The Lake Eyre Basin Intergovernmental Agreement grew from a process that began in the mid 1990's when interested people from the Lake Eyre Basin community and from government began discussing ways to look after the long-term sustainability of the Basin. In the light of conflict between different groups and the potential for World Heritage listing of the Basin, community members sought to bring together the different interests to work towards sustainable use and management of the natural resources in the Basin.
The Lake Eyre Basin Steering group was formed in 1995 out of these discussions, bringing together a diverse range of stakeholders and interest groups across State borders. It included representatives from the pastoral industry, the Queensland and South Australian governments, conservation groups, mining industry, petroleum industry, Landcare groups, Aboriginal organisations and local government. The task of the Lake Eyre Basin Steering Group was to find out from people interested in the Basin whether they would like to set up a mechanism for community input into, and coordination of, natural resource management decision-making.
In November 1997 at a public meeting in Birdsville, it was decided to adopt a catchment management approach for the Basin. The Lake Eyre Basin Coordinating Group was established with the support of Natural Heritage Trust funds, followed by two further sub-groups in 1998: the Cooper's Creek Catchment Committee and the Georgina Diamantina Catchment Committee. The Lake Eyre Basin Coordinating Group and its Catchment Committees proceeded to develop catchment management strategies based on issues identified through wide public consultation.
Simultaneously, the Commonwealth, Queensland and South Australian Governments began negotiating an intergovernmental agreement for the Lake Eyre Basin. The Lake Eyre Basin Heads of Agreement was signed in 1997, in which the two states and the Commonwealth agreed to negotiate a formal inter-governmental cooperative agreement for the integrated catchment management and water resources management of the Lake Eyre Basin.
The Lake Eyre Basin Intergovernmental Agreement was signed by Ministers of the Commonwealth, Queensland and South Australian governments in October 2000, and ratified by Acts of Parliament in all three jurisdictions in 2001. The Agreement applied to the Coopers Creek and Georgina Diamantina River systems in South Australia and Queensland, and established the Lake Eyre Basin Ministerial Forum, with responsibility for achieving the objectives of the Agreement.
The Agreement required the Ministerial Forum to appoint a Community Advisory Committee, a role that was filled by the existing Lake Eyre Basin Coordinating Group until late 2002. The Ministerial Forum also appointed a Scientific Advisory Panel to provide scientific and technical advice, in particular to advise on monitoring the condition of rivers and catchments within the Lake Eyre Basin Agreement Area.
In late 2003, the current Community Advisory Committee was appointed by the Ministerial Forum to provide community advice, representation and feedback on matters relevant to the Agreement.
In 2002, the Australian and State/Territory governments began negotiating arrangements for investment of the second round of Commonwealth Natural Heritage Trust funds (NHT2) throughout Australia. The resulting arrangements, now known as the 'Regional NRM Delivery Model', are based on integrated natural resources management planning for fifty-six distinct regions in Australia (see http://www.nrm.gov.au/).
The bulk of the Lake Eyre Basin is covered by all or part of three such regions:
Small areas of the Alinytjara Wilurara region in South Australia, and the Western Catchment Management Authority region in Western New South Wales also fall within the Basin.
Natural Resource Management Groups or Boards active in each of these regions are critical partners in the sustainable management of the water and related natural resources of the Basin, and our links with these groups are strong. Many of the CAC members hold positions on these regional groups and boards.
In June 2004, the Northern Territory Government formally became a signatory to the Lake Eyre Basin Agreement, adding the whole of the NT portion of the Basin to the LEB Agreement Area. Membership of the Community Advisory Committee was then increased to include representation from the Northern Territory community.
The Lake Eyre Basin Ministerial Forum, the Community Advisory Committee, the Scientific Advisory Panel, the regional NRM Boards and Groups, and government agencies in all four jurisdictions continue to work towards cooperative management of the natural resources of the Lake Eyre Basin, based on the premise that sound decisions can only be made by communication and collaboration among multiple stakeholders acting in partnership.
(Source material includes: Andrews, K. 1999. 'Rivers in the Rangelands-What's going on in the Lake Eyre Basin'. Published by the Lake Eyre Basin Coordinating Group)