FLASHBACK TO 2001: Urban Water Cycle Management Capacity Building Program – Australian local governments in Hunter Valley region of New South Wales looked to British Columbia precedents for inspiration
Note to Reader:
In 2001, Kim Stephens of British Columbia was the opening and closing keynote speaker for a training session conducted as part of an Urban Water Cycle Management Capacity Building Program for local governments in the Lower Hunter Valley and Central Coast region of New South Wales, Australia. The session was a seminal moment for cross-pollinating Australian and British Columbia experience, and for relationship-building. It marked the beginning of parallel journeys.
Moving from Awareness to Action in the Lower Hunter & Central Coast Region of New South Wales
The Lower Hunter & Central Coast Regional Environmental Management Strategy is a coalition of seven local governments. The Strategy was endorsed in 1996 as a framework for collaboration between Councils on environmental issues that make ecological, financial and strategic sense to address at a regional scale.
Since its inception the LHCCREMS program has become a model for Local Government collaboration on regional environmental management issues, and has established a reputation across Australia for producing best practise environmental programs, policies, management tools and capacity building initiatives.
Develop Understanding and Skills
“LHCCREMS is working with stormwater managers, engineers, builders, developers and their consultants through a ‘capacity building’ program to develop a better understanding of urban water cycle management,” stated Meredith Laing, LHCCREMS Director, in her welcoming remarks in March 2001.
“For sustainable projects to be built objections must be satisfied and complex design, approval and construction processes have to be navigated through. The LHCCREMS capacity building program will offer a range of skills to help make this happen.”
Meredith Laing has been the driving force behind HCCREMS since its inception in 1996. She has applied her extensive experience in strategic planning and policy development at local and regional scales, and natural resource management and environmental program design and delivery (biodiversity, climate change, water sensitive urban design, ecosystem restoration & rehabilitation, urban sustainability).
Cross-Pollinating British Columbia Experience
The March 2001 training session was the second in a series of programs and activities on water cycle management in the Hunter Valley. Over a 2-day period, Kim Stephens delivered three presentations, including both an opening call to action and closing reflections.
“The first training session had not gone well,” recalls Dr. Peter Coombes. At that time, he was on staff at the City of Newcastle. Fifteen years later, he is a nationally recognized water champion who has built an international reputation as a scientist and an advisor to governments. He also served as Chief Scientist at the Office of Living Water in the State of Victoria.
“We did not tell Kim Stephens at the time, but a lot was riding on his presentations and how the Australian audience would respond to his messages. It was a make or break moment. He came through brilliantly. By sharing his story about how they were overcoming fear and doubt in British Columbia, he helped us turn the tide in the Lower Hunter and on the Central Coast.”
A Seminal Moment
“The window into BC water management he opened showed us ‘what was possible’. It was a seminal moment in time, where I and many of my peers also still working in the water industry today, saw the on-ground successful demonstration of water innovation and knew that ‘if BC can do it, then there is no reason why we can’t do it too!’,” recalls Karenne Jurd, Assistant Program Coordinator-Environment with Newcastle City Council.
“When he began his opening keynote address, Kim Stephens remarked on our parallel worlds and how they revolve around a shared vision for Water Cycle (or Water Balance) management.”
Precedents + Science-Based Understanding
“With the benefit of hindsight, I can see how huge it was that I was able to talk about two projects – UniverCity and East Clayton – that were underway in 2001,” reflects Kim Stephens, Executive Director, Partnership for Water Sustainability in BC.
“They were on a grand scale – communities of 10,000 and 13,0000 people, respectively – and they were moving towards implementation. This meant they were inevitable and that meant I could speak with confidence. At the same time, I was project manager for development of Stormwater Planning: A Guidebook for British Columbia, released in 2002. Thus, I could speak with some authority as to pending provincial direction in 2001.”
“In addition to the two flagship projects, I spoke to the topic of science-based understanding and how this had changed our thinking in British Columbia. With the passage of time, I now realize how important it was that we could elevate the conversation in BC and transcend the engineering-centric debates that were happening in other regions, including Australia.”
“We built on the transformational research findings that came out of Washington State in the late 1990s. Richard Horner and Chris May had correlated stream health with impervious area and provided us with a roadmap that was based on the primacy of hydrology. Their work had shaken the conventional wisdom for pipe-and-convey stormwater management to its very foundations.”
To Learn More:
Download Training Module 1 – Challenges and Opportunities for Water Sensitive Urban Development in the Hunter to gain an appreciation for the scope of the capacity building program, and the extent of the “sharing & learning” role played by Kim Stephens in delivering three major presentations over a 2-day period.
Download Challenges & Opportunities for Subdivision Design Resolving Stakeholder Fear and Doubt, and Managing Stormwater at the Source: How We are Making it Happen at Burnaby Mountain in British Columbia (14.8 MB)
Watch the YouTube video of the first of three presentations by Kim Stephens at the 2001 capacity-building workshop: