Water in the Bush celebrates 30

Thursday, 31 October, 2019

For the last 30 years, the Northern Territory water industry has been coming together to share knowledge, celebrate accomplishments and connect, at the Australian Water Association, Water in the Bush, the Territory’s premier annual water conference.

This year’s event, held 17-18 October, again provided a diversity of local and interstate speakers and trade exhibitors, recognition of projects and people, and general catching up, with a good measure of merry making in the mix.

ICE WaRM Managing Director, Darryl Day, joined the panel at the conference, reflecting on his time in the Territory working for Power and Water Corporation. He highlighted the incredible impact on the region by certain inspirational people during the 1990s. One of these mentioned was Wes Lanhupuy, a member for Arnhem in the Northern Territory Legislative Assembly from 1983 until his death in 1995.

“In 1990, Wes pleaded with water professionals to work with Aboriginal people on water challenges. He was also passionate about the education of young people and maintaining their culture through bilingual learning”, said Mr Day.

Mr Day highlighted how far the water sector had come in recognising the importance of brining western science and Indigenous knowledge together.

“It’s not enough. More Indigenous people are needed in the room at events such as WiTB, to provide more impactful engagement. We need more Indigenous scientists, engineers and water professionals, and we need innovative pathways to make this possible.”

Hon Eva Lawler, who is responsible for water resource management as well as planning and infrastructure in the Territory, addressed the conference and shared some of the successes that have been achieved in engaging on water issues.

“The work we have done, and are doing, to build engagement is valuable because it builds trust with the community on water resource management”, said Ms Lawler.

Ms Lawler referred to a list of outcomes that are building an improved framework for water allocation planning and licensing decisions, which are now much more transparent to the community.

“The Review of Water Extraction Licences was the catalyst for a quantum shift between the old way of allocating water and the more contemporary, transparent and legally sound approach we are currently applying”, said Ms Lawler.

Another achievement by the Northern Territory Government was the release of the Strategic Aboriginal Water Reserves Policy Framework in 2017, which protects the rights of Aboriginal people to access water for economic development by preserving water into the future, despite its priority in the National Water Initiative.

It has been a very difficult season for the “top end” after a poor wet season resulted in little recovery of depleted aquifers. The Department of Environment and Natural Resources has been working closely with community groups and “bore owners” to understand the impact on the resources between monsoon events, including through on-line technology.

The Minister concluded by saying that they will continue to listen to the community and will openly share the scientific expertise in the Department on water science and water resources management in the Northern Territory, “Not because it is easy — but because it is necessary”, resulting in outcomes are better for the community and the Territory.

ICE WaRM would like to congratulate all winners of the 2019 NT Water Awards who were announced at the Water in the Bush 30 Year Celebration Dinner, including NT Water Professional of the Year Award Winner, Eric Vanweydeveld from Power and Water Corporation. Over the past ten years, Eric has delivered a number of complex projects for Power and Water Corporation across the Northern Territory (NT) including key strategic and high-profile projects: Alice Spring Water Recycling Plant, Adelaide River WTP, Leanyer Sanderson WWTP Inlet Works and Borroloola WTP.

The winners are automatically entered into the National Australian Water Awards category to be presented at Ozwater’20 in Adelaide.

Read the full list of winners: NT Branch Award Winners