International RiverFoundation has announced the finalists of the 2012 Australian Riverprize – the environmental equivalent of the Olympics. The finalists are (in no particular order):
The Australian Riverprize is awarded annually in recognition and support of those who have developed and implemented outstanding, visionary and sustainable programs in river basin management. The prize is valued at $200,000 and consists of $150,000 in cash prizes and a $50,000 grant for the winner to establish a ‘twinning’ project within Australia - facilitating knowledge exchange with another river basin.
This year’s finalists represent a diverse group of river restoration and protection projects from across Australia. These projects differed greatly from the scale of work right through to the complexity of the river system and vast range of stakeholders being engaged. A brief insight into each project is provided.
The Georges River (Georges River Combined Council’s Committee Inc, NSW)
The Georges River flows 96 kilometres to Botany Bay through a highly urbanised catchment of 960 square kilometres, comprising 40% National Parks and a population of 1.2 million people.
The Georges River Combined Councils’ Committee (GRCCC) formed in 1979 to lobby for the health of the Georges River. Membership comprises 9 councils who fund its operations, and its participating stakeholders include 6 state agencies, the Local Aboriginal Lands Councils, Georges River Environmental Education Centre, Sydney Water and community environmental groups.
The GRCCC has adapted over time and is now a unique bridging organization brokering links across organisations by providing a forum for exchange, learning and cooperation. Horizontal and vertical linkages between councils (operational and management staff and councillors), agencies and community organizations enable cooperation so that governance and partnership programs match the scale of the river ecosystem.
In 1997 the GRCCC established the community-based Riverkeeper Program, to which a partnership with the state maritime agency was added in 2004, to conduct water sampling, seagrass mapping, pollution control, ongoing rubbish collection and community involvement. A 2007/8 strategic plan led to an expansion of programs and their alignment with Federal, State, Regional and Council natural resource management (NRM) plans. The scope of the GRCCC was expanded to include an active role in coordinating NRM on a catchment basis, and partnering in on-ground projects.
Photo credits: GRCCC, Rhett Coleman
Condamine River (Condamine Alliance, QLD)
The Dewfish Demonstration Reach (Reach) incorporates part of the Condamine River which is the headwaters of the Murray Darling Basin system. To the Condamine catchment community the Reach is much more than just a waterway but part of the lifeblood which nourishes a rich and productive agricultural region and sustains a growing urban and mining population.
But growth and demand have had a significant impact on the river system and native fish populations. Condamine Alliance and its committed partners shared a vision to increase native fish populations to 60% of pre-European settlement levels by 2050.
Armed with a Whole of Life River Rescue Plan, a commitment to community involvement, and simple solutions to restore river health, the Reach emerged, flourished and delivered - our fish are back!
Key achievements include:
Photo credit: Condamine Alliance
Swan and Canning Rivers (Swan River Trust, WA)
Riding a resource boom, Perth has experienced unprecedented population growth and urban development. Like waterways worldwide, the Swan Canning continues to experience algal blooms, low oxygen levels and seasonal fish deaths. The Riverpark also faces increasing pressures from residents and visitors pursuing a range of social, cultural and commercial activities.
Through a series of integrated management programs, the Swan River Trust and its partners deliver a diverse suite of projects to help protect and enhance the ecological health and community benefits of the Riverpark:
In recent years, the Trust has strengthened these program partnerships by developing the River Protection Strategy – a 20-year vision that protects and embodies the Swan Canning Riverpark’s ecological, recreational, social and cultural values.
Photo Credit: Swan Canning Trust – Fish Index Research
The overall winner will be announced at the Riverprize Gala Dinner on 9 October 2012, as part of the International Riversymposium in Melbourne.
International RiverFoundation CEO, Matthew Reddy, said that “The Australian Riverprize really is the Olympics of the environment, with each organisation trying to go greener, safer and cleaner. These finalists are champions in their own right and will all receive a place on the podium but we’ll have to wait until October to see who can turn green into gold.”
The Australian Riverprize was established in 2001 and is the largest prize for environmental achievement in the country. Awarded annually, it is funded by the Australian Government’s Water Smart Australia program, under the Water for the Future initiative. All Australian-based groups engaged in the sustainable management of the country’s rivers and wetlands are eligible to apply.
Applications are judged by a panel of seven experts and lead by Leith Boully, the Chairman of Healthy Waterways (QLD). Assessment is based on a range of criteria that takes into account evidence of river management frameworks, long term vision, integration of social, economic and cultural concerns and demonstrable achievements relating to overall river health. This assessment also takes into account the obstacles facing each applicant and the long term commitment and vision for the integrated management of the river.
In 2011, the winner of the Australian Riverprize was the Sunshine Coast Rivers Initiative, headed by the Sunshine Coast Regional Council (QLD). The RiverFoundation would like to thank all applicants in 2012.
For more photographs and further information on each of the finalists, please contact:
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