2023: a year of recognition and reward

by Kane Aldridge

Watertrust Australia enjoyed a strong 2023 as we continued to build trusted relationships with a wide diversity of stakeholders across Australia, and achieved breakthroughs with our unique positioning and skillset.
Our first Annual Review showed how the value of our independent status and focus on inclusive processes is resonating with many. This has now evolved to Watertrust playing a vital role in initiatives across a range of policy issues and geographies, providing a solid foundation to overcoming barriers to water and catchment policy reform.

A growing team to drive our portfolio of work

This year we saw the addition of Peter Horne, Adam Lee and Kate Peake to the Watertrust team. We were thrilled when Peter Horne joined us, bringing a wealth of international experience in working with communities to co-design practical on-ground management solutions based on available knowledge, and he has turned his focus on First Nations water interests. Adam Lee is providing essential support to our growing portfolio and engagement activities. Our newest member, Kate Peake, has increased our presence in northern Australia, where she will provide us with extensive experience in forming cross-sector partnerships.

In October, Nick Austin announced his departure. Nick’s leadership through our start-up phase was essential, establishing Watertrust’s strategy and operations as well as building the team and trusted relationships with a diversity of stakeholders and issues across Australia. We thank Nick for building these critical foundations for Watertrust’s journey and his thoughtful guidance of the team.

The team also benefited from the diverse expertise of our Board, Influence Advisory Committee and members of our Expert Advisory Panel at our second annual gathering in August to explore what it takes to achieve better decision-making processes for water policy.

We will continue to grow the team in 2024 to keep pace with the increasing demand for our work across the country.

Building a diverse portfolio

As our profile with national stakeholders has grown, so has our portfolio of work, which is now contributing to national water reform priorities, including First Nations water interests, urban water management and sustainable regional water use.

Building on the First Nations Roundtable with an interim working group of First Nations water leaders and Minister Tanya Plibersek, Watertrust has been continuing to support governments and First Nations leaders in exploring ways to increase First Nations' participation in national water policy reform processes.

Our work on integrated water management governance arrangements for Greater Adelaide to manage all of the societal values that water supports across the region, has established a shared ambition for reform and the attributes of ‘good governance’ across the water sector. In turn, this has provided an important foundation for the year ahead as Watertrust works closely with all stakeholders to explore and assess future governance options.

In the Murray-Darling Basin, we are building on a water recovery roundtable in the Northern Basin. In 2024, we will work with irrigators and environmental water managers to explore potential policy options to respond to the projected impacts of climate change. Our work here will help to progress our recommendation to the Productivity Commission's Murray-Darling Basin Plan: Implementation Review 2023, as we support government agencies to investigate, test and apply new approaches for involving Basin stakeholders in decision-making.

Finally, we have begun work across the Northern Territory, navigating diverse perspectives on water management. Here we aim contribute to water reform that improves the balance between economic, environmental, and cultural outcomes. Lessons learnt here can be applied to the National Water Initiative (NWI) renewal and help ensure a new NWI better reflects the diversity of social, ecological, physical and economic contexts in which water is managed across Australia. We hope our work in the Northern Territory will also inform future work in Western Australia and Queensland.

The year ahead

We’re excited about the road ahead as 2024 is shaping up to be an important year for the water sector, with progress to be made on national water reform agendas, including the National Water Initiative, implementing the Murray-Darling Basin Plan, and various state-based reform agendas.

Watertrust will be focused on accelerating the development of our portfolio alongside this water reform journey and delivering initiatives that we progressed in 2023. We look forward to sharing our progress towards our vision as we continue to improve water and catchment policy decision-making in Australia.

Share this article: