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  • Writer's picture2022 Global Voices Fellow

Proposal for a Community Based Landscape Rehydration Initiative

By Elly Hanrahan, Freya Phillips National Scholar, UNFCCC, 2022

Executive Summary

Australian landscapes and waterways have suffered heavy degradation due to land clearing, drainage infrastructure, and intensive agricultural practices implemented since colonisation. Landscape rehydration methodologies could offer a holistic solution through simple water-focussed techniques that can increase water availability, carbon sequestration, habitat availability, and resilience to extreme climate events at scale. Currently, misaligned state and territory planning legislation and inadequate funding impede the adoption of landscape rehydration. This policy proposal suggests aligning planning regulations and allocating 20% of the Future Drought Fund to support community co-designed landscape rehydration projects.

Problem Identification

In Australia, water is managed via a complex suite of policy arrangements and statutory authorities. Water itself has become a profitable and cutthroat industry, with some individual water allocations valued at hundreds of thousands and sometimes millions of dollars (Harley, 2021). State entities, catchment management authorities, and water retailers are responsible for managing water resources and allocating shares to various users. To prevent the illegal storage of shared resources, legislation has been enacted to prohibit the construction of water holding infrastructure, such as dams, weirs, and water channels (Water Act 2007).

The primary objective of landscape rehydration infrastructure is to slow the downstream movement of water to enable the surrounding landscape to effectively utilise it. The structures implemented to achieve this have the additional benefit of capturing sediments to create a fertile bed for vegetation, promote habitat and increase carbon sequestration (Peel, et al., 2022). However, complex water policies have hindered the implementation of rehydration projects, as any works on waterways require lengthy and costly approvals (Connor, personal communication, January 16, 2023). These barriers have been challenging for land managers and not-for-profit organisations to overcome individually.

Therefore, a landscape rehydration policy aimed at implementing community-co-designed rehydration projects in an inclusive, cross-tenure manner is crucial to achieving large-scale rehydration strategies in such a complex, policy-heavy environment. Catchment-scale rehydration projects have been proven to be effective, and it is essential that the projects are designed to cross fence lines and governmental borders and have widespread community support in these degraded areas (Peel et. al., 2019).


Policy Background

Policy Recommendations

Limitations and Barriers



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