Barry Hart

Barry Hart

Professor Barry Hart is Director of environmental consulting company Water Science Pty Ltd, an Emeritus Professor at Monash University, a board member of the Murray-Darling Basin Authority, and a non-executive Director of Alluvium Consulting Australia Pty Ltd.  Prof Hart has established an international reputation in the fields of water resources decision-making, ecological risk assessment, environmental flow decision-making, water quality and catchment management and environmental chemistry.  He is well known for his sustained efforts in developing knowledge-based decision making processes in natural resource management in Australia and south-east Asia.  He has published over 170 refereed papers and 11 books.  His latest book (Hart, B.T. & Doolan, J. (eds.). Decision Making in Water Resources Policy and Management: The Australian Experience, Elsevier Publishing, New York) will be published in June 2017.

Catalysing Change – A New National Water and Catchment Policy Centre

Sustainable management of Australia’s freshwater resources and their catchments is one of the critical challenges that will determine Australia’s future prosperity and the survival of many iconic Australian ecosystems. Despite nearly three decades of internationally recognised reform, water and catchment policymaking in Australia has not yet delivered sustainable outcomes—and policy change is getting harder. Under Australia’s dominant ‘hydro-illogical’ water policy cycle, governments tend to be over-reactive during times of crisis and otherwise uninterested in reform. Major water and catchment policy reforms follow periods of drought and often focus on short-term, expedient outcomes rather than long-term benefits for all Australians. This cycle must be broken so that we can create enduring sustainable water policy and win community support for its implementation.

The Myer Foundation and The Ian Potter Foundation are leading a new approach to this complex public policy challenge. The Foundations want to establish a new national centre to bring together experts, policymakers and other stakeholders. The centre will be a unique and independent convenor that will prioritise deliberative decision-making processes using models of collaborative policy design. The Foundations want a centre that can draw on the knowledge and experience held by many organisations and individuals already working on water and catchment policy and management to change the way water and catchment decisions are made and help Australia transition to a more sustainable future.

This presentation will discuss the Centre’s vision, how it will work and what is needed to bring this exciting initiative into being.

Climate Change and the Murray-Darling Basin Plan

This presentation will raise two key issues that will need to be addressed in the next Murray-Darling Basin Plan. The first is the policy position focused on how best to protect environmental water as climate change bites. The policy in the current Basin Plan (2012) is to continue pre-existing protections of water entitlements in the event that water resource availability is diminished due to climate change. This has major ramifications for non-entitlement environmental water. We will discuss different models for sharing the water resource between consumptive and environmental uses under a changing climate that could potentially alter the way this situation is addressed. The second issue to be covered is related to the response of the Basin’s water-related ecosystems to climate change. Current predictions are for a warmer and dryer climate in the future in the Murray-Darling Basin, which will result in changes to the Basin’s ecosystems. This will raise major challenges for researchers in better defining these changes and possible adaptation actions, and for the community in defining what type of water-related environment they want for the Murray-Darling Basin under a drying climate.

Water Resources Planning for Northern Australia.

The push for development of northern Australia is gathering momentum stimulated by the release of the Commonwealth Government’s Northern Australia White Paper and the Agricultural Competitiveness White Paper in June 2015. The Northern Australia White Paper makes it clear that water security will be crucial in underpinning any sustainable irrigated agricultural developments in the north, and that policy-makers and governments need to fully adopt the National Water Initiative (NWI) principles in achieving sustainable water resource use in northern Australia. We first consider what modifications to the NWI may be needed to make it relevant to northern Australia and water resource systems that are either not allocated or little allocated, noting that the NWI is now 13 years old and was largely developed with a focus on over-allocated water resource systems (particularly the MDB). Then we discuss the necessary components of a robust sustainable water resources planning framework for northern Australia, and draw from this discussion the possibility that a new robust Northern Australian Water Initiative (NAWI) should be developed. Further, we comment on the transferable lessons for the development of water resources in other systems, particularly where opportunities exist to put in place sustainable policies to prevent rather than remedy over-allocation of the resource.

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