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Loddon Riparian Frontages Citizens Panel

The Loddon Riparian Frontages Citizens Panel was convened by the Victorian Department of Primary Industries and the North Central Catchment Management Authority. Dr. Annie Bolitho shared this case study with NCDD, and it can also be found on her website here.

The Department of Primary Industries and North Central Catchment Management Authority (CMA) face ongoing issues engaging relevant people with riverbank deterioration, pest plant and animal invasion and over-grazing, as well as cultural heritage management on the Loddon River’s riparian zones. They sought Annie out to undertake a pilot Citizens’ Jury as a way of going beyond their normal discussions with stakeholders, and as a way of assessing an informed public opinion on the issue.

The Key Question or Charge: What recommendation do you suggest we consider to protect and enhance the values of the Loddon River riparian zone between the Kerang and Loddon weirs?

Outcome: The panel members presented their recommendations to the Department of Primary Industries and North Central CMA after 2 days of expert witness presentations and deliberation. Based on evidence from different agencies, they recommended that communication between them, and between the agencies and landholders, be improved. They highlighted the value of visually compelling techniques to convey problems of riparian deterioration, and also recommended that laypeople be educated about Aboriginal sites to highlight their significance. The Panel could not achieve consensus on fencing stream banks, and stated: ‘A key Management Action Target of North Central CMA is to protect 75% of the riparian zone by 2015. A majority of panellists believe that some form of enforcement will have to be put in place. Should fencing be made compulsory it should be at no cost to the farmer.’

Approach: Annie encouraged the The Department of Primary Industries and the North Central CMA to invite representatives of their own and other agencies, such as Crown Lands and Department of Victorian Communities Indigenous Cultural Management to form an advisory group that also included farmer representatives. The advisory group became a kind of ‘practice citizens’ jury’, as different views on the problem were represented, and differences discussed in order to devise the key question or ‘Charge’ for the Citizens’ Jury.

The Project Manager was very active throughout the development of the process, and Annie mentored her at each stage. The Project Manager tested the Charge at a number of farmer group meetings, and brought feedback to the advisory group. The advisory group decided to use the term Panel rather than Jury. They chose expert witnesses, and decided that a site tour to the banks of the river would be a good way to begin the Citizens’ Panel process. The Project Manager chose a venue, organised an honorarium and sent out invitations to potential jury members through local government rates notices. Panellists were provided with background information, and experts briefed on what was required of them.

Expert witnesses at this jury:

  • Wayne Webster, Indigenous Cultural Heritage, Department for Victorian Communities
  • Angela Gladman, Riverine Officer, North Central CMA
  • Professor Barry Hart, Water Studies Centre, Monash University
  • Matthew Hawken,  Department of Primary Industries Riparian Program
  • Charlie Gillingham, Loddon Catchment Implementation Committee
  • Paul Haw, Community representative and environmentalist

  More Resources  

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