, it must still be realistic and attainable. For example, returning a river reach to its pre European condition is impractical. Specifying an unrealistic or unattainable vision may lead to frustration and disappointment with those involved, and may also limit the likelihood of the project persisting in the long term.
The vision must reflect the ecological condition in which the community wishes to view the reach in the future. The vision may also incorporate economic, cultural and recreational values, if desired by the community.
“A healthier and more productive aquatic and floodplain ecosystem that everyone can enjoy” – Katarapko demonstration reach. A series of concepts, objectives and guiding principles were identified to support this vision (Katfish Reach Implementation Plan 2008- Katfish Reach Steering Group 2008).
“A healthier, more resilient and sustainable river reach and corridor that is appreciated and enjoyed by all communities of the national capital region” – Upper Murrumbidgee demonstration reach. A series of goals, long, short to medium objectives and guiding principles were identified to support the vision (Upper Murrumbidgee Demonstration Reach Implementation Plan 2010- ACT Government 2010).
“Develop, protect and expand the Reach so everyone in the community knows about it, appreciates it and wants to be involved to create a self-sustaining project which ultimately restores the health of the river and brings back the fish.” – Dewfish demonstration reach – 2012 revised vision (Condamine Alliance 2012). A series of goals, objectives, strategies and tactics were identified to support this vision.
The Bourke to Brewarrina, and Namoi demonstration reaches (NSW) identified overall aims, objectives and actions (Industry and Investment NSW Plan 2009). For the Hollands Creek demonstration reach, a community workshop was held at the very beginning of the project, involving community members and landholders, the local recreational fishing group, business owners, local government representatives and project partners. The workshop was formally facilitated and involved sharing and documenting the various values held for Hollands Creek, perspectives on threats to these values, and potential actions. A key component was bringing those views together into a simple, agreed shared vision for the project, for ‘a healthy Hollands Creek, supporting a range of biodiversity values’. The process of developing this simple vision was hugely valuable. The Ovens River demonstration reaches (Vic) identified priority rehabilitation actions.